How to become a background dancer for celebrities

How Do I Become a Backup Dancer? (with pictures)



Fact Checked

Erin J. Hill

The first step you will take if you want to become a backup dancer is to become an excellent dancer through lessons and considerable practice. Once you have the necessary skills, you can audition for a talent agency to try and gain representation. Most backup dancers land jobs through auditions scheduled by these agencies. You may also be able to take part in contests to land positions as a backup dancer although these opportunities are less common.

In order to become a backup dancer you will need to gain several years experience in dancing. You should probably choose the exact type of work you want to do, since there is a wide range of dance types. Most backup dancers work in theater productions, although you may aim to work as a dancer for a major music artist in music videos or on tours. Both arenas are very difficult to break into, due to heavy competition. The type of dance you take will probably depend on the type of jobs you want to land.

Once you are accomplished in your particular type of dance, you should make every effort to be seen. You will likely begin by dancing in local productions and in local clubs. When you are confident in your abilities to perform in front of a crowd, the next step to become a backup dancer is to audition and land a contract with a talent agency.

Talent agencies employ experts in the various fields who have industry connections. Your agent will land auditions for you to give you a better chance of breaking into the field. Most big name productions won't see dancers who do not have an agent. Even if someone is willing to allow you to audition, you will usually be taken more seriously and given more consideration if you do have an agent. The talent agents work to find good talent, so those who are doing the hiring will assume that you have some level of talent if you are with a reputable agency.

Once you have an agent, you will up your chances of being able to become a backup dancer if you attend as many auditions as possible. Don't expect to land the job of your dreams the first time, but gain experience working in smaller productions first to add to your resume. Once you have proven yourself as a hardworking and reliable person, you will be much more likely to become a backup dancer in larger productions.

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Music Industry Career Roles - Berklee Online

What is Berklee Online?

Berklee Online is the online school of Berklee College of Music, delivering access to Berklee’s acclaimed curriculum from anywhere in the world. We are the world’s largest online music school—30,000+ musicians from more than 140 countries have taken our courses—but classes cap at just 20 students per section.

What does Berklee Online offer?

We offer award-winning online courses, multi-course certificate programs, a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Master of Music degree, and a Master of Arts degree.

Who is Berklee Online designed for?

Our programs provide lifelong learning opportunities to people interested in music and working in the music industry. The courses range from beginner to advanced graduate level.

What kind of subjects are taught?

Berklee Online offers more than 200 courses in every musical interest area: Everything from instruction on specific instruments (guitar, piano, bass, drums, voice) to music production software (Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, and more) to larger concepts in music business, songwriting, theory, and composing for film, TV, and games

Do online students receive the benefits of an on-campus Berklee education?

Absolutely! Just like the students studying on Berklee’s Boston campus, Berklee Online students receive instruction from the same world-renowned faculty, with the added benefit of having music industry professionals from around the world teaching as well. You’ll also receive guidance from Berklee-trained Academic Advisors, and have the opportunity to walk at the Commencement ceremony in Boston with your cohort of graduates who studied online and in-person.

What is the process to apply for/enroll in a Berklee Online program or course?

Certificate programs and online courses are offered on an open enrollment basis. Simply complete the online enrollment form and provide payment prior to the course start date and you’re ready to go! Degree programs require an application and supporting documentation. See the Admission Requirements for more details.

Will I receive a Berklee ID and/or email address?

Berklee Online degree students are eligible to request a Berklee ID. Upon acceptance into the program, degree students are also given a email address.

Can I take non-credit courses in a certificate?

All courses in a certificate program must be taken for credit.

Can I waive some for-credit courses into a certificate?

Students must enroll in a certificate by paying the $175 certificate registration fee prior to completing the final course in the program. All for-credit courses that have been awarded a passing grade and that align with a certificate program may transfer into that program.

Can I upgrade from a lower-level certificate to a higher-level certificate?

Yes! Berklee Online offers two certificate options:

  1. CHANGE CERTIFICATE: When a student wants to change their lower-level certificate to a higher-level certificate (or vice versa) prior to the completion of the program. There are no additional fees for this option other than the cost of additional courses, and you will only earn one certificate upon completion.
  2. STARTING A NEW CERTIFICATE: When a student wants to earn more than one certificate by having the courses from their lower-level certificate waived into a higher-level certificate. In this case, an additional $175 registration fee is required.


