Once you finish grade 12, there are lots of options out there. Dance is a fairly unregulated industry–even to become a dance teacher you don’t need specific qualifications. I think this is going to change and the industry will become more regulated, but right now, study is not a necessity to be a teacher or practitioner. However, I am huge fan of study as it leads to a range of other opportunities beyond being just a dancer and makes you far more employable.
If you are wanting to become a dancer, generally you need to do some full-time training to really hone your craft. Even if you want to become a dance teacher or choreographer, I would recommend doing this training while you are quite young as it’s hard work. Me being 32, I couldn’t go back to full time training as my body wouldn’t handle it!
If you are wanting to pursue dance in any form, I would recommend doing a full-time training course after school. You can do this as a Certificate 3, Certificate 4 or Diploma. You can also do a degree as well. There are options in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne. If you are thinking dance is something you want to pursue as a professional career, come and have a chat to me or one of our senior teachers about what you want to do so we can help guide you.
Choose your course
When I was at high school there wasn’t a whole heap of full-time options, but now there are a lot of courses available. Different courses are better for different people as they have different outcomes. Some course owners have connections with certain industry professionals. For example, if you want a career in musical theatre, I wouldn’t send you to a ballet school. You can do a Diploma in musical theatre, ballet, elite performance and more.
Academic or Performance
Some courses have more academic content and some are more performance-based. At a degree level (for example QUT, where I studied a Bachelor of Creative Industries in Dance at QUT and did a Masters as well) you can do it as a performer or to become a high school dance teacher. The Conservatorium of Music offers a Musical Theatre program as well.
If you are looking at becoming a dance teacher, doing a full-time course would be really helpful. You want to learn from as many teachers as possible because all our experiences of being taught shapes us into good teachers. You’ll learn different teaching styles to help you develop your own.
You can do a Certificate 3 in Assistant Dance Teaching or a Certificate 4 in Dance Teaching Management. There’s also a Diploma level, as well as a degree level where you might choose to do Dance and Education and become a high school or primary school dance teacher. You can also do dance teacher training through the Southern Federation of Dance or through another syllabus. We also offer our Dance Steps student teacher training as well.
If you want to become a professional dancer, you don’t necessarily need a qualification or a full-time course. These are not necessarily listed as requirements, but trying to go to auditions straight out of high school won’t stand you in as good stead. If you’ve trained full-time however, you’ll have all that technique, resilience and connections with teachers, classmates and guest choreographers which is invaluable experience.
It’s not easy
Once you finish your course, you’re out in the big world and you have to keep training, auditioning, find an agent etc. Definitely doing a full-time course will prepare you to go on and get professional work. In the dance industry, most times you’ll be employed by audition. You have to go to an audition, dance for the choreographer or director maybe multiple times. Sometimes, you’ll arrive at an audition and they’ll immediately cut a whole line of dancers. That might be purely because you aren’t the right height or size for the costume. At Disney auditions, they actually measure your face, such as the distance between your eyes and forehead, as they have very specific look requirements. It’s a pretty tough gig!
So, I definitely recommend some sort of full-time study before you head out to auditions. That said, I have known dancers who have been part way through their study and got an audition, done really well and got a gig straight away. For me, I got a degree and Masters as well. I am really pro making sure you have some sort of study under your belt as it will stand you in good stead later in life.
Dancers don’t generally have a long career. There are some exceptions to this rule, like Silvia Guillem who danced into her fifties. But that’s usually the exception. Dancers are like elite athletes and they do need to have post-career options, so having a degree or diploma under your belt will help you leverage that into something else later in life.
Kaitlin Hague is the Director of Bayside Dance, holds a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Dance) and a Master of Arts. She is a passionate dance educator, journalist, adjudicator and choreographer. When she’s not dancing she’s enjoying the beautiful Bayside lifestyle and spending time with her two dogs, daughter and husband.