Careers in Dance
When people think about careers in dance, they may think only about being a performer, choreographer, or teacher. However, dance includes many exciting professional possibilities. Today's dance community is made up of diverse professionals working as artists, writers and academics, teachers, technologists, and body care professionals.
If your career path will include admission to graduate school or professional programs, you will want to plan carefully to take the courses you need. If you intend to pursue graduate study in any field, be sure to keep up your grades. Most graduate programs require an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, and some (such as physical therapy) are looking for closer to a 4.0.
Click on a heading below to read more about that area.
Support Services and Internships
When you are thinking about career choices, consider what you are good at and also what you love. As you make choices about your career in dance, a good website to look at is http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos094.htm.
Make sure to tap into the many informational resources available to you on campus, including dance faculty advisors. (Suggested faculty members with particular expertise in different areas are mentioned below. If no particular advisor is listed, start with your assigned advisor.) Another excellent source is the UNCG Career Services Center. Professional organizations, which you may join at student rates while you are a full-time student, also offer many opportunities for networking. The North Carolina Dance Alliance and Dance Association for North Carolina Educators are two state level organizations you might consider. At the national level, the National Dance Education Organization is a very active organization that we encourage you to look into.
UNCG dance alumni are another important source for networking. Many of our former students have gone on to become performers, choreographers, educators, somatic practitioners, and researchers of dance. We have clusters of alumni in North Carolina as well as in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, where they often dance for each other and provide moral support, along with their other pursuits.
The Department of Dance offers a variety of practicum courses in dance performance, production, and public school teaching. In addition, opportunities for administrative internships and part-time studio teaching may be available through local dance organizations. The Department has a flexible practicum course, DCE 365, which can be taken for 1-6 credits. Students are responsible for finding and proposing a site and a supervisor who meets the University's requirements. See the Undergraduate Coordinator, B. J. Sullivan for more information about the practicum.
Some students gain additional performing experience through participating with local dance companies, but no academic credit is given for off campus performances not connected with UNCG faculty.
Performance and Choreography
The BFA in Dance is designed to help prepare students as professional dance artists. Some BA students who have attained a level of technique equivalent to the BFA have also been successful as professional performers. It is your level of skill, not your degree, that will give you access to a professional performance career. Talk with dance studio faculty members (Duane Cyrus, John Gamble, Robin Gee, Janet Lilly, BJ Sullivan, Jan Van Dyke) regarding local and long-term career possibilities in dance performance and choreography.
Dance artists work for established dance companies regionally and nationally. They also dance in touring shows or in Las Vegas, work on cruise ships, and Broadway. Freelance dance artists may work in smaller communities as well as larger ones, where they may create their own concerts, choreograph for a variety of local activities ranging from pageants to dinner theater to community theater, and/or work as community dance artists partially supported by grants.
Dance Administration and Entrepreneurship
The Dance Department offers a course called Career Management for the Dance Artist (DCE 455) to introduce you to the basic skills of building your résumé, applying for grants, advertising your concerts, forming non-profit corporations, as well as providing information about how the dance world operates. Entrepreneurship is an ever-increasing focus for dance artists. It includes an understanding and incorporation of the creative as well as the business mind. The Bryan School of Business has an Entrepreneurship Center that includes entrepreneurial practices in the arts. Faculty member Duane Cyrus can be particularly helpful in advising about dance administration and entrepreneurship.
Teaching is a frequent career choice for dance majors. Many students think first about teaching in the kind of studio where they first learned to dance. To teach in a studio, it is important to have the appropriate dance skills (including the highest level of technique possible), skills in teaching dance, and knowledge about the needs of children and adolescents (and adult learners, if you plan to teach adults). You could choose the BFA or the BA degree in Dance, and use electives to add additional areas.
Students who wish to own their own studios will be running a small business. Community colleges offer low-cost, non-credit courses for owners of small businesses. It often makes the most sense to take these courses close to the time one will be opening a small business, since legal requirements change over time. A professional organization that can be very helpful to private studio teachers seeking a nationally recognized credential is the Registry of Dance Educators.
