April 1, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
University of Northern Colorado
School of Theatre Arts & DanceWebsite
Sandra Minton Ph.D.: I do not know if there will be a lasting impact on dance and dance teaching from the pandemic. Time will tell. However, we have been doing a lot of our teaching on-line and remotely so there may be more content offered through such platforms in the future. Our conferences have been successful when presented remotely.
Sandra Minton Ph.D.: The opportunity for dance teaching jobs depends on the state. The states with dance certification are most likely to provide teaching opportunities in the public sector. There are also many ancillary job possibilities associated with dance training such as Pilates practitioners, physical therapists, dance therapists, massage therapists and arts management, all of which require added training.
Sandra Minton Ph.D.: Earning potential is increased if one can be hired by a public entity. Such positions are usually accompanied by benefits.
Department of DanceWebsite
Katie Glasner: In the dance field, live performance has been shut down since NYC closed down Broadway live theater on March 12, 2020. In the interim, dance has exploded on digital platforms, from established companies like Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to New York CIty Ballet opening its archives to the public. Dance educators, dancers, and musicians have figured out solutions to maintain virtual training, and dance makers have shifted their work, by in large, to the filmic format. I suspect that dance writing has been flourishing. The biggest trends in the dance markets will continue to be digital work, that monetizing that work will be challenging at best and that in the carefully intentional move back to live performance, productions and audiences will be substantially scaled back. If the arts could use the model of any of the professionalized athletic events and garner advertising support, that would provide financial stability. Dance professionals have a wide scope of skills that can be put to use in any situation - organization, attention to detail, understanding a big picture, collaboration, respect for deadlines, knowledge that presentation is as important as what's being presented - and many have moved on to other income producing sources as a result of the pandemic.
Katie Glasner: -The ability to have a conversation in person.
-The importance of follow through in communication.
-The knowledge that there isn't one clear path to a goal and the understanding that strategizing for the long haul can be useful.
-Patience. Humor. Grace. Generosity.
Katie Glasner: Salaries? What salaries? For those in the live performing arts, income is a thing of the past. For educators in institutions, salaries remain as the institutions/jobs remain and salary freezes/hiring freezes are currently the norm. For the freelance dance making and doing community, grants are imperative. For writers, commissions and advances are imperative.
University of Arizona
School of DanceWebsite
Chris Compton: In terms of live performance, sadly, we've seen a (necessary) halt due to the pandemic. We have, however, seen a surge in virtual and online performance. Companies and artists have gotten very creative with their output, and I think we will see that model continue to surge through 2021, and into 2022. Artists who are adept at the online/virtual model, I believe, will find success sooner than those who may be focused solely on theater/proscenium work. Dance-on-film work has really picked up, and that is a great area of exposure for young dancers. As far as dance education is concerned, we are starting to see that pick up again as schools are adapting to the COVID-19/Social Distance model.
I believe the market for dance educators will recover a bit sooner than the market for