Who teaches Berklee Online courses?

Berklee faculty and seasoned professionals teach our courses. Our instructors are recognized experts in their respective fields—they’ve produced and engineered hundreds of artists and numerous award-winning projects, and several of their students have gone on to earn GRAMMY Award nominations.

Financial Aid

Am I eligible for financial aid?

Financial assistance is available for Berklee Online degree programs. This assistance may come from a variety of sources including federal awards, outside scholarships, and private loans.

Federal financial aid is not available for non-degree programs. Non-degree students typically finance their costs out-of-pocket or with a private loan. Review our payment options.


What happens if I turn in my graduation application late? Do I still need to apply by December 1 even if I don’t want to walk in the Commencement ceremony?

Because we must coordinate with the Boston campus for Commencement, it is essential that students planning to walk in the ceremony submit their graduation application by 12:00 midnight ET on December 1. If you submit your application late, you will need to wait until the following year to walk.

We ask all students planning to graduate within the current academic year to apply for graduation by December 1, regardless of their plans to participate in Commencement. Late application for students who do not wish to walk will result in processing delays for your academic record and diploma, and your name may not be listed in the ceremony program.

What’s the difference between graduating and walking in Commencement?

Great question! Walking in Commencement and graduating are two separate things.

You can walk in Commencement when you are nine (9) credits or less away from completing your degree requirements by the end of the spring term. Please note: Berklee Online degree students are not required to walk in Commencement in Boston.

You graduate when you have met all of the following criteria:

  • Attained at least a 2.70 cumulative GPA in concentrate courses
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2. 00
  • Fulfilled all program requirements AND completed a minimum of 120 credits for a single major or 165 for a dual major
  • Completed a minimum of 60 institutional credits for a single major or 105 institutional credits for a dual major
  • Fulfilled all financial obligations to the college

Note Walking across the stage in Commencement

does not

mean that you have graduated. You will not officially graduate and receive your diploma until you meet all of the eligibility requirements.

I just finished my last term at Berklee Online! What happens next? Is there anything I need to do?

Congratulations on finishing! If you have already filled out a graduation application, you will want to double-check the "Graduation Checklist" to ensure you have taken care of all of the various items associated with graduating. If you have not filled out a graduation application, you will need to do that as soon as possible. You will not be able to graduate until we have received and processed your graduation application.

When will I get my diploma?

You will receive your diploma within 6-8 weeks of completing your degree requirements. Please keep in mind that instructors have up to two (2) weeks to submit final grades after the term concludes.

Diplomas are mailed to the address you include on your graduation application. If your mailing address changes after you have submitted your graduation application, be sure to update us at [email protected].

Keep in mind that if you are walking in Commencement, you will not receive your official diploma at the ceremony.

Transfer Credits

Can I find out how many transfer credits I am eligible for before I apply to the degree program?

If you are interested in applying to the Bachelor of Arts degree program and would like an estimate of the amount of transfer credit you would receive, you can request an unofficial transfer evaluation by emailing a copy of your transcript(s) to the Berklee Online Transfer Team at transfer@online. Be sure to include your name, major of interest, and any additional questions you may have. You can expect to receive your assessment within 7-10 business days.

I didn’t receive credit on my Official Evaluation for all of the courses that I thought I would. What should I do?

The earlier you contact us with questions or concerns regarding your evaluation, the easier it will be for us to address any issues. Therefore, it is very important when you first receive your official transfer evaluation that you review the information carefully.

If you notice a remaining requirement that you believe you’ve already fulfilled, first consult our document on Common Reasons Credit Does Not Transfer. It’s possible that the course you are thinking of didn’t meet our eligibility requirements.

If none of those exclusions apply, please fill out a Transfer Credit Equivalency Re-evaluation form for the courses you wish to have reconsidered.

Sometimes, we are not able to locate specific information for a course online and we are not able to determine an equivalency, but we are always happy to review additional material which will help us make that determination.

Do my Berklee Online, Berklee campus, or Prior Learning Credit coursework count towards the 60 transfer credit limit?