For many years, UNCG has had a strong program to prepare public school dance educators, and many of our alumni have found meaningful employment in this arena. Licensure is available with either the BFA or the BA major; contact Melinda Waegerle (firstname.lastname@example.org) for advising. If you are interested in alternative routes to licensure, such as Lateral Entry, see the NC Department of Public Instruction website (http://www.ncpublicschools.org) for requirements; note that the current minimum GPA is 2.5 and fewer Lateral Entry teachers are currently being hired. If you are interested in licensure by another state, check with that state's website for public education.
If you are interested in making international connections regarding dance and children, the organization Dance and the Child International is one to consider (http://www.daci.org. The USA chapter is http://www.daciusa.com.)
Do you think that university-level teaching sounds perfect? Such positions are far more competitive, and they require a graduate degree. We recommend an MFA plus professional experience for those who wish to teach studio courses, such as technique and choreography, and a PhD for those who wish to teach theory courses, such as dance history or dance education. Some dancers who continue to study dance at the doctoral level do so not only in dance programs, but in areas such as American Studies, performance studies, anthropology and ethnography, and women's studies. These offer expanded employment possibilities, while allowing for continued academic research in dance.
A number of our alumni have found that being a yoga instructor or gaining certification in another form of somatic practice or bodywork, such as massage therapy, helps them develop their body knowledge as well as financial status. While UNCG does not offer a professional certificate in any form of somatic practice, faculty member Jill Green can advise students on reputable private programs in the area.
Another career you may have heard about is dance therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy. Dance therapists may work in hospitals, mental health clinics, or in private practices. If you want to learn more, check out the website of the American Dance Therapy Association at www.adta.org. Dance therapy also requires a graduate degree; we encourage you to think about having a second major or minor in psychology to prepare for admission to a graduate program in dance therapy, although you should investigate the requirements of specific programs. Some of our alumni who have gone to graduate school in dance therapy have chosen a BA in Dance, with an independent study as their capstone; others have completed a teaching licensure program and taught for several years first.
An increasingly popular career choice for dancers is being a dance trainer or physical therapist for dancers. These careers require graduate degrees. If this is your plan, or if you intend to prepare for another professional graduate degree (medicine, law, engineering, etc.) while at UNCG, visit http://web.uncg.edu/reg/Bulletin/Current/PreProf/. Start early in taking the courses you will need for admission to these professional programs.
Writing and Dance Studies Scholarship
Dance scholars work within the dance community and across the academic professions, writing about dancers and their practices, as well as exploring dance through the lenses of education, history, sociology, and from numerous "studies" perspectives, among them women's and gender studies, American studies, performance studies, and body studies. A second major or minor in another academic area would be a good choice for a student seeking a future career as a dance scholar. There are doctoral programs in dance at a number of colleges and universities such as The Ohio State University, Temple University, Texas Woman's University, and the University of California, Riverside, and opportunities to concentrate on dance research through interdisciplinary programs in Performance Studies, Arts Education, and the like.
Dance criticism and dance journalism are other important dance careers. A few newspapers, magazines, and journals employ dance writers or publish the work of freelance dance writers. Increasingly, dance criticism is published online. A second major or minor in English or Communication Studies would be a good choice for a student seeking a future career as a writer in dance.
There are a number of organizations that serve dance scholars. The Congress on Research in Dance is a broadly focused organization that publishes Dance Research Journal and holds annual conferences. The Society of Dance History Scholars publishes a book series and holds an annual conference. This group focuses primarily on research in history and cultural studies. World Dance Alliance is a broadly focused organization that brings together artists and scholars.
Many dance artists are increasingly interested in video technology, a growing area of experimentation in the field. We offer two courses in camera work and video editing (DCE 555 and 581), and we encourage you to augment these with classes from the Media Studies Department, like MST 252 and 305.
Though it's an entirely separate field, traditional stage production / technology, particularly lighting design and stage management, can provide dancers with additional opportunities to gain performance experience and/or employment. Several alumni report that facility with lighting design or stage management has given them a leg up in seeking university-level employment.