How Much Dancers Earnhow much dancers

When a dancer decides to go pro, lots of questions come up. Can I really earn a living and pay my bills as a professional dancer? What should I anticipate in terms of income? Are there differences between ‘union’ and ‘non-union’ benefits?

‘Union’ jobs offer the most favorable benefits for dancers. Not only are pay rates higher, unions like AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and AGMA ensure access to better working conditions as well as pension-and-healthcare benefits. ‘Non-union’ gigs usually involve tighter budgets, lower pay rates, looser working conditions, and fewer pension or healthcare benefits.

The numbers here have been collected from various industry sources, some official, some not. For absolute accuracy, we suggest confirming the figures by contacting the appropriate union through the websites listed.

www.actorsequity.org
www.sagaftra.org
www.musicalartists.org
www.dancersalliance.org

The following maps illustrate general guidelines for dance employment in the United States. While many states are highlighted, the highest concentration of Dance jobs can be found in New York City, Los Angeles, Florida, Chicago and Nevada. New York City leads the way in dance opportunities.

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CATEGORIES AND PAY RATES:

BROADWAY MUSICALS

Equity logo 538pUnion: Actors Equity Association. (www.actorsequity.org) has offices in New York City and Los Angeles.
BASIC MINIMUM SALARY $1917 per week (8 performances) understudy roles, covers, featured bits, and hazard pay extra.

Actors' Equity Association (“Equity"), founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 50,000 Actors and Stage Managers. Equity seeks to foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of society and advances the careers of its members by negotiating wages, working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans. Actors' Equity is a member of the AFL-CIO and is affiliated with FIA, an international organization of performing arts unions. 

NOTE: If you are a member of a union, you are restricted from working in non-union projects. Always refer to the rules and regulations set by your union if you have any questions about a particular job so you don't put your union status in jeopardy.

NATIONAL TOURS OF MUSICALS

Union: Actors Equity Association. (www.actorsequity.org) has offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Same minimum salaries as Broadway Musicals. In addition to the extras such as understudies, covers, featured bits, and hazard pay, per diems of $100 per day are paid, raising the weekly income by $700.

REGIONAL THEATRE PRODUCTIONS

Union: Actors Equity Association. (www.actorsequity.org) has offices in New York City and Los Angeles.
BASIC MINIMUM SALARY $560-$730 per week. depending on the theatre's size and its LORT classification. Understudy roles, covers, featured bits, and hazard pay are extra.

FILM, TELEVISION, AND COMMERCIALS

sag aftra1Union rates available at: SAG-AFTRA (www.sagaftra.org) with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

SAG-AFTRA represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. SAG-AFTRA members are the faces and voices that entertain and inform America and the world. With national offices in Los Angeles and New York, and local offices nationwide, SAG-AFTRA members work together to secure the strongest protections for media artists into the 21st century and beyond.

MUSIC VIDEOS

SAG-AFTRA announced in 2012 that it had reached the first-ever industrywide agreement covering dancers in music videos. The deal encompasses Sony Music, UMG, Warner, EMI, Disney and their subsidiary labels. Dancing for award shows is also determined by SAG-AFTRA. Effective June 1, 2014, the 10-hour day rate is $520 and a 12-hour day rate is $626. There is also pay for rehearsal days that require a minimum of 8 hours of pay ranging from $40-$42/hour. There is additional pay for certain risks or stunt work as determined by the union. According to SAG-AFTRA, a music video is defined as an audiovisual product that contains as its underlying audio track, a sound recording produced under the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code and a visual element of the type of genre traditionally produced for exhibition on cable television or made available for digital distribution via Internet streaming and/or download.

dancers allianceDancers Alliance Rates. (not a union). Dancers Alliance's mission is to be the unified voice of the national dance community and improve the careers of professional dancers and choreographers through education and solidarity. They negotiate equitable rates and working conditions for non-union workers and represent the dance community on union boards and committees.

dancer alliance day rates

LAS VEGAS-STYLE SHOWS

las vegasPlease note: There are no organizations representing dancers in Las Vegas. Traditionally, each venue sets its own pay scales. Here's a few examples of weekly salaries that we've received from working dancers.

• "O" (Cirque du Soleil) $1,200-$1,600 • "Storm" at Mandalay Bay $800 • "EFX" $680 • Other shows $620-$650.

Performance schedules differ from venue to venue. 6-12 shows are presented each week. "Storm" is the first Vegas production to establish hazard pay. While low, the $15-30 payment per week is a beginning in the right direction.

CRUISE SHIPS

cruisePay rates for cruise ships vary from company to company. There are pay advantages for speciality dancers, i.e. adagio, ballroom, acrobat/dancer, singer/dancer are paid more. You also should receive medical and dental benefits. If you factor in room and board, plus the fact that you're working steadily, you will be doing quite well. Most cruise ships have a minimum age requirement of 18 years old to audition. A handful require age 21 and older.

Length of Employment: Contracts also vary by cruise ship company, but an average is from six to eight months. Auditions are held several times a year and are listed on Answers4dancers.com. Here is a sampling of pay rates taken from recent auditions posted on Answers4dancers.

Carnival Cruise:
Singers who Dance Starting Salary $1,200/wk
Dancers who Sing Starting Salary $725/wk

Norwegian Cruise:
Dancers $800/wk. min.
Singers $1,100/wk. min.

Royal Caribbean:
No salaries listed, but they do list these perks: Competitive Salaries / 5-7 month performance contracts / Paid rehearsal period / Housing / Amazing Itineraries / Professional working environment / Contemporary musical stage productions. 

THEMEPARKS

disney parkDisney theme parks pay rates begin higher than the pay rates on cruise ships. Beginners make just over $500 a week. More can be made, again depending on extra skills and also the role you're playing.

RWS/Holland America recently posted auditions for Hershey Park with a pay rate of $600-$1,000/wk. Travel and lodging provided.


DANCE COMPANIES

AGMAUnion: American Guild Of Musical Artists. (www.musicalartists.org) Range of pay for ensemble artists is $500-600 per week. Non-union salaries vary from company to company. Possible range: $350-500 per week. Many companies are unable to offer salaries due to survival economics. We suggest (1) visiting our comprehensive Dance Company Directory found in the footer of the A4D homepage for individual company employment policies and (2) contacting AGMA (http://www.musicalartists.org) for more details.

The American Guild of Musical Artists is the American labor union that represents about 8,000 current and retired opera singers, ballet and other dancers, opera directors, backstage production personnel at opera and dance companies, and figure skaters.

MEDICAL & PENSION BENEFITS

SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity offer the strongest medical and pension benefits. Contact them for details. Both unions are listed in Los Angeles and New York phone directories. SAG-AFTRA website is listed below.

ANOTHER REMINDER: For absolute accuracy, we suggest confirming the figures by contacting the appropriate union through the websites listed.

www.actorsequity.org
www.sagaftra.org
www.musicalartists.org
www.dancersalliance.org

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AREAS WITH THE HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVELS

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TOP AREAS FOR HOURLY WAGES

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