No, credits completed at Berklee or through the prior learning process do not count towards the 60 transfer credit limit. This maximum is for credit-bearing exams and undergraduate-level coursework completed externally.

What is a credit deficiency and why do I need to make up credit?

Credit deficiencies are caused by transferring a course that is less than three (3) credits to fulfill a three (3) credit Berklee Online requirement. Students with a credit deficiency will be short of the minimum number of credits required to graduate once they have completed their program requirements. In order to be eligible to graduate, you will need to make up the credits you are deficient in.

While the Transfer Team does their best to avoid giving students credit deficiencies, it is not always possible. You can make up the credits you are deficient in by completing additional Berklee Online coursework, by applying for prior learning credit, or by completing additional external coursework in the area in which you are deficient.

Note all external courses will first need to be approved by the Transfer Team.

Can transfer credit fulfill prerequisites?

It depends. Generally, transfer credit cannot be used to fulfill prerequisites unless we determine that the course you completed is a direct equivalent to one of the courses we offer at Berklee Online. Keep in mind that there are some courses which require you to pass a placement exam. For these you will need to achieve a passing grade on the test to fulfill the prerequisite, otherwise you will need to complete the appropriate Berklee Online course.

Can I transfer credits to Berklee Online after I have started the degree program?

Yes, you can. To determine if the coursework you already completed or are considering taking is eligible to fulfill your remaining degree requirements, contact the Transfer Team at [email protected].

I am a Berklee campus student. Can I transfer courses from Berklee Online to my campus-based program?

View a list of transferable courses to Berklee’s campus programs.

For additional questions about transferring courses from Berklee Online to Berklee's campus programs please contact the campus transcript evaluator at [email protected].

Are Berklee Online courses transferable to other institutions?

Berklee Online is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), the same association that accredits our main campus and other leading academic institutions such as Harvard University and MIT. Our courses are transferable to other institutions, but it's up to the receiving institution to decide the number and types of courses that may transfer. We recommend getting a course pre-approved by an institution before enrolling.


How do Berklee Online’s costs compare to other education options?

Berklee Online’s programs have a tuition cost that is approximately 64 percent less than on-campus tuition at Berklee’s Boston campus. Moreover, a recent study revealed that the average annual tuition at for-profit colleges is more than twice as expensive as Berklee Online. Even average annual tuition at other accredited non-profit online universities is roughly $11,000 more expensive than tuition for a year with Berklee Online!

How much does a certificate program cost?

There is a one time $175 registration fee per certificate program. Students may either pay per course term (at the $1,515 per credit course cost) or pay in full to receive a 10 percent discount. The registration fee and all courses for the term you wish to begin in must be paid in full in order to begin.

How much does an online Bachelor’s degree cost?

Online undergraduate degree tuition is $59,160 for 120 credits for all majors except the guitar major. Tuition for the guitar major is $63,660. Students taking 10 courses per year can complete the degree in four years at a cost of $14,790 per year. (Note: Tuition and fees are subject to change.)

How much does an online master's degree cost?

Online graduate degree tuition is $33,120 for 36 credits. The Master of Music in Music Production and Master of Arts in Music Business programs are designed to be completed in one year of study. Both programs are comprised of 12 three-credit courses that can be taken during four 12-week semesters.

What is included in the cost of a course?

The cost for an individual course includes the tuition fee. The cost of required books, hardware or software must be purchased separately, unless it is stated that these costs are included with your enrollment. Some courses may include additional fees for files or content.

How to Become a Professional Dancer (Step by Step) • BUOM

By Indeed Editorial Team

May 13, 2021

Becoming a professional dancer takes passion, determination and dedication. You must invest time in building your craft in order to have a successful career. Hard work is an important quality that a professional dancer possesses. In this article, we will explain what a professional dancer is, what a professional dancer does, how to become one, skills, salary and job prospects. nine0003

What is a professional dancer?

A professional dancer is a person who has the qualifications, skills and training in a particular form of dance. Professional dancers perform a choreographed dance in front of an audience and use their bodies to convey the emotions that tell the story. They specialize in various dance styles such as modern dance, modern dance, street dance, ballet and hip hop and appear in theater productions, films, music videos and Broadway shows. nine0003

What does a professional dancer do?

