Career Options

Dance Jobs USA has compiled a job description for a variety of different career options in the dance industry. There are approximate salaries and information about how to go about getting one of these jobs. Each one has been written by a person who does that job, and so we hope you will find these useful in your job search.

Administration: Rebecca Brettingham-Filice

Job description: Office Manager, Administrative Assistant

Salary range: Pay is determined according to your level of responsibility, location of the studio, size of buiness and level of experience. You may be paid hourly or on a salary depending on the company. Range can be from $14 for an office assistant to $30 for an office manager.

How to get an administration position: Word of mouth is always as asset. Apply for these positions and even approach dance industry companies. A strong resume with references is a must.

Ideal qualifications: Office experience may be required. Friendly, personable individuals are a must as you are usually the first contact someone has with the business. Knowledge of word and excel are required and you must be comfortable on a computer. Most studios run on dance studio specific software that you would be required to learn but not expected to have prior knowledge. Many studios use and except major credit cards on a machine or through their software program. Being able to multitask is a must. Many things are going on at once and you need to be able to juggle all those things while staying clam with customers. Getting to know clients, staff, etc is very important as you often have your finger on the heart beat of the business. Dance knowledge is not required but an asset.

Dance Instructor: Jay T. Schramek

Job description: Teaching, Choreographing and Inspiring students.

Salary range: Pay is often determined on the location of the studio, how much they are charging for lessons, and your experience. The range can be $12-$60/hour. Pay may include tax, gas and is arranged on a case by case basis.

How to get a Teaching position: This is an industry of referrals. Contact studios near you to see if they are looking to hire. Be sure to have references included on your resume. Ask to be put on a substitution list if they aren’t currently looking. Substituting is a great way for the studio to get to know you as a teacher and for you to get a feel for the studio. Know your strengths and weaknesses; what ages to do work best with, what disciplines do you feel most comfortable teaching, etc. You may be asked to come in to teach a class so the owner can observe you teaching their students.

Ideal qualifications: Some studios will be looking for teachers who are certified through a dance teacher's organization. Experience as an assistant teacher or with teaching experience could be key in obtaining the position. Make sure that you continue your learning by attending classes and workshops.

Guest Workshop Teacher: Jay T. Schramek

Job description: Teaching, Choreographing and Inspiring students, performers, teachers and peers.

Background: I have been dancing for over 30 years. I was trained in some of Canada's finest private dance schools in the multitude of disciplines. I had a 15 year competitive career with top placements in regional, national and international competitions including the title of Mr. Dance of Canada. I graduated from the Ryerson University Dance Program, (considered the leader for dance programs in the country) with a strong foundation in performance and pedagogic methods. My professional performance career has seen me perform in Broadway Tours, Stratford Festival, Mirvish Productions, countless Regional Theatres. I've been a professor of dance at our most prestigious post-secondary arts institutions such as: Saint Lawrence College, George Brown College, Randolph Academy, Sheridan College. I am currently a competitive director at Dimensions in Dance in Kitchener. I've hosted and adjudicated over 100 competitions and festivals. I have been hired as a guest teacher for studios, conventions, associations, festivals and conferences.

Salary range: Pay is often determined on the scale of the place where you are being asked to guest teach. Many guest teachers work for a range of $100-200/hr when working in studios. If asked to teach at a convention or if the studio workshop is billed as an event for the dancers that fee can go as high as $300-$400/hr. Pay may include tax, per diems, food and accommodation and is arranged on a case by case basis. Many Guest Workshop teachers get paid for travel, sometimes hourly, sometimes per km and sometimes flat rate.

Career path and how to get a Guest Teaching position: This is an industry of referrals. Work begets work. Networking and reaching out to studios, their owners, dance associations, conventions and fellow teachers. For some, a noteable credit is often the thing that entices dancers and teachers to bring in a guest. Teachers may have had exposure through a television program such as SYTYCD and have established a 'name' for themselves. In other cases, it can often be a special skill or expertise in a discipline that may be a reason a convention or teacher wants to bring in a guest teacher. Determine your skill-sets as a marketable commodity and if you have notable credits, appearances or certifications use them to promote yourself. Assisting a Guest Workshop teacher may lead them to invite you elsewhere.

Ideal qualifications: Most often it is skills that will keep you consistently working as a Guest Workshop teacher. Whatever the discipline or tools you are bringing, be sure to focus on inspiring the students and teachers you are working for. Be positive and be professional and maintain relationships with the company and companies you work for. Be able to teach one-on-one and rooms of hundreds.

Professional Dance Artist: Lesley Bramhill

Job description: working as a dancer and performer for various dance projects

Background: I have been dancing for over 15 years. I was trained in Cecchetti ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, hip hop and acro at Dance Extreme in London Ontario. As a competitive dancer, I won various overall awards including the titles of Miss Dance of Canada and ADA’s Dancer of the Year. Now living in Toronto, I have expanded my training to also include Latin styles such as samba and salsa, as well as Broadway jazz, and dancing in heels. I’ve previously worked as a dancer on board Celebrity Cruises, and Holland America Line, and now perform at various commercial events and weddings throughout the GTA.

