How Much Do Dancers and Ballerinas Make? Salary/ Earnings Guide

Dancing is one of the few industries where it seems the norm to say yes to the job before learning what you will be paid. So how do dancers know if they are getting paid enough? How much do dancers make or earn?

The average wage of a dancer in the US is $20.70 an hour as reported in May 2019 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But 50% of dancers will actually earn $16.31 or less per hour. They reported Choreographers (which also included dance teachers) on average earned $25.75 an hour with 50% earning only $22.98 or less per hour or around $47,800 annually.

The above information is pretty standard if you google search the term ‘How Much Do Dancers Make Per Hour, Week or Year?’ because they are statistically accurate coming from a US government website – The Bureau of Labor Statistics. But we wanted to dig a little deeper and get the real juice on exactly what someone can expect to be paid to dance professionally!

How Much Professional Dancers and Ballerinas Really Earn!

In 2018 Dance Magazine compiled the wages of more than 200 anonymous contributors. These contributors shared the total income they made from dancing in 2017. Not every dance job or position in a ballet company is covered and it isn’t clear whether some of the wages are pre or post-tax.

The following 6 wages are all for full-time positions and are in order of position in a ballet company. 

3RD YEAR 1ST YEAR 5TH YEAR10TH YEAR12TH YEAR
APPRENTICE CORPS DE BALLET CORPS DE BALLETCORYPHEEPRINCIPAL ARTIST
$7344 $25000 $30000 $21350 $45000
BALLET COMPANY IN FLORIDABALLET COMPANY IN PORTLANDBALLET COMPANY IN PHILADELPHIABALLET COMPANY IN NEW YORKBALLET COMPANY IN COLORADO

From the same research contributors from other areas of the dance industry also shared their 2017 income and the following are various jobs a working dancer might also do.

10TH YEAR26TH YEAR5TH YEAR6TH YEAR20TH YEAR
SENIOR DANCERTHEATRE DANCERDANCERFREELANCE & CHOREOGRAPHYBURLESQUE AND BELLYDANCER
$31000 $68000 $27000 $19000 $8000
MODERN DANCE COMPANY IN NEW YORKPERFORMING IN MUSICALS IN NEW YORKWORKING FOR A CRUISE LINEMIX OF FULL AND PART TIME WORK OVER 40 WEEKS IN PHILADELPHIAPART TIME WORK FOR 48 WEEKS IN CALIFORNIA

The following wages are from careers in the dance industry which are not performance-based meaning the dancer does not have to dance in a performance to be paid.

30TH YEAR5TH YEAR20TH YEAR10TH YEAR6TH YEAR
DANCE TEACHERDANCER AND GRAPHIC DESIGNERSTUDIO OWNER AND CHOREOGRAPHERSTUDIO OWNER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTORDANCE TEACHER
$124000 $15000 $325000 $30000 $62000
PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL IN THE BAY AREA, CADESIGNING FOR A MAJOR DANCE COMPANY AND DANCING WITH A SMALL COMPANY IN CAWORKING FOR IN SOUTHERN USAWORKING 52 WEEKS A YEAR IN RICHMOND, VAPUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL IN NEW JERSEY

The following wages are from careers within the dance industry which require knowledge of dance but do not require the employee to physically dance.

10TH YEAR12 YEARS6TH YEAR26 YEARS4 YEARS
ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGERDANCE EDUCATORMARKETING AND PROGRAMS MANAGERDANCE CHAIREDUCATION MANAGER
$54000$36000$40000$80000$35500
PRIVATE UNIVERSITY DANCE PROGRAM IN MASSACHUSETTSPART TIME FOR A CHILDREN’S MUSEUM IN IOWAWORKING FOR A SERVICE ORGANIZATION IN CHICAGOPUBLIC MAGNET SCHOOL IN CONNECTICUTDANCE CENTER AND PERFORMING ARTS ORGANIZATION IN MINNEAPOLIS

One of the greatest takeaways from Dance Magazines 2018 questionnaire was that dance training can lead to a variety of well-paying careers that do not always require the talent of a dancer, but rely on their knowledge of dance.

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How Much Money Do Professional Broadway Dancers in Musicals Make?

Since 2015 the minimum union regulated wage for a dancer performing in a Broadway play as reported by Career Trend has been $1,861 per week. Dance captains receive an extra $372.20 per week and assistant dance captains earn $186.10 on top of their minimum salary. Overtime is paid at $44 per hour and they are entitled to more pay if they are deemed to be taking an extraordinary risk such as being suspended by wires or have a specialty part or are an understudy although this is only around $15-$20 extra per week.

