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Dancer or choreographer

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Summary of occupation

There are many different styles of dance, including ballet, folk, ballroom, contemporary and tap. Dancers may specialise in a particular dance style or else perform a variety of styles. Dancers must attend auditions, and rehearse before a performance. They may also have to apply their own makeup and act or sing as part of a performance. Dancers may also interpret music or choreograph dance movements, or decide to work specifically as a choreographer. Choreographers will usually have a working background as a dancer.

ANZSCO description: Entertains by performing dances, or creates dance compositions. This occupation requires high levels of creative talent or personal commitment and interest as well as, or in place of, formal qualifications or experience.
Alternative names: Choreographer, Dancer
Specialisations: Ballet Dancer, Contemporary or Modern Dancer, Dance Teacher, Dance Therapist, Exotic Dancer
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A dancer needs:

  • to be physically fit and well-proportioned
  • a good sense of rhythm
  • an appreciation of music
  • discipline, perseverance and dedication
  • good communication skills
  • strong interpretation skills.
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Working conditions

A dancer/choreographer must work long hours rehearsing and taking dancers through their routines before productions. This is an industry that demands a high level of fitness. Work can be intermittent. Some dancers may have permanent work with a company, but many work with small companies and have to regularly audition for a role in a production. Some dancers travel interstate or overseas for increased job opportunities.

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Salary details

Earnings for dancers and choreographers can vary considerably depending on their level of experience, their negotiated contract, the length of the performance or touring season, and the demand for their work. As a dancer or choreographer develops their skills and reputation, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

A natural dance ability and good sense of rhythm are the key tools of the trade for dancers and choreographers.
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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a dancer or choreographer you usually need to complete a formal qualification in dance. It is also important to have a natural ability in dance to succeed in this highly competitive industry.

The Certificate IV in Musical Theatre, Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance) and Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance) are offered at TAFE Colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

You can also complete a degree majoring in dance or music theatre. The three- year Bachelor of Arts (Dance) and the three -year Bachelor of Arts (Music Theatre) are offered at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), through Edith Cowan University. These are currently the only degree courses specialising in dance available in Western Australia. Contact the university for more information.

Every year, the Australian Ballet School, based in Victoria, conducts nationwide auditions for its diploma programs. The National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA Dance College) also conducts annual auditions for its diploma dance program. Contact the organisations you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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