A professional dancer works with directors, choreographers and other dancers to develop dance sequences for performances. Professional dancers work in a professional environment and work in large dance groups. They spend time studying difficult numbers and interpreting the work of the choreographer. Other duties of professional dancers:

  • Spending time rehearsing performances

  • Attendance and preparation for auditions

  • Learning different types of dance.

  • Compliance with safety precautions

  • Training how to use other skills, such as acting or singing

  • Timely appearance at rehearsals, advertising measures and auditions

  • Maintaining good relations with other dancers, instructors and senior staff

Professional dancers work in a wide variety of industries, but generally fall into these three categories. These are:

  • Company dancers: Company dancers are usually hired by one company with which they perform regularly for a long time.

  • Commercial dancers: Commercial dancers are usually freelancers who work on commercial projects including films, music, cruise ships, musicals, and commercials. nine0003

  • Dance teachers: Dance teachers often become teachers when they can no longer dance or discover that teaching is their passion.

How to Become a Professional Dancer

Professional dancers are passionate, determined and persistent in achieving their goals. Here are a few steps to help you transition to professional dance:

1. Complete extensive training

No qualification or degree is required to become a professional dancer, but training is an important factor. Professional dancers begin their training at age five and begin auditioning for full-time jobs at age 18. Training helps develop the muscle strength and techniques necessary to turn a talent into a profession. Dance groups and performing arts schools offer students the experience they need to enter professional dance groups. People who are just starting out in dance should start with ballet because it offers an excellent foundation for developing strength, muscle memory and flexibility that will help them in any dance style. nine0003

2. Consider getting a bachelor's degree

You don't need a university degree to become a professional dancer, but specializing in dance can give you exposure to a variety of dance genres. You also have the option to focus on a particular dance. A variety of universities and colleges offer majors in dance through visual arts or theater departments. On the dance direction you will learn:

  • Choreography: You learn performance skills through various dance techniques and ways of expressing yourself through choreography.

  • Production: As a student, you will learn about behind-the-scenes production processes. This may include sound work, lightbar control, costumes, lighting design, and stage management.

  • The history of dance: you will learn about the origins of dance and how people from different continents view dance from a social, ceremonial and cultural point of view. nine0003

  • Teaching: You will learn how to develop teaching skills to teach people from different age groups and communities.

  • Movement and body alignment: You will learn about muscle coordination and posture.

3. Gain experience

If you want to increase your chances of getting a job as a professional dancer, you should consider moving to a city where entertainment thrives. However, take the time to research the arts communities in your area where you can volunteer to dance. You can also gain experience:

  • Activities: Participation in dance classes helps you develop your skills, stay physically fit and gain experience. Taking dance classes also increases your chances of getting an audition because the director or choreographer may be familiar with your work or have experience working with you.

  • Master Class Attendance: Most of the dance workshops are taught by renowned choreographers and members of dance groups. Choreographers always keep a close eye on who follows instructions and improves. Always try to make a good impression by attending seminars because it may lead to future opportunities. nine0003

4. Find out about union jobs

Major dance companies are unionized, and TV, film and Broadway jobs are unionized. You must have a union card to be eligible to audition. The union card identifies you as a legal union member and allows the union to represent you. Some unions representing dancers are:

  • Screen Actors Guild / American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA): They represent dancers, recording artists, emerging writers, stunt performers and other media professionals. nine0003

  • Actors Equity Association (AEA): They present Broadway shows.

  • American Guild of Musical Performers (AGMA): They represent the New York City Ballet.

  • American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA): They represent performing artists.

5. Find a talent agent

Becoming a professional dancer can be tricky; this is why most dancers choose to work with a talent agent. A talent agent is a professional dedicated to helping clients navigate the entertainment industry as well as helping their clients find auditions and submit dance videos and resumes. They facilitate the process of professional dance career. You must take the time to research and find a reputable agent. nine0003

The union usually represents a reputable agent. Laws vary from state to state regarding talent agents, but the agent should not require you to pay anything. They are usually paid a 10% deduction from your earnings when you commission a job. You must find an agent who shares your vision and is interested in you. Asking other dancers or choreographers for recommendations is a step in the right direction, or you can check agency websites to see what kind of clients they represent. You should have these three things in mind before contacting your ideal agency:

  • Letter of recommendation: You can ask your dance teacher to write a letter of recommendation that highlights your strengths.