The union regulated wage is different for those dancers in off-Broadway productions. An off-Broadway production is a production produced in a smaller theatre with a lower budget and are generally those not showing in the Broadway district of New York. For an off-Broadway show that makes between $100,000 to $199,999 dancers should be paid from $566 a week and this goes up to $1008 for a show that makes more than $351,000 and above weekly.

Broadway dancer wages are generally protected by a union, for which dancers need to pay a membership to join. Actors Equity, AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) or similar are unions which were created to fight for the rights of all workers in the entertainment industry.


How Much Money Do Dancers on Cruise Lines Earn?

The American Dance Informa Magazine writes that Cruise Ship Dancers can earn between $2000-$4000 per month dependent on the cruise line, the dancer’s responsibilities, their seniority, and other factors. As part of the crew, dancers are provided with accommodation for the duration of their employment, meals, health insurance and much more.

Some of the following information was obtained from Glassdoor.com who are an online job finding service. They ask all members of their site to fill in an anonymous questionnaire about their current or previous work the following figures are from 6 people who filled in the questionnaire between 2017 and 2018. Sources for other pay rates are linked to as marked.

Cruise LineDancer Pay
Carnival Cruise Lines $2,052-$2,357 per month
Royal Caribbean Cruises$2771 per month
Holland America Line$900-$1200 per week

How Much Do Professional Dancers Earn on Television, Film or Advertising?

The Dancer’s Alliance who works with SAG-AFTR the union which covers most Media contracts have great accessible resources on minimum pay rates for union and nonunion dance jobs.

The following table provided by the Dancer’s Alliance shows minimum SAG-AFTR pay rates for dancers in various media employment.


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How Much Do Back Up Dancers Earn in Music Videos?

The Dancer’s Alliance provides a guide for minimum wages for non-union music videos. They state that rehearsal wages should be $175 for a 1-4 hour call and $250 for a 4-8 hour call, with time and a half overtime over these stated hours. They state that dancers should be paid a minimum of $500 per shoot day.

In 2014 SAG-AFTR developed an agreement with many of the biggest music producers in the world to set minimum wages for dancers and other entertainers who perform in music videos. The Dancers Alliance have created a cheat sheet regarding this agreement below.


How Much Do Theme Park Dancers Earn?

Theme parks around the world such as Disney Land, Universal Studios and Six Flags employ dancers to perform in shows based on movies, cartoon, and television series. Dancers might perform in a show that follows the storyline of a well-known movie, dance in street parades, wear character costumes or dress-ups as a well-known character and meet park guests. Theme parks may have their own unions and set wages or may be part of and use minimum set wages as per a union like the American Guild of Variety Artists.

Theme ParkLocationYearStarting Wage
Walt Disney WorldFlorida2014$16.05 per hour
Sea WorldSan Antonio2019$10.05 per hour
Worlds of FunKansas City2018$525-$550 per week
Cedar PointSandusky, Ohio2019$102 per day
Busch GardensWilliamsburg, VA2019$14.57 per hour
Six Flags Jackson, New Jersey2019$10.50 per hour
Kings DominionDoswell, VA2019$540 Per Week

PLEASE NOTE: If some of the links above are no longer active we apologize as many of the starting wages sourced were from current audition pages for the theme parks which may have been taken down once the auditions were completed.


How Much Do Dancers in Vegas Style Shows Make?

Many casinos and hotels in Vegas and around the world employ dancers are to perform in theatre style shows to entertain their guests. Some shows need showgirls such as for Jubilee at Bally’s Resort & Casino and others require the unique skills for roles in shows such as ‘O’ by Cirque Du Soleil at Bellagio. Most employment opportunities such as these are not regulated by a union in the US and therefore there wages are set by each individual employer.

Resort or CasinoYearShowWage
Bally’s Resort & Casino2014Jubilee $1,000 to $1,400 per week. 
Mandaly Resort & Casino2015Storm$800 per week
Bellagio Hotel & Casino2015‘O’ Cirque Du Soleil$1,200 to $1,800 per week
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino2015EFX$680 per week

How Much Do Ballerina’s Earn?

Through a lot of research, we were actually able to come up with some exact pay figures that professional dancers within ballet companies are entitled to. The following information about the San Francisco Ballet is freely available from www.imaginelaw.com where Robin Gross an Attorney and member of the Californian, San Francisco, and American Bar Associations takes an in-depth look at their AGMA negotiated contract.

San Fransico Ballet Company 2008 AGMA ContractWage
Apprentice Dancer $560.60 / week
Corps 1st year Dancer $1,027.52 / week
Corps 8-10 yrs Dancer: $1,341.10 / week
Soloist 1st year Dancer: $1,426.97 / week
Principal Dancer: $1,846.00 / week

The following are AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) negotiated contract wages – although the following information has been obtained by various reliable sources, not directly through AGMA directly.

