Dance Director: Duties, Salary and Requirements
Dance directors typically oversee the creative elements of a dance production, whether on stage or in film. They usually select the dances, dancers and choreographers. They supervise the dancers and crew, conduct rehearsals, and approve such production elements as costumes and lighting. They may also handle teaching and choreographing responsibilities.
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.
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.
Although there are no specific studies on salaries for dance directors, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups dance directors with choreographers (www.bls.gov). The reported median annual wage in 2012 for this group was $38,120, with the middle 50% of choreographers earning between $26,460 and $57,980. The highest 10% earned more than $81,710.
In 2012, there were approximately 7,400 individuals employed as choreographers, according to the BLS. In 2010, a total of 25,600 persons worked as choreographers and dancers, and about 10% of those individuals were self-employed. Between 2010 and 2020, 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.
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.
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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