Applying Your Degree in Dance to a Professional Dance Career

By Megan Neese, BA Dance Education student

Professional dancer performing dance

Graduating from college is a momentous occasion and one that many look forward to. It also means taking that next step into a professional career, which can make many anxious. A college education is meant to prepare you for all your future endeavors, but how does one successfully apply what they have learned throughout their four years at a university into a thriving dance career? I hope to give some insight into this transition so that you can use your dance degree to your advantage.

Why Is a College Dance Degree Important?

Many are hesitant when deciding to get a college degree in dance because they want to go straight into their professional career. Although that may work out for some, it is in your best interest to invest four years into a college dance education. Completing your degree won’t put you behind in your career but instead will give you the time to develop skills with qualified professors to refine your craft.

You learn so much more than dance steps in higher education; you will also learn the necessary skills that will take you far in dance. Your professors are qualified dance artists with a variety of real-world dance experiences. Your program may also bring in guest artists who work with students to provide you with even more insight into the dance profession.

The physical and intellectual skills you will gain with a degree in dance include:

  • Injury prevention
  • The history and culture of dance
  • Kinesthetic body awareness
  • Improvisation
  • Creative ways to generate choreography
  • The ability to write about ideas concerning dance
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Tips for Using Your Degree in Dance To Pursue Your Dance Career

Here are four tips for using your dance degree to pursue a professional career in dance:

1. Use Your Dance Degree Connections

Your peers and faculty members will be major assets to your future career. Build positive relationships with everyone and put yourself out there. One of the most important aspects factors in eventually booking a professional dance job is who you know.

Many times, people book jobs through references and knowing the right people. One day, your peer could even be the person that helps you get that job. If you know that a choreographer is hiring and you have worked with them in the past, use that to your benefit as well. Taking classes from working choreographers would be advantageous for exposure and letting them see your face time and again.

Looking to get signed by a talent agency? Think of anyone you know who is currently signed by them and ask for a recommendation. Word spreads fast in the dance world, so a good endorsement goes a long way.

Start actively seeking dance opportunities you could pursue during the summer to keep up with your training. This could include intensives, workshops, classes and auditions. Getting involved in as much as you can expands your networking circle and the connections you’re able to make with choreographers, casting directors, agencies, company directors and others. The more opportunities you take, the more people you work with — which means more connections.

2. Do Your Research

An informed dancer will be a working dancer. If you are truly passionate about having a dance career, you should also have the head knowledge to back it up. For example, is it your dream to go on tour with a specific company? If so, you should learn who their lead choreographer is. The next step is to do your research on the dance style their choreographer teaches and where they teach. Then, you can take their classes and eventually master their style.

Have a plan of where you want to go with your dance career. Casting directors appreciate dancers that have a vision for their future. Research different companies you’d be interested in, dream jobs you would like to book, casting directors or choreographers you want to work with, and how you plan to make it all work.

Are you planning on moving to L.A., or do you want to join a company in a different state? Where will you live and how will you make ends meet? These are all important things to consider when making plans for your future career.

3. More Than Dancing

When it comes to auditioning, a lot more goes into consideration than just your dancing ability. Sometimes you won’t get hired for a certain job because you don’t fit a particular “look” or visions for the part. Don’t let this discourage you. It is also important to practice your slating skills before an audition.

Slating is when you introduce yourself in an audition and give basic information about yourself. After slating, casting directors will also want to see you turn side to side to see both of your profiles as well. Practice in your room in front of a mirror. You should feel calm and collected and confident.

Special skills are also a plus and help to set you apart from everyone else. When auditioning for a company, they will investigate how you work with others and what kind of attitude you have. Companies don’t want to hire dancers who are difficult to work with and have a bad attitude.

4. Give Yourself Time

Most of all, a career in dance takes time. You may hear “no” 100 times before you get your first “yes.” This can be discouraging but just remember that with every no, you get one step closer to that yes. The rejection can grow and push us more than anything else could.

If you get the opportunity to ask for feedback from the casting director or choreographer, take it. Every audition should be a learning opportunity. The dancer who will have a successful career is the one who has the grit to continue when things are looking hopeless. Experiences will shape you into the dancer you have the potential to be.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in auditions — approach them as if you are just taking a class. Even if you don’t book the job, you can still take something away from the audition. If you didn’t pick up the choreography fast enough, take more classes. If you got nervous and blanked, practice getting in front of the camera. If your freestyle was lacking, take time every day to become more comfortable with that style.

A college education gives you the experience needed to have a successful career in dance. Without a college degree, you could be going into the professional world without the necessary tools to set yourself apart from others. Apply yourself while in school and make that time count.

Pursue a Degree in Dance at GCU

The growth you experience while earning your degree will directly correlate to your success in booking a job or landing a spot in your dream company. It is never a waste of time to invest in your future through higher education. If you truly want to make a career out of this art form, your best bet is getting a dance degree.

Discover the performing arts and digital arts degrees offered by the College of Arts and Media at Grand Canyon University, including the Bachelor of Arts in Dance.


Approved by the Director of Dance for the College of Arts and Media on Oct. 13, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.