It’s hard to earn a steady income as a dancer, especially if you are just starting to work in the commercial industry. Sure, you could book two or three jobs a year as a dancer. But more likely than not, these few jobs will produce an additional income, rather than a livable wage. You may, on rare occasion, book a job that results in repeat payment. Let’s say you work on a commercial, for example, and the company decides to continuously reuse this commercial. If you are part of the talent in that commercial, the company will pay you a “reuse” fee, also known as a residual. These are amazing, because you are repeatedly paid for a job that you worked once, possibly a while ago. You can’t plan on living off of residuals. For most of your work, you will earn a paycheck or two, and that’s it. So how can you support yourself financially until the next dance job or audition comes along?
Lucky for you, there are tons of dance-related jobs in the entertainment industry—aside from dancing, that is—to help supplement your income. Some of these jobs might suit your schedule and level of experience now. Others may be careers that you want to pursue later in life. Consider the following options:
1. Dance Instructor
This is probably the most common job dancers have to help support themselves. There are plenty of opportunities to be a dance instructor. Many of these jobs can be found at studios, through after-school programs, and even at gyms. Level Up: Once your name carries some weight in the industry, you could become a regular teacher at one of the studios where you currently take class at, like Millennium or Playground LA. Or you could travel around the United States and teach on a dance convention.
In many studios, the roles of dance instructor and choreographer often go hand-in-hand. But this isn’t always the case. You could be an amazing, sought-after choreographer who is hired specifically to set choreography on a group of dancers for a competition or concert. Level Up: Once you have been in the industry for a while, you could find yourself choreographing professional work. You could be the next choreographer for Cardi B’s newest music video or Ariana Grande’s next tour.
3. Studio Management
Another way to stay in the industry is to work the front desk at a studio. You will be dealing with payments and parents more so than with students. But this sort of position still keeps you in contact with the industry. Level Up: Perhaps the experience will inspire you to open your own studio or to buy out the owners of the studio where you are presently employed once they decide to retire.
4. Dance Competitions/Conventions
I’ve worked at a dance competition for a few years now, and I have to say it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I get to travel around the country, connect with other dancers and choreographers, and make kids’ dreams come true! If you have a passion beyond just dance (e.g., photography, videography, sales etc.), then working for a dance competition could possibly allow you to pursue both of your passions. Level Up: With enough experience you could work your way up to be a director at a competition/convention. Or maybe you will want to branch out and start your own company!
5. Being an Agent
Having previously interned at dance agency, I can say with absolute confidence that being an agent is no joke. They work around the clock, and they hustle for their clients! (Side note: this is why it’s so important for dancers to have an open line of communication with their agents. It benefits both parties. They are already bending over backwards for their clients. Let’s not make their jobs harder.) There is a lot more that goes in to being an agent than meets the eye. Agents are constantly scouting new talent, searching for job opportunities for their clients, representing their clients’ interests in deals, processing payments, and doing lots of relationship management. If you like high intensity and variety in your job, then working as an agent might be right up your alley.
6. Clothing Shop
Have a passion for fashion in dance? You could work for or open your own clothing store. The market is there and the need is there. Dancers will always need leotards, tights, leggings, warm-up clothes, etc. Dancers will always need to get properly fitted for dance shoes, especially pointe shoes! You can fulfill those needs. If you are interested in both the dance industry and business management, then this might be the perfect path for you. And if opening a physical store isn’t your thing, then you might consider opening an online store. The opportunities are endless, and the job is what you make it.
7. Clothing Brands
If you like the idea of working in fashion, but visual merchandising doesn’t spark your interest, then there is another route: working for a clothing brand itself. You could work for Body Wrappers, Bloch, Capezio, Theatricals, and Sansha, just to name a few dancewear brands. Depending on your level of education and experience you could be a digital designer, a customer service representative, a brand representative, a warehouse worker, a production manager, and so on. This is another line of work in which there is great variety and which keeps you connected to the dance industry.
The above list is comprised of just seven non-dance jobs in the dance industry. And there are many more. Other examples include working as a dance therapist, a costume designer, a photographer or videographer, a recruiter in a college dance department, or a fundraiser for a dance company. Some of these jobs may require a degree or other professional experience beyond dance knowledge and training. But it’s important to know you can have a career in the dance world that doesn’t involve actually dancing. There are many ways to pursue your passion while earning a sustainable living.