Dance Director: Duties, Salary and Requirements

Dance directors require no formal education. Learn about the training opportunities, job duties and recommended skills to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Dance directors typically oversee the production of a dance performance, whether on stage or in film. They are in charge of hiring dancers and choreographers, running rehearsals, and making decisions regarding creative and practical elements of the production. Dance directors are typically expected to have performed as dancers earlier in their lives. While there are no education requirements, fine arts degrees in dance are offered in schools across the country.

Required Education Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance may be helpful
Required Experience Experience as dancer
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 24% (for choreographers)*
Median Salary (2013) $44,130 (for choreographers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties

Most dance directors, also called artistic dance directors, have themselves been dancers in the past. However, by their late thirties, their bodies have become too old to endure the arduous physical demands of continual dancing. Some retired dancers choose to apply their vast experience in the field towards a position as a dance director. They might direct ballet companies, university dance programs, and regional dance companies, as well as the dance segments in operas, musical theater, videos, commercials, movies, and television shows. Dance directors usually specialize in a particular type of dance, such as classical ballet, jazz, folk, or modern.

Specific Responsibilities

Typically, dance directors develop and implement dance programs. They often choreograph, which involves creating new dances or rewriting existing ones. They may also dance in a production. They frequently teach, hire guest artists and arrange for master, or advanced, classes. They may also develop and oversee budgets. If dance directors are working for university dance programs, they may collaborate with other department heads and work on developing community interest in their dance program.

Salaries

Although there are no specific studies on salaries for dance directors, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups dance directors with choreographers (www.bls.gov). The reported median annual wage in 2013 for this group was $44,130, with the middle 50% of choreographers earning between $28,510 and $65,850. The highest 10% earned more than $94,830.

Job Growth

In 2012, there were approximately 10,200 individuals employed as choreographers, according to the BLS. In 2012, a total of 25,800 persons worked as choreographers and dancers, and about 29% of those individuals were self-employed. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of people employed as choreographers is expected to grow at about 24%, which is a faster rate than that for other occupations. Competition is expected to be severe since the number of applicants will be much higher than the number of job openings.

Requirements

Training as a dancer begins very early in life, usually between the ages of five and 15. Typically, training - often more important to aspiring dancers than secondary education - continues until the age of 17 or 18, when dance auditions begin. Training is usually done with a private teacher or in a ballet school. Teenagers who show the greatest potential are likely to acquire more intensive and specialized training.

Degrees

While many dance directors have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, they are not necessarily a requirement for success as a dancer or choreographer. Experience is the more important requirement. Many dance aspirants, however, continue their training at one of the 74 college dance programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Colleges and conservatories seeking dance directors generally prefer candidates with an MFA degree.

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