Salary range: Pay is determined on the scale of the place where you are being asked to perform. I currently work as an independent self-employed dancer, and therefore must negotiate my own salary--some gigs pay more than others, based on the budget of the event and/or a myriad of other circumstances. Sometimes, I do not receive the pay I think is fair, and in that case, I judge what other benefits I am receiving from the work (working with a great choreographer, opportunity to network, a project or cause I am passionate about, etc).

If you are working under or are a member of CAEA (Canadian Actors’ Equity Association) or ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio), minimum wages and standards are negotiated for you, and you benefit from being a part of the union. However, CAEA or ACTRA gigs are highly competitive and don’t come up too often working independently as a dancer. Signing on with an agent can help secure these types of gigs.

I typically receive anywhere between $120 to $400 per performance in Toronto. However, I have also received up to $1000 for a large event that took place over a few days. When working on cruise ships, my salary was between $450 and $550 a week, for 6 to 8 month contracts. In the independent dance world, rehearsals are typically unpaid, or rehearsal time is included in the flat fee. Pay may include tax, per diems, food and accommodation and is arranged on a case by case basis. Sometimes, you can get paid for travel, sometimes hourly, sometimes per km and sometimes flat rate.

There is much work to be done in the independent dance world to bring the salary range and standards up higher. Dancers who are not protected under a union must negotiate on their own wages, and it can be challenging. I urge you to read the ‘Professional Standards for Dance’ (the PSD) written by the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists (CADA-ON) that outlines professional fees and working conditions that you can adhere to as an independent dancer. In my experience, you WILL take jobs for less than CADA-ON’s minimum rates, but know that this is the standard the independent dance community is striving for as a whole. Know your worth. If the pay is less than what you’d like—ask yourself what other benefits and opportunities you are receiving. ALWAYS work with a written contract when possible—especially for projects that take place over an extended period of time. Here is the PSD: http://cadaontario.camp8.org/professional_standards_for_dance (completely available free online to read and distribute)

Career path: This is an industry of referrals. Work begets work. If a choreographer or producer likes the work and performance you give, you likely will be asked to work with that production company or choreographer again. Keep your eyes open for auditions constantly. Network, take classes, attend performances, join professional organizations like CADA-ON.

Ideal qualifications: Taking direction quickly, being polite and respectful, and being on time are top qualities of a great dancer. These qualities will take you far, no matter how talented you are. Typically, a choreographer will want to hire someone they find easy to work with and can pick up their choreography well—rather than someone who can kick their leg up past their head or do 6 pirouettes. You also must be “thick-skinned”. This is an industry of constant rejection. For every 15 auditions, you might book one gig – sometimes you may not get the gig simply because you aren’t tall enough, or didn’t have the right body type – this is okay! Be confident in yourself, and find your own style or uniqueness that you bring to the table as a performer (is it tumbling tricks, a certain style, etc) and continue to perfect those skills.

Dance Costume Seamstress: By Tess Elizabeth Meehan

Background: I started my fashion education by attending the Fashion Design program at Fanshawe College where I was taught all necessary skills to be successful in a fashion design career. Throughout school and for a year after graduation, I worked as the Head Designer for a retail store in downtown London, Ontario. Currently, I am the owner and operator of a fashion studio specializing in custom fashion design (Eveningwear, daywear, costumes, dancewear, etc).

Salary range: Depending on your skills, experience, portfolio and general creative nature, the salary for a seamstress can vary dramatically. A newcomer will often start at $12-15/hour, where a seamstress with plenty of experience can work their way up to $25-30/hour depending on the project.

Career path: The best way to gain experience in this industry is to work where work is available. This often means volunteering your time in an unpaid internship position in exchange for the skill growth and knowledge that employers will be seeking. Keeping a stacked portfolio is crucial in this industry.

Ideal qualifications: A fashion education is extremely beneficial, as it sets you apart from "home sewers". Although you can learn to sew without a formal education, it is harder to grasp the importance of design, pattern drafting, pattern grading, fabric sourcing, and precise techniques by learning on your own. The most successful seamstresses are the seamstresses who can create from scratch in every aspect of their designs.

Job description: With focus on dancewear in particular, your job as a dancewear seamstress involves plenty of sewing in limited time frames. You must know how to design costumes that are creative, communicative and most importantly, functional. You will be constantly working with knits (stretch fabrics), and must understand the proper sewing techniques for knitwear to ensure the overall quality of the garment. You must be able to measure dancers properly, apply their measurements to self-drafted patterns and be ready for fitting alterations and design changes as they arise. Flexibility and adaptability is key in a position like this.

How to get a job as a Dancewear Seamstress: Try to obtain an internship or a part-time position at a dancewear company or studio that can provide you with the necessary experience and knowledge base that you will need to be successful. From there, you can approach dance studios with examples of your work and ask if they have any open positions or are in need of extra seamstresses for their upcoming season. Getting a job in this industry relies solely on your skill set, so it is crucial to keep it up to date and meticulous.

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