Fields of Study - Dance

Definition and Nature of the Field

Dance is an art form that is enjoyed in many forms whether it is as a leisure activity or as a career. Dance forms include modern, ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, ballroom and folk dance. Careers in dance may be divided into the areas of teaching, performing and related areas of employment. Dance teachers conduct dance programs in school systems, private dance studios, and community agencies/organizations such as the YMCA and the community center. Performers work as professional dancers on stage and in entertainment. Additionally, there are a variety of related careers in dance including choreographer, therapist, historian, technologist and critic.


The dance teacher in the school system is often referred to as the dance specialist. S/he is responsible for providing an educational dance program that includes a variety of dance forms as well as aesthetics, history and critical analysis of dance. The dance specialist may teach all dance classes in a specialized school such as a performing arts magnet or teach one or two dance classes per day in a traditional school setting. The dance teacher may work in a commercial studio or community agency/organization. In this setting, the teacher generally focuses on dance technique and performance. Non-certified dance teachers may be invited to teach classes or workshops as a guest artist, but will not normally be allowed to teach dance in a school system as a permanent member of the teaching staff. There are many ways to become a dance teacher. Some train specifically as a teacher while others come into teaching after having had a successful career as a performer. Individuals desiring to teach dance as a permanent fulltime teacher in a school system must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited teacher education program at a college or university and a teaching certificate awarded by the State Board/Department of Education in the state of employment. Those wishing to teach dance in a commercial studio or community agency/organization should have several years of training in a variety of dance forms. You could choose the BFA or the BA degree in Dance, and use electives to add additional areas.


The professional dancer finds employment opportunities in ballet and contemporary dance companies or in entertainment such as local shows and musicals, television programs, theme parks, cruise ships, stage productions, television and film. A professional dancer's performing life is usually relatively short. Many performers turn to teaching or find other careers related to dance after the career as a performer has ended. The B.F.A. is the degree recommended for a professional dancer.

Related Careers

Choreographers create dances for dance companies, television, movies, videos, etc. Most choreographers have been performers prior to becoming established choreographers. Most B.A. and B.F.A. dance degree programs offer training in choreography as part of the program.

Dance Administrators manage a dance company or a dance theater, work for an arts council, market dance products, and/or handle public relations. The BA degree with a minor in courses in business marketing and management courses as well as communication courses are helpful in developing skills as a dance administrator.

Dance/Movement Therapists employ dance to encourage individuals to recognize and convey ideas and feelings through movement that they may not be able to convey verbally. They work with a wide variety of individuals including people who are emotionally disturbed, have learning difficulties or a physical or mental illness, and individuals who want to use the medium for personal growth. Therapists are employed in rehabilitation centers, psychiatric facilities, geriatric programs and in programs for persons with disabilities. A bachelor's degree in dance or a related field, dance therapy certification. Advanced training past the bachelor's degree level may be required. Programs can include courses such as: adapted physical education, special education, geriatrics and psychology.

Dance Historians study the history of dance and its importance to and functions in society. Historians study, research, discusses and writes papers, articles and books about the history dance. The bachelor's degree should include courses in writing, research techniques, and anthropology.

Dance Technologists use existing and emerging computer and related technologies to extend traditional dance practice and develop new dance practices. Technology also plays a role in dance composition, blending of choreography and media. The bachelor's degree program should include technology courses such as graphics, sound design, dance video, and performance technologies.

Dance Critics/Writers critique and write about dance. They may write for special dance publications or more often daily publications such as newspapers and magazines. Most critics have studied dance or may be a former professional dancer. Writing skills and a sound knowledge of dance are important. Composition and creative writing courses should be included in the B.A. program.

Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree is sufficient for many entry-level positions, but for entry into an area of specialization, certifications or an advanced degree may be required. Many dance careers do not require a specific major but rather a wide range of demonstrated skills and accomplishments. Both the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degrees prepare students for careers as dancers and choreographers. The B.A. degree is a general program that combines a broad experience in the liberal arts with a specialization in dance. It can also prepare students for careers in teaching and other related careers by adding a minor or courses in areas specific to the career choice. The B.F.A. degree in dance is more specialized and is designed for students who want to become professional dancers.

Related Work Experiences

Gaining related work experiences is an important step in preparing for your future. These early experiences will help you to understand dance and to make an informed decision about your choices for a major or minor when you go to college. Participating and volunteering with your high school dance group or private dance studio, volunteering with junior high school or elementary school or community dance programs and attending dance clinics and workshops is recommended.

Career Opportunities

The demand for teachers is high, particularly as dance is enjoying a revival as a form of recreation. Dance is now included as part of Physical Education within the National Curriculum. This may lead to an increased demand for dance teachers in state schools. The dance teacher may be employed on any level N-12. The number of aspiring performers exceeds the number of professional opportunities.