Ballet CompanyYearStarting SalaryCorps 1st year Dancer
Cincinnati Ballet2012$671.88 / week
The Washington Ballet2012$810.90
San Francisco Ballet2016 $625.58 / week $1,146.62 / week
Boston Ballet2016 $858.22 $1,262.53
Pacific Northwest Ballet2016 $809.97
$1,079.96
Joffrey Ballet2016$660$745

No annual wage has been given as all companies have differing lengths of yearly contracts. All offer various forms of health insurance benefits and some will also give holiday pay. Pay may also increase for a dancer who takes on extraordinary risks such as being suspended by a wire or trapeze and some companies also offer over time.

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How Much Did Ballerina’s Earn in the Past?

The following snippet is from a copy of the National Endowment for the Arts, Application Guidelines Fiscal Year 1986. The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency for the US Federal government whose purpose is to ensure all Americans have access to the arts. In this document held at the Ohio State University Library, it clearly states minimum wages for dancers as per AGMA contracts in 1984-1985. From the tables above it is clear to see that wages have increased steadily since this time.


Starting Wages with Smaller Dance Companies 2018

The following information was sourced from Dance Magazines 2018 Dance Job Guide. Many but not all companies posting auditions also posted their proposed starting salaries.

CompanyWhereStarting Salary
Ad Deum Dance Co.Houston, TX $250–$700 per week
Ballet Long Island Ronkonkoma, NY $12 per hour
Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Inc. Annapolis, MD $345
BODYTRAFFIC Los Angeles, CA $600 per week
City Ballet of San Diego San Diego, CA $250–$500
ClancyWorks Dance Co. Silver Spring, MD $2,000–$2,500 per month
Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop Boulder, CO class discounts
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo New York, NY  $600 per week plus travel expenses
Madison Ballet Westgate Studios Madison, WI $400 per week
Minnesota Ballet Duluth, MN $425 per week
Odyssey Dance Theatre Draper, UT $300–$700
Oregon Ballet Theatre Portland, OR $700 per week
Mill Ballet School Lambertville, NJ $400 per week
Sarasota Contemporary Dance Sarastoa, FL $10 per hour
SIDEWAYS Contemporary Dance Roswell, GA $500 per year
State Street Ballet Santa Barbara, CA $450 per week
Wonderbound Denver, CO $750 per week
WV Dance Company Beckley, WV $300 per week
ZiRu Dance Redwood City, CA $300–$700 per week

On average, these jobs offered around $482 per week. That is $12.05 for a 40 hour workweek or $19,280 for forty weeks of work per year. (This annual length is generous as most contracts are generally for a 28-32 week rehearsal and performance period or season.)

With all the above work, no contract length was stated – for more information go to Dance Magazine 2018 Jobs Guide.


Unpaid Dance Work – The Reality of Being an Apprentice in a Small Ballet Company

The following is a YouTube Video by Kirsten on her channel TwinTalksBallet (yes she is a twin!) who speaks about her pay and experience as a professional dancer. We at Dance Parent thank Kirsten so much for doing this video as so many people are not willing to put themselves out there and give real information for fear of being criticized by others in the industry. She says that parents who are paying for their children’s training deserve to know what they are getting into and to expect to have to support their child even after they get their first contract with a company. She writes in the video description that this was just her experience in North America and it may not apply to people in Europe or other countries around the world.

Kirsten says that as a college graduate and apprentice ballerina in her first year she is not financially independent. She is not paid. She gets a lot of things for free such as having a certain amount of pointe shoes and obviously does not pay for her classes and training with the company. She still relies on her parents for support and receives money from tutoring, teaching ballet, her youtube channel and from other online administrative jobs, although it is more common for people in her position to take on food service or waitering work. Ballet companies will generally ensure their unpaid dancers have enough time to work outside their company commitments.

She speaks about how even if you are paid that when working for a small dance company, in particular, you are only paid for the length of your contract, not for a whole year which is often only around 28-32 weeks and then you need to find work outside of this to support yourself. Larger companies generally offer more sustainable wages, but they are much harder to get into as they take only as she says the ‘creme of the crop’.

Kirsten divulges that a college professor told her and her ballet major classmates to expect to work for free for two years before getting a paid job. From her experience, she tells us that when you do start getting paid in a small company you will probably expect to get around $280-$360 a week but that with a bigger company it might be around $700 a week. She says that many companies do increase the amount you are paid as you dance with them longer even if you do not move from the corps, but of course that you do get paid more with promotions through any company.

Towards the end of the video, she also speaks about the fact that male dancers are paid more than females, in some cases mlore than half what their female counterparts are earning. She also says that males, in general, are accepted into companies and paid straight away if they have the right skillset compared to females who are generally brought in as unpaid apprentices.


How Much Do Dancers Make Per Hour, Week and Year?

The following information was obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and was current as of 2019.

The first table is the average wage, meaning they totaled up all the wages and divided them by the number of people.

Average WagesHourlyWeekly (40 Hours)MonthlyYearly
Dancer$20.70$828$3588$43056
Choreographer$25.75$1030$4463$53,560

The second table shows the 50th percentile wage estimate. This means that in reality, 50 percent of people are actually earning less than the average wage and it is the upper echelon of dancers earning larger sums of income that bring the average up. In terms of income, 50% of dancers and choreographers earn less per hour than the amount in the table below.

Average WagesHourlyWeekly(40 Hours)MonthlyYearly
Dancer$16.31$652.40$2827$33,924.80
Choreographer$22.98$920$3984$47,800

What the Recruitment Companies and Websites tell us Dancers Earn

The following table shows you just how unreliable information from the web can be. These figures were sourced from various recruitment websites in 2019, we have added in the column year as the information from some websites was quite dated.

WebsiteYEARHourlyAnnually
ZipRecruiter2019$33$68,093
CareerTrend.com2009$13.16$34,424
PayScale.com2019$33,610
OwlGuru.com2018$18.29
Recruiter2010$16.51
The Art Career Project2017$18
Indeed.com2019$24.02

As you can see from the table above there really is no exact wage a professional dancer might earn, and the annual income these websites have given are calculated on being paid for 40 hours, 52 weeks a year which is not the norm for many professional dancers who generally work on a contract.


Related Questions

Do I Need to Be A Union Member To Get Professional Dance Work?

No, you do not need to be a union member to get professional dance work. There are many jobs that are not unionized, but generally the most sought after, well paying and prestigious jobs are. Unfortunately, the catch sometimes to become a member of an actors or performers union is that you need to get a union contracted job to be able to apply for membership, which can be difficult when some producers are only accepting auditionees who are already members.

How Much Do Dancers Make on Tour?

Generally, dancers on tour will receive an extra bonus called a per diem on top of their current wage on tour. A per diem is meant to help a dancer pay for expenses they will incur as a result of not having a permanent residence such as transport and meals. Accommodation and transportation to and from performances whilst on tour should be taken care of by the dancer’s employer on top of their wage and per diem. For more information on actual wages refer to the previous information in this article.

How Much Do Dance Teachers Make?

In her YouTube Video Kirsten from TwinsTalkBallet says that a dance teacher should expect between $20-$25 per hour. Teachers with a lot of experience or are sought after for their expertise will earn more. This reflects the information by the Bureau of Labor Statistics who reported Choreographers (which also included dance teachers) on average earned $25.75 an hour with 50% earning only $22.98 or less per hour or around $47,800 annually.

How Much Do Back Up Dancers Make?

The Dancers Alliance states that all dancers in live shows, industrials & non-union music videos should be paid the following:

Rehearsals:  Agency fees apply on top of these minimum rates
$175 | 1-4 hours (anything over 4 hours = time and a half)
$250 | 4- 8 hours (anything over 8 hours = time and a half)

Show/Shoot Day
$500 minimum per show/shoot day
The rate for additional same-day shows is negotiable

Do Professional Dancers and Ballerina’s earn good money?

Sarah Anne Austin a graduate from the University of Maryland who serves on the board of directors of Dance Exchange in the opening of her controversial article for Dance USA ‘Is American Modern Dance a Pyramid Scheme?’ wrote ‘Making a living as an American dancer and choreographer today is a fantasy. By this, I mean it’s a fantasy to think a person can make enough money to afford a place to live, keep the lights on, have enough to eat, and cover transportation costs solely by creating and performing dances.’

Karen Bradley an associate professor and director for graduate studies in dance at the University of Maryland College Park wrote a response letter to her former student Sarah writing that she agreed that in the current climate most of what she wrote was true and that ‘maybe 12 percent to 15 percent of any alumni from any program go on to perform  professionally, mostly in small local companies‘.

But in response to whether American modern dance is a pyramid scheme Bradley points to the fact that many of her students go onto teaching or into other jobs many of which we outline for you in our article The Ultimate Dance Career Pathways and Future Jobs List which you can read here.  Her point is that although many people who study dance don’t become professional dancers, they have fulfilling professional careers that they bring unique knowledge and experience to because of their dance training.

About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.