  • Resume: Your resume should detail your education and performance experience, including what you've done, the name of the project you've danced in, and who you work for. If you haven't worked on a professional project yet, you can list competitions, local productions, and musicals you've been in to add to your performance experience. nine0003

  • Dance video: The agency wants to see your skills, so make sure you record a number that shows your style and talent.

6. Write Your Resume

When you go to an audition, some people may want your resume. Your dance resume should contain important details, including:

  • Dance Video: This is a short collection of videos that showcase your skills and experience as a dancer. Usually it is several minutes. You must have a dance video no matter what production or project you are applying for. nine0003

  • Headshots: Professional headshots are needed because they help choreographers, agents and casting directors remember you. Headshots also provide choreographers and directors with an easier way to decide which dancers are best suited for a company or production. Your headshots should reflect your current look and be crisp.

  • Resume: Your resume should be easy to read, accurate and concise. It must include your full name, phone number, email address, union status, and dance experience. nine0003

7. Go to auditions

Auditions are a huge part of being a dancer. You can showcase your skills and talents to industry professionals. The process can be overwhelming, whether you're going to audition for a dance company or college, but preparing for them can make the process easier and less stressful. Here are some things that can help the audition process:

Review the audition application. Many application forms contain important information about how the audition process works. It is extremely important to make a checklist of dress code requirements and rules to make sure you follow them. nine0003

  • Do your research: in some cases, you may already know the choreographer you are performing for. Studying their videos to get an idea of ​​their style can give you an idea of ​​how to deliver great performance.

  • Work on your freestyle: Directors or choreographers may want you to freestyle to determine what sets you apart from other dancers. You must practice your freestyle regularly to gain confidence. nine0003

  • Rehearse before your audition: For commercial dances, many auditions are done on camera. You should practice your close-ups by asking a friend or family member to film you.

  • Get enough sleep: You should get at least eight hours of sleep before your audition to get the energy and focus you need to perform.

  • Arrive early: To make a good impression, set your alarm for the morning so you can get ready and leave the house early. nine0003

  • Dress appropriately: your clothing should be comfortable and appropriate for the style of the dance, and allow for freedom of movement. Your clothing must also comply with the audition rules. Keep in mind that the judges also want to see your body, so wear something appropriate to show off your form. If you're auditioning in a classical category such as ballet, jazz, or modern dance, wear leotards and tights. Some auditions have stricter rules and require you to wear a uniform. Always follow the rules. nine0003

  • Watch the judges' reactions: pay attention to how the judges react to other dancers performing. Observing the judges' facial expressions and body language can help you avoid the same mistakes other dancers make and inspire you to improve your performance.

8. Stay healthy

To have a long professional dance career, you must maintain your health and strength. You should avoid processed foods and eat whole foods instead. Also, get regular exercise with cardio workouts like running, swimming, cycling, and weight lifting to strengthen your muscles. This helps to reduce the number of injuries. nine0003

Skills of a professional dancer

In addition to being talented, you must have skills that will help you have a successful career. These skills are:

  • Creativity: You must have interesting, innovative ways to express your ideas through dance.

  • Physical strength: You must have excellent mobility and strength to move your body without losing balance or falling, and be able to work for a long time. nine0003

  • Interpersonal skills: You must be able to interact effectively with others because you will be working with many people.

  • Discipline: You must have a good attitude, follow the rules and meet the requirements.

  • Persistence: You must remain committed to your years of study and overcome obstacles and disappointments in the future.

  • Active listening: You must be able to pay attention to instructions given by directors and choreographers. nine0003

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, dancer employment is expected to grow by 2% from 2019 to 2029. Most jobs come from private dance schools. The average salary for a dancer is $45,905 per year ($19.63 per hour).

