Marketable Skills: Applying Dance Training to the “Real” World

August 20, 2015

I am a firm believer that dance training develops skills that transcend the studio, the theatre, and the arts community. As a dancer myself, I have often engaged in conversations regarding my field of study that went something along the lines of this:

“ What is your degree in?”

“ I have a BFA in dance and a minor in psychology.”

“Oh. That’s so fun! I always wanted to be a ballerina.”

… long silence
… inability to engage
… end of conversation

Dance is not just fun and games and collegiate dance programs are not just developing prodigious technicians. Yes, most dancers enjoy their profession, but there is depth to the skills developed in professional dance training that moves beyond entertainment and sparkling costumes. Dance graduates are: theorists, historians, creators, master time managers, collaborators, editors, and marketing experts rolled into one self-aware, and yes talented, human.

As a now three-year college graduate with a BFA (and yes I am proud of the F), I have moved from defending my major, to defending my training. My first task, as I settle into my new life in Austin, Texas, is to find a job. As I peruse job posting after job posting, I am hit with the realization that dancers possess skills that employers want—we just need to learn to interpret the language of business.

The essential requirement: Ability to organize, manage, and track multiple tasks with frequently changing priorities and deadlines in a fast paced work environment.

The inside scoop: Dancers are busy. I have yet to meet a dancer that isn’t juggling technique class, school, family, multiple rehearsals, late night shows, an internship, a second job, and a bit of a social life. We have calendars and to do lists, and we use them—religiously.

The essential requirement: Meets deadlines in an organized and professional manner.

The inside scoop: Strict deadlines, no problem—there is no stricter deadline than the curtain opening.

The essential requirement: Ability to work in a team-oriented environment and communicate effectively with coworkers and clients.

The inside scoop: Dance is about collaboration and flexibility (pun intended). I have rarely heard of a dance career consisting of only solos; therefore you have to work with the people in the room—including the jealous peer, the a**hole director, and the caffeinated conductor.

The essential requirement: We seek creative thinkers and effective problem solvers.

The inside scoop: Dancers are not only creative based on what they make and the roles they play. Dancers are becoming more and more creative in efforts to find and maintain funding, to develop audiences, and to remain current in a rapidly changing society.

So, whether you are looking for a “survival job”, a career transition, or to win an argument for choosing dance as your field of study. Rest easy, dancers. Each day you dance, you are developing skills that employers want, a work ethic that will stay with you long after your final bow, and a craft that rests on the ability to read and interpret the world around you.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think a dancer is just what your company needs.

-Kylie Phillips
Dancer, Freelance Writer, and Arts Administrator

I urge you to check out Career Transition for Dancers—they too celebrate dancers’ unique potential and skills:

Photo: dancers: Krista Kee, Kristen Gadjdica, Lexy Silva, Kylie Philips, and Caroline Lloyd suited up for performance

Marketable Skills: Applying Dance Training to the “Real” World