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Earn an Associate’s Degree in Dance, Music and Theatre

Majors Overview April 11, 2014

Performing arts features professional dancers, actors and actresses, and musicians. Specializations in music, theatre, or dance are usually a good start for those interested in pursuing careers in performing arts. The knowledge and skills needed for employment can be enhanced and developed with formal training. Enrollment in associate’s degree programs, offered by many vocational schools or community colleges, is a good first step for aspiring artists to get formal education.

Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree Programs in Dance

Students enrolled in Dance degree programs are taught not only the fundamentals of dance, but also about the human body and the structure and composition of a routine. Graduates usually opt for one of several career choices, such as planning choreography, dancing professionally, or instructing dance. Schools may offer associate’s degrees focused in dance under different nomenclatures. For instance, students may choose to earn an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Performing Arts with a concentration in dance or an Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Dance.

Education Requirements

Application prerequisites can vary from school to school. Submission of a head-to-toe photo may be required of incoming students in some schools, in addition to a short DVD showing dance and performance skills, and a resume. Students may have to participate in auditions before they are assigned to appropriate courses; thus students with prior experience in dance would enjoy an advantage.


Schools usually conduct classes in dance studios within college campuses. Opportunities for auditioning for on-campus productions and participating in dance workshops will be given to students during the program. Coursework may include other topic areas such as:

•History and perceptions of dance
•Stage musicals
•Structure and overview of dance
•Dance forms (ballet, jazz, modern, tap and world)
•Dance routine creation

Job and Wage Outlook

Professional dancers can choose from many entry-level careers; some join unions in order to enjoy better job opportunities and many other benefits. Specialists in modern dance or ballet may seek membership with the American Guild of Musical Artists; those who dance in live performances, films or television can become members of the Screen Actors Guild or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The Actors’ Equity Association is a proper union for those who perform in musical theatre. A job growth rate of 11% has been projected for dancers during the decade from 2010 to 2020 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In May 2012, dancers took home an average hourly wage of $15.87.

Continuing Education Choices

Associate’s degree graduates can continue their education by earning a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Dance. Coursework in bachelor’s degree programs in Dance covers different detailed styles including jazz, modern dance, tap and ballet. They are also taught about different dance forms, communication through dance, and historic dance and primitive civilizations. Graduates can choose from various career paths such as performing arts management or directing.

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