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What Becomes of Undergraduate Dance Majors?

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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This study follows the earnings, work patterns and work histories of graduates of a Massachusetts college dance program. A survey was distributed in 1999 with responses based on 1998 work activity. Not surprisingly, the survey results show that “returns to dance are low” and “many of those employed in dance rely on non-dance jobs to supplement their dance earnings”.

What is particularly interesting about this study is the tracking of work patterns of those educated in dance. The survey results clearly show that recent graduates usually work in dance and that many are unable to sustain their dance careers. Specifically, 78% of those who graduated in the 1990s were employed in dance in 1998, while only 41% of those who graduated before 1990 were employed in dance in 1998. The researchers find that some dancers “return to school to get more dance training and continue in the field and others seek graduate training in non-dance fields and change careers”.

The results also show that the most common dance-related jobs are teachers (62% of those employed in dance), dancers (42%), choreographers (29%) and administrators (18%). Many respondents (42%) held two or more dance positions in 1998. The high percentage of teaching positions points to the need to examine closely the teaching practices of dancers, and indeed other artists, something that is at present generally based on anecdotal evidence. Among the other findings, the survey results show that, on average, the dancers began their dance training before age nine.

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