How to Become a

Theatrical Dancer

The complete career guide to be a Theatrical Dancer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • 4.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute
  • Get to Travel
    Career Attribute

Theatrical dancers perform a variety of dance styles in theatrical performances that may include ballets, musicals, concerts, and shows. Most theatrical dancers specialize in a specific form of dancing. They may work for dance companies, as independent artists, or for cruise ships, casinos, or theme parks.

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What is a Theatrical Dancer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in theatrical dancer roles:

  • Practice for many hours each day to perfect craft and practice new choreography
  • Audition for open dance roles for upcoming performances, for open positions at casinos and on cruise ships, or for resident positions with dance companies
  • Learn choreography for new performances and practice dancing with other dancers that will appear in productions
  • Perform in front of live audiences and attend promotional events to help market the production and grow audiences

A Day in the Life of a Theatrical Dancer

Theatrical dancers spend the majority of their time practicing. They practice to perfect their craft, to learn new choreography for productions or auditions, and to perfect new dance styles and moves. Often, theatrical dancers will practice from dawn to dusk, either alone or with other dancers that are appearing in a production. Because theatrical dancers perform in front of live audiences, it’s critical that they make no mistakes during performances, and perfect performances require significant practice.

Other responsibilities of a theatrical dancer depend on the type of work the perform and the type of place they’re employed. Theatrical dancers that perform on cruise ships, at theme parks, or in casinos may perform the same show several times a day and many days a week. These dancers still need to practice, but they tend to spend more time performing than practicing. They may also be responsible for socializing with audiences before and after productions.

On the other hand, dancers that work for dance companies or as independent artists appearing in a variety of theater productions practice much more than they perform. Performances for these dancers is less frequent because only a limited number of shows are offered to the public. These dancers spend much more time practicing than performing, and they may also spend a lot of time auditioning and preparing for auditions. Independent artists must audition for new roles each time a current production ends, so practicing in order to perfect auditions is a critical component of their success.

Typical Work Schedule for Theatrical Dancers

Most often, theatrical performances are held on nights and weekends, so most dancers practice during the day and perform in the evening and on the weekend. Overtime is common, though dancers may get long breaks between performances or when their dance company is off-season.

Typical Employers

Theatrical dancers can work for a number of employers, but dance companies, casinos, cruise ships, and theater companies are the most common employers. They may also work for theme parks—Disney commonly employs theatrical dancers. Additionally, some theatrical dancers work as independent artists and are self-employed; the roles they take are contract positions with companies that are filling roles for upcoming performances.

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How To Become a Theatrical Dancer

Most theatrical dancers begin their education at a young age in after-school dance classes. As they get older, they take more advanced classes and spend more time practicing and training. While young dancers may view their dance lessons as a fun activity or hobby, those who are still taking lessons as teenagers are usually preparing to dance professionally as a career. For example, most ballerinas begin their dancing careers and are hired by ballet dance companies at the age of 18.

However, aspiring theatrical dancers that weren’t able to begin lessons as children can still succeed in the field. Many begin their education after high school by pursuing a bachelor of fine arts in a theater- or dance-focused discipline. In college, aspiring dancers learn a number of styles, like ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and ballroom dancing. While their focus may be on a specific style of dance, most degrees offer a rounded education that allows dancers to perform a variety of styles.

A benefit of pursuing a degree before beginning a career as a dancer is that it can prepare you for life after your dancing career. Dancing is hard work, and most dancers retire from performing by the age of 40. These professional dancers often move on from dancing to working as dance instructors, college dance professors, or choreographers. While professional dance experience may qualify dancers to take these positions, some may require dancers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and possibly a graduate degree as well.

Theatrical Dancer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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How do Theatrical Dancer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Theatrical Dancer's can make an average annual salary of ---, or $18 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make --- or $9 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #815 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Theatrical Dancer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Theatrical Dancers

  • 0.5%   Doctorate
  • 4.3%   Masters
  • 17%   Bachelors
  • 10.6%   Associates
  • 29%   College
  • 26.7%   High School
  • 11.9%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Theatrical Dancer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 600 jobs for a total of 13,600 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 4.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #456 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Theatrical Dancers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 2,000 100 0%
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 1,700 --- ---
Other schools and instruction; private 900 200 0%

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