15 truths about how to be a professional dancer

1. Dancing is hard. No dancer has ever become successful based solely on their innate talents. Dancers are artists and athletes. The world of dance today is akin to an extreme sport. Inborn abilities and talent will help us only up to a certain time. Dancers must work hard and persevere. Dancers give years of their lives, plus sweat, tears and sometimes blood, for the honor and pleasure of performing on stage. nine0003

2. You won't always get what you want. We don't always get the role we want, get the job we want, get the compliments we want, earn the money we want, etc., etc. It teaches us humility and respect for the process, the art form, and the masters we have chosen to teach us. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can succeed. We will never be 100% sure that it will work, but we can always be 100% sure that we will not achieve anything if we do not work. nine0003

3. There are many things you don't know. There is always more for a dancer to learn. Even our unloved teachers and choreographers can teach us something. The minute we think we know everything, we stop being a valuable asset.

4. There may not be tomorrow. A dancer never knows when their dance career will suddenly end…studios close, careers end due to injuries, car accidents, deaths…Dance every day like it's your last performance. Don't save the fun of dancing just for the stage. Perform even ordinary exercises in class with passion! nine0003

5. There are many things you cannot control. You cannot control who hires you, who fires you, who likes your job, who doesn't. Don't waste your talent and energy worrying about things you can't control. Focus on honing your skills, be the best dancer you can be. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude.

6. Information is not true knowledge. Knowledge comes with experience. You can discuss the task a hundred times, go to 1000 classes, but without performing on stage even once, we will only have a philosophical understanding of dance. Find an opportunity to get to the stage. You have to know what performances are like firsthand to call yourself a professional dancer. nine0003

7. If you want to be successful, prove your worth. The easiest thing that does not require work is to prove to your employer that he does not need you. Instead, be irreplaceable. Come early, know your material, be prepared, keep your opinions to yourself unless asked and above all, be prepared to work hard.

8. There will always be someone better than you/be better than yourself. Whether it's a job, or money, or a role, or trophies, it doesn't matter. Instead of worrying about what others are doing around you, focus on what you're good at, what you need to work on, what makes you happy as a dancer. nine0003

9. You cannot change the past. Everyone has a past. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has great moments they want to enjoy. “Would you keep a piece of garlic in your mouth just because you liked potatoes last night?” - "Boston Common" television series. Dance is an art form that forces us to focus on the present. To be a master at dancing, we must be in this moment; Sometimes we fail, we get hurt. If this happens, see point #12.

10. The only person who can make you happy is yourself. Dancing for ourselves and for others cannot make us happy. The basis of our happiness is our relationship with ourselves, not how much money we earn, what role we play, what studio we dance in, or how many competitions we win. I'm sure these things can affect our mood, but ultimately who we are to ourselves makes us happy.

11. There will always be people who don't like you. nine0248 The dancers are on display when they perform. And especially in the internet world, there are a lot of critics. You can't please everyone. No matter what you do, there will always be those who think it needs to be done differently. So concentrate on doing what comes from the heart. What others think and say about you is not all that important. What really matters is how you feel.

12. Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, following the best advice, being in the right place at the right time, we still fail. Failure is part of life. Failure can be the spur to our greatest growth and learning progress. If we never failed, we would never appreciate our successes. Be prepared to fail. When it happens to you (because it will happen to you), accept the lesson that comes with failure. nine0003

13. Sometimes you will work for free. Every professional dancer has ever worked without pay. If you are offered to work for free, you must be sure that you really agree to this. There are many good reasons to work for free, and there are just as many reasons not to work for free. Ask yourself if there is a worthy reason, if it will bring you a good experience, if it will bring you joy. Negotiate all financial aspects at once and completely and do not expect payment at the end. nine0003

14. Repetition is good. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is crazy. If you keep doing what you do, you will keep getting what you get. If you keep attending the bare minimum of required classes and don't practice extra, don't complain to your teacher that you're not progressing to the next level. If you want to go beyond your comfort zone, you must force yourself to go beyond your own limitations. nine0003

15. You will never feel 100% ready. Nobody ever feels 100% ready when the time comes. Dancers must be willing to take risks. From performing dangerous stunts to traveling the world with a new dance team, from trusting a new partner to trying to learn a new dance form, dancers need to have a flexible mind and outlook as well as a body.

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