Innovators Guide

Dancer / Choreographer Income Data

Median hourly wages of dancers were $12.22 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $8.03 and $18.82. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.28, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.26. Annual wage data for dancers were not available, because the wide variation in the number of hours worked by dancers and the short-term nature of many jobs—which may last for 1 day or 1 week—make it rare for dancers to have guaranteed employment that exceeds a few months. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest number of dancers were as follows:

Performing arts companies $15.30
Other amusement and recreation industries 11.56
Other schools and instruction 10.00
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 8.01

Median annual wages of salaried choreographers were $38,520 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,320 and $55,360. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,160. Median annual wages were $37,570 in other schools and instruction, the North American Industry Classification System category that includes dance studios and schools.

Dancers who were on tour usually received an additional allowance for room and board, as well as extra compensation for overtime. Earnings from dancing are usually low because employment is irregular. Dancers often supplement their income by working as guest artists with other dance companies, teaching dance, or taking jobs unrelated to the field.

Earnings of dancers at some of the largest companies and in commercial settings are governed by union contracts. Some dancers in major opera ballet, classical ballet, and modern dance corps belong to the American Guild of Musical Artists, Inc. of the AFL-CIO; those who appear on live or videotaped television programs belong to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; those who perform in films and on television belong to the Screen Actors Guild; and those in musical theater are members of the Actors' Equity Association. The unions and producers sign basic agreements specifying minimum salary rates, hours of work, benefits, and other conditions of employment. However, the contract each dancer signs with the producer of the show may be more favorable than the basic agreement.

Most salaried dancers and choreographers covered by union contracts receive some paid sick leave and various health and pension benefits, including extended sick pay and family-leave benefits provided by their unions. Employers contribute toward these benefits. Dancers and choreographers not covered by union contracts usually do not enjoy such benefits.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

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