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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What Wage Can a Dancer to Expect?


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  • mln


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  • Eligus


It’s up to our society to value it more highly.  This society simply doesn’t value art particularly highly.  Shoot, it doesn’t even value well-rounded educated folks, just look at the scorn heaped upon liberal arts degrees.  But don’t let me get us :offtopic:.  It’s a soapbox and I’d be preaching to the choir.  😂 

Thank you for all the Parents of Professional Dancers for sharing.  This will help many of our newly minted contract-seekers and those coming up soon to get their expectations in line.

I remember telling DD that she needed to determine what a dancer typically made and figure out if she could live on that and be happy.  That is what is important.  It is a hard life style, low on monetary reward, but can be very long on emotional and personal reward.  Every dancer I’ve known has said they would do it again in a heartbeat.  So would DD (even though a career ending injury side-lined her just as she was reaching the contract stage).  She still credits all she learned via her dance training journey to making her the amazing person she is today.  So, yes, it is all worth it——just don’t expect that worth to show itself in dollars and cents.  :)

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I know.  I agree with you, 100%. 

But if I think too much like that, I tend to get angry and frustrated and worried, and that does no one any good.  In my mind, almost ANY path is more financially stable than dance.  Like you said, they can make more money (and have more job security) at McDonalds.  As someone who prizes financial independence and security, and given the reality of a "living wage," it is difficult for me to support the pursuit of dance as a career.

It's better for me to just look at the stark reality and say "this is what it is" and "this is what she has chosen (and continues to choose) to do."  That knowledge then helps me to decide what we (as parents) will do.  Do we make up the "difference"?  For how long?  

You can read on this forum that it takes the majority of out of high school dancers two years before they find a paying professional contract.  Assuming she makes it far enough to get a coveted professional contract (my DD is currently on year 2, after ALMOST making it at year 1), I know that 1st year corps members in a small company don't make a living wage.  Do 2nd year?  3rd year?  4th?  ...?

The knowledge about what 1st year corps members are paid and how difficult it is to "live" on a dancer's salary, drove some of our choices for our DD.  In our case, we chose to support her for a specified amount of money, and then told her that if she wanted to continue to pursue dance, she could, but that she needed to do so financially independent of us.  She has.

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My DD is still in high school, but her goal is to dance professionally one day.  It's difficult for us parents to understand and fully support, especially when they are smart and excelling in academics, as many dancers do.   I think we all want our children to be HAPPY and financially independent for basic needs at a minimum.  For now we are trying our best to be open minded and supportive of  her dreams, with the hopes that she will choose to to attend college.  It's a wait and see game for us, but I appreciate so much reading what others that have been there, done that share!!  I realize dancers dance because of the joy it brings them, but it would be nice if they could make enough to live on too 🙂

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2 hours ago, dancemaven said:

It’s up to our society to value it more highly.  This society simply doesn’t value art particularly highly.

I was speaking with a friend, who is not a dancer or have a DC, and she made a great point— “You know, our jobs (we are both in financial services) and many other jobs will eventually be replaced by computers and robots. It’s already happening if you look at Robo-advisors and quantitative investing. The only jobs that can never be replaced are artists, like dancers and musicians.” 
This likely won’t happen in our lifetime, but I can only hope we see a world where all dancers (and other artists) are able to make a living in the not so distant future!

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This is one of the reasons I tell people with little kids to let their kids dance, but don't put them in a good school.  They might be good enough to try to pursue it as a profession someday!  Most of the time I don't regret the path but it is very hard to be in the middle of the post-grad, pre-contract purgatory. 

There are well paying companies, just few and far between.  DDs guested with a very small company for two Nutcrackers and were paid very well.  If that number were to be spread over the entire year, it would have been right at the average quoted in the article.  I have a cousin who retired as a principal dancer at a top tier US company and she was over six figures in a very expensive city.  

Likely, we will continue to supplement living expenses for at least a few more years.  We are still paying some tuition for one DD, the other has a pay-per-performance plus shoes contract (very small amount but it's something).  Luckily the one we are still paying partial tuition for is having an amazing experience and getting to dance many company roles.  So at least there is that!  I'm hoping they both have the summer off so they can work towards yoga or pilates certifications or maybe some formal teacher training.  

I think the lucky ones have paying jobs at the two year mark.  It sometimes takes two or three jumps after high school to land in the right place.  With each jump, more and more decide to move on for all sorts of reasons - finances, unsupportive families, deferred college acceptance that is going to expire, mental health, physical health.  It is a very tough road and the minuscule pay is only one aspect of that.  

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An artist doesn't choose the profession to make money....the profession chooses them and they embrace all it has to offer (or not!). If someone 'must' dance they will find a way to make it work. Otherwise they find a different path.

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Temps de cuisse: I totally agree! This profession chose my daughter, and I think we kinda knew it early in her life. She always had a physical and mental knack for this profession. She is in an AGMA company and pay is decent for a first year apprentice. She has roommates, but provides for all her expenses (rent, electric, bus pass, food, incidentals).  In addition to the base weekly pay, there is also per diem pay for travel, hazard pay, overtime rehearsal pay, guesting pay, health insurance, savings plan and of course shoes, tights, undergarments etc.) We are hoping for a pay increase next season. Regardless, she knows she will never be rich, but she is happy getting paid for what she loves and meant to do. Somebody has to be a professional dancer! Without these dancers that persue this low pay profession, the ballet art form would die out. Professional ballet must continue to enrich our culture! 

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20 hours ago, Ballerinamom2girls said:

43K would be in incredible salary for a dancer.  Maybe not in LA or NYC, but anywhere else.  I don't think most dancers make livable wages.  350/wk doesn't shock me.


I have been sleuthing around and I agree with that.  I have gather salary info from books (Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear), articles (one on second companies), and conversations with other moms. 

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Oh and that "mean annual wage" is probably skewed like crazy with the big 6 (or so companies) in the US.  Wish that they had listed the Median salary.  That would help us really understand what dancers live on. 

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Wow! I expected a range but those are pretty wide ones.  It sounds like that number she gave could be a very real number.  It’s a shocking reality.  

I have to say, Eligus, my daughter is also thriving in the environment.  She is so happy living this life and has no plans on stopping.  

i looked on the AGMA website and didn’t see a sample contract  The one in the link I shared is the only one I have seen so far.  I’ve done some goggling in the past without success but I think it is time to do some more.

Edited to add: learningdance, if you feel like sharing the fruits of your labors, I would love to hear more. And if the google lemon squeezes out and juice I’ll be sure to share the numbers on this thread.


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I can share some. .  .but this board only "allows" certain sources. So, certain knowledge that I have would not be ok to share.  

To me it's stupid that AGMA hasn't created a more transparent way for helping dancers understand wages.  In fact, it's stupid that dance companies don't just SHARE their salary ranges.  Apprentice : 500/week, 38 week contract with 1 non contiguous layoff. Corps Member 800/week, 40 week contract,  Etc. 

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Here's a link with a few numbers for Second companies: https://www.danceusa.org/ejournal/2016/08/20/skinny-second-companies

Pages 223 of Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear has the following numbers from 2007-8

$21,000 apprentice

$43,400 corps

$ 51,560 soloist

67,280 principal. 

Patricia Barker made 167K 

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Pointe Magazine had an article in 2013 "Anatomy of a Paycheck". https://www.pointemagazine.com/anatomy-paycheck-2412811369.html The article lists the following figures: 

AGMA First-Year Dancer Salaries for 2012

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet: $1,015.50/week ($4,062/month)
  • Joffrey Ballet: $834.64/week ($3,339/month)
  • Cincinnati Ballet: $671.88/week ($2,688/month)
  • The Washington Ballet: $810.90/week ($3,244/month)

Dance Magazine had an article in 2014 with 3 dancers beginning salaries and how they get by. https://www.dancemagazine.com/professional-dancer-salary-2306949449.html The articles lists the following figures:

  • Martha Graham Dance Company: 900/week plus full health care (40 weeks)
  • Tulsa Ballet: $665/week plus health care (40 weeks)
  • Broadway Dancer $2000/week for full year until show closes 

 Dance Magazine also did a survey of salaries in 2018. 200 professionals in the dance field replied with salary info.  https://www.dancemagazine.com/dance-salaries-2587282090.html A few of the responses:

  • 3rd Year Apprentice in FL Ballet Co: $7,433 year
  • 1st Year Corps in Portland Ballet Co: $25,000 year
  • 5th Year Corps in Phili Ballet Co: $30,000 year
  • 10th Year Coryphee in NYC Ballet Co: $21,350 year
  • 12th Year Principal in CO Ballet Co: $45,000 year
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