Drama, Dance & Music

Dancers move their bodies to music, to interpret a character or story for their audience, or simply to entertain. They may specialise in a particular type of dance, such as classical ballet.

Work Activities

Dancers perform in a range of settings, from theatres to nightclubs, hotels to holiday centres, cruise liners to Christmas pantomimes.

Many professional dancers have had dance lessons from an early age. They usually learn several techniques, and then specialise in one area.

Because dancers use movement to tell a story, they must be able to interpret the music and choreography effectively. They sometimes do some research into their role, to help them understand the character they are portraying.

Dancers are often multi-talented and sometimes use acting or singing skills during a performance. Performances can be in a group with other dancers or as a solo or duet role.

Dancers spend a lot of time rehearsing. They exercise so they are fully fit at all times. While on tour, dancers stay in temporary accommodation and may spend weeks away from home.

Whether working or not, dancers spend hours practising and learning new steps. Sometimes, they rehearse for two shows - the one in production currently and the one following - as well as performing in the evening.

Some dancers combine their work with teaching, notation, choreography or dance therapy.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Fitness, self-discipline, flexibility, musical interpretation and dedication.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of dancers

Dancers work in theatres, clubs, holiday camps, and on cruise ships. Some work in film and television.

Many dancers are self-employed.


Qualifications and training required

Most professional dancers have had dance lessons from an early age, with further training later. Many have passed a graded set of dancing exams.

There are some specialist dance schools, which train talented young dancers. These schools often develop skills in dance, singing and acting as a general preparation for a career as a performer.

Ballet schools offer specialist training, with the ultimate aim of joining an adult ballet company. Only a few entrants are successful.

A list of full-time accredited dance schools/colleges offering training courses is available on the Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET) website. Most courses run for three years, with entry by audition.

After qualifying, most people audition for jobs with dance companies or shows.

The Government's Music and Dance scheme provides access to specialist music and dance training (alongside an academic education) for around 2,200 talented children a year.

Some dancers become performers after completing an academic course that contains elements of performance training. Dance and performing arts degrees can develop dance potential, but these courses are not primarily intended as training courses for performers. Aspiring dancers should consult their dance teacher.

Entry requirements vary between dance schools - check their prospectuses/websites carefully. There will usually be an audition and interview. Potential performance ability, physique and personality are more important than exam passes.

However, useful subjects to study include dance, drama, music, performing arts and biology. It is also useful to get as many academic qualifications as possible, should your dancing career not work out (due to injury, for example).

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