Dance Professor Job Description, Education, Training Requirements, Career, Salary, Employment

Job Description: Dance professors teach various levels of dance technique (ballet, modern, jazz, ethnic dance) and related courses which may include dance composition, dance history, dance education and dance kinesiology Professors may also teach Labanotation, which is a written form of preserving choreography in community colleges, arts conservatories, colleges and universities.

Training and Educational Qualifications: Colleges and universities usually consider holders of the master’s of fine arts (MFA) in dance for full-time, tenure-track positions, and it is usually expected that prospective dance professors also have professional performing and choreography experience. Sometimes positions are filled by dancers with esteemed careers but without formal degrees; in many cases, these positions are part time but not always. There are very few vacancies for dance professors who focus on teaching dance history; those in this specialty usually have PhD degrees in either performance studies or dance history rather than the MFA in dance.

Job Outlook: Overall, employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. A significant proportion of these new jobs will be part time positions. Job opportunities are generally expected to be very good although they will vary somewhat from field to field as numerous openings for all types of postsecondary teachers will result from retirements of current postsecondary teachers and continued increases in student enrollment. Many colleges and universities do not have dance departments so there are fewer dance professor opportunities available. However, compared to other academic disciplines, there may be fewer qualified applicants for available dance professorships. Most college dance departments focus on modern dance and as a result, there are often more jobs for those who can teach various levels of modern dance.

Salary: Earnings for college faculty vary according to rank and type of institution, geographic area, and field. According to a 2006-07 survey by the American Association of University Professors, salaries for full time faculty averaged $73,207. By rank, the average was $98,974 for professors, $69,911 for associate professors, $58,662 for assistant professors, $42,609 for instructors, and $48,289 for lecturers.

Significant Facts:

•    Opportunities for postsecondary teaching jobs are expected to be good, but many new openings will be for part time or nontenure track positions.

•    Educational qualifications for postsecondary dance teacher jobs can be very specific (a teacher of modern, a teacher of ballet, or a teacher of dance education or dance history) depending on the subject being taught and the type of educational institution.

•    An MFA plus professional performance and choreography experience is generally required.

Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?

I did not have a formal internship. However, I was given a teaching associateship as a part of the MFA program in which I participated.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

There isn’t a specific best place to be a professor. It has more to do with the institution and when jobs are available.

What is your typical day like?

There is no typical day. That is what I love. Generally, we juggle teaching, research (both scholarly and creative) and service every day.

What are your job responsibilities?

I teach all levels of modern dance, teaching methods for undergraduates and graduate students, dance history, composition, improvisation, creative process. Choreographing for concerts is also part of my job. Additionally, I choreograph and/or perform on a national and international level, conduct research in my area, and I sit on committees from department, college, university, community and national organizations. Of course I meet with students regularly, and I serve as a graduate advisor and recruiter.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Teaching and contact with my students, but also, having the freedom to do the research I want to do.

What do you dislike about your job?

We have to teach too much, sit on too many committees, and run our program on no money. This is a problem all over the country.

Have you had any turning-point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

There are too many to count. But I will say that when I lived in NYC and was running a dance company and dancing for many wonderful people, I was tired of the struggle of surviving there and thought about quitting. My father said, “You cannot see the path you are on. You need to trust it is the right one.” I didn’t quit. Now I have a job that is perfect for me, and I’m where I want to live. It is a gift.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I had no other choice. The career chose me.

How did you get into this field?

I began dancing in college in 1979 at UCLA when they had a dance program. The summer after my sophomore year, I went to New York City on a scholarship with a dance company and fell in love with NYC. I dropped out of school and lived there for seven years. That made me very marketable when I went back to school to finish my BFA and obtain my MFA. I received a full, $55,000 fellowship from OSU based on my professional experience. I chose to be willing to move “anywhere” for a job in my field and nearly died at a performing arts high school in the middle of nowhere, but that led to my first university job at a fantastic dance program at the University of South Florida in Tampa. That job led to my job here. I would not be here had I not paid “my dues” at the other jobs.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?

My students.

To what professional associations do you belong?

International Association for Dance Medicine and Science and National Dance Education Organization.

What professional publications do you read?

Journal of Dance Education and Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

With regard to teaching in higher education, a professor at OSU wisely said to his students, “You can work in this field two ways. You can move anywhere for a job and that will hopefully lead you to the job you want. Or you can move to a community where you want to live, invest in that community and work your way to a higher education institution.”