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This guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to become a dancer.

We aren’t going to sugar coat this: deciding to be a professional dancer takes a lot of sacrifice, and often with little return—at least at the beginning. But regardless of where in the world you find yourself, if you want to get your start and find your direction as a dancer, you have come to the right place.

As late, legendary dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham said, “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” So with that, if you’re ready to eat, sleep, and breathe dance, below are some essential questions to ask that’ll get you well on your way.

Having a clear vision of what kind of dancer you want to become will be crucial in helping you find your stride as you leap into the dance world. Determining which style suits you best (and brings you the most joy) is the first step in focusing your physical and artistic energy and ultimately achieving success. That’s not to say that trying out various styles is less advantageous; it simply depends on what your goals are, and in certain instances, will even be necessary. For instance, a modern company may create a piece of work fusing contemporary ballet and Spanish dance styles, and will be specifically looking for a dancer with experience in both!

Being an artist is not always fun, creative freedom. Between keeping yourself in shape, making ends meet, finding work, and staying motivated, it can be difficult to be your own personal cheerleader all the time. As you make friends with your peers in the dance world, be there for them by lending an ear when the going gets tough, showing up to support them at their performances, and letting each other know when one sees an opportunity that would be a good fit for the other. Of course having a competitive edge will be necessary in some regard, but the more we help each other in the arts, the more you will see that your own career will flourish. You’d be surprised how often networking has come into play in landing jobs. When a friend is unable to take a spot but knows that you’re available, you’ve just skipped over all of the hoops that you would normally have to jump through. Treating fellow dancers with kindness and compassion is always the way to go because, after all, aren’t we collectively trying to encourage the arts in our communities in order to create a better world?