Dancers convey ideas and narratives through expressive movement.

Dance is an ancient art form involving movement, which may be accompanied by music or other sound. Some dance styles are social, ritual, or otherwise participatory, while others are formally staged performances. Professional dancers must be intimately familiar with the rules and movements inherent to their chosen style and understand the limitations of their bodies. Dancers may perform solo, with a partner, or as part of a troupe or ensemble.

There are many types of dancers, from prima ballerinas to music video backup dancers to traditional dancers carrying on cultural traditions. Most types of dance have specific movements associated with them that must be learned and recreated precisely, which often requires extensive training and physical prowess. Dancing is a physically intense career that can be taxing on the body, and it's common for professional dancers to retire from performance earlier than in many other jobs due to strain or injury.

Work as a dancer may include...

  • Preparing for and attending auditions
  • Learning and rehearsing complex combinations of movements
  • Performing improvised or choreographed movement for audiences
  • Keeping movements to a specific rhythm or song
  • Working closely with other dancers, artistic directors, musicians, and choreographers

Dancers can work in all kinds of environments, from cruise ships to schools. Some contribute their expert movement to musical theatre companies, performing in production ensembles. Others are employed by dance companies, which present performances in a particular style to audiences over the course of a season. Many dancers are self-employed, participating in professional dance competitions or performing regular gigs at venues. Social dances, cultural events, and certain nightlife settings may employ dancers to perform for or interact with participants, audiences, and customers, and dancers may demonstrate their skills in workshops, classes, or showcases. Dancers may also find work in music, film, or video, or they might work independently to develop a dance practice. Social media can be a great tool for dancers looking to gain an audience or book solo gigs, especially for those unaffiliated with an institution.

Almost no one becomes a dancer by accident; learning to dance professionally tends to involve years of specialized study, directed movement, and athletic training. However, the level of training required varies depending on a dancer's focal style. It's common for certain kinds of dancers to begin lessons very young and begin training in earnest before their teens, with most skilled dancers on a professional training regimen by the time they reach adulthood. These aspiring career dancers often attend camps, after-school programs, and regular classes in order to be prepared for college and conservatory auditions. These auditions closely resemble professional dance auditions, requiring dancers to perform one or more pieces representative of their skills before a panel of judges. Dance at the college level may offer more room for exploration into different styles, and some dancers pursue MFA programs to hone their skills in a particular area or develop theory around their movement work. Dance training may begin at any point, particularly for modern styles and improvisational movement, though it is time-consuming and any aspiring professional can expect to spend many hours developing their muscles and skills before finding work in dance.

If you live to move and want to share your skills with the world, a career in dance might be the way to do it.

The American Dance Guild was founded by artist/educators who sought to help each other by forming a collective to support the work of dance-making and education through aesthetic development.

Dance/USA is the national service organization for professional dance, serving a broad cross-section of the dance field.

USA Dance, Inc. is the recognized sport organization for dance sport in the United States, working to improve the quality and quantity of dance.

The International Association of Blacks in Dance preserves and promotes dance by people of African ancestry or origin, as well as assisting and advocating for dance artists.