Professional ballroom dancers can enjoy a wide variety of career options if their training and experience is broad enough. Many ballroom dancers continue performing throughout their lives, in addition to becoming teachers, judges, and choreographers for other dancers. In order to become a professional, it's important to participate in extensive advanced training, perform often, and find opportunities in both your local and extended dancing community to work, teach and perform.
Ballroom Dance Training
Many professional ballroom dancers start their training at an early age, but this is not a requirement. Children usually show a strong sense of rhythm while they are still quite young, which often determines whether or not they get involved in a pastime such as dance. If you have been dancing since you were a child, this early training may help make the transition into professional training a bit easier.
Regardless of your age when you start training, learning ballroom dancing is the first step towards a professional career. If you or your child is taking ballroom lessons and seems to be picking it up really quickly, as well as enjoying it immensely, you may want to consider increasing the frequency and intensity of lessons. For most dancers, this increase provides a moment when decision-making is easy. Individuals who are on their way to professional careers will thrive on the intensity of training, whereas those who are content to have ballroom dancing as a fun hobby will realize that a professional career is not for them.
Those who want to pursue a professional career can train intensively and start competing on the local level. Private coaches are often a good choice for those who are very serious; a private coach not only provides individualized instruction, but also has connections to others in the dance world. Your coach will know not only when and where the competitions are, but also what styles and steps will be most successful when competing in those competitions.
Dancers who compete successfully a few times at local ballroom competitions, and love the experience, can move on to larger-scale competitions until they are competing at the state and eventually at the national level. Along the way, the following performance-oriented classes and skills should be addressed to become a professional dancer:
- Individual dances
- Costuming, makeup, and hair
While ballroom dance classes will teach you the Salsa, Samba, and the Tango, and hopefully some musicality and technique will develop in the process, learning the finer skills of higher-level dance performance takes an experienced coach and/or mentor.
In addition to having an outstanding coach to guide your ballroom career training, it's important to perform often, pushing the boundaries of what you have already achieved. If your specialty is the Tango, don't be afraid to enroll in the Samba, too. It's easy to win when you're at your best, but you'll learn new skills by pushing your limits. Performance is traditionally thought of as a way to show off what you have learned, but professional dancers learn extensively during performance.
While a formal higher education can never hurt and can provide many learning and performing opportunities, professional dancers need not pursue a college education. However, the poise and discipline that can be learned through higher education will serve you well in the field. Many universities offer dance and performing arts majors, which can help prepare you for several different elements of a ballroom dancing career. Whether you specialize in choreography or performance, the classes you take will augment both your performance skills as well as your dance knowledge. At the secondary school level, attending a performing arts high school can jump-start your professional career.
Networking and Agents
While it is not obligatory to have an agent, it is certainly advisable if you want to go professional. If you are part of an extended network of professional dancers through your studio or group, you may feel that an agent is unnecessary; however, don't forget that your agent's job would be to look out for your best interests. An agent costs money, but she will get you jobs, negotiate contracts, and handle publicity.
Agents are especially important for those starting a professional career, as is the concept of networking. In order to get new jobs, make sure that you have contacts in all performance and artistic arenas in your vicinity.
Careers for Professional Dancers
Many dancers start out their ballroom training envisioning a career dedicated almost solely to performance. There are other options, however. A performance career could involve competing in competitions, performing in professional theater and dance shows, or appearing on television shows like Dancing With the Stars.
Professional dancers may also become teachers, choreographers, coaches, artistic directors, or producers. Of all of these careers, teaching is a popular one, as is choreography. Many dance stars combine performance with teaching and choreography to round out their careers and enrich their skills. In most cases, teaching, choreography, and other additional careers beyond performing are a natural follow-up to a successful performance career. Winning a few awards will give others confidence that you know the ropes of professional dancing, which will open up the doors to teaching and choreographing. Once you have performed these jobs for a while, your students and clients will increasingly recommend you to others if you are good, extending your career naturally.
Whether you are just starting out with your first ballroom lessons or you've been dancing for years and want to make more out of a hobby, a professional career may be in your future. Talk to your teachers and let them your plans and desires. Ultimately, your drive and talent, paired with teachers' and coaches' expertise and contacts, can launch your career. Once your career is off the ground, it's up to you, and your agent if you have one, to ensure that your career continues to expand and becomes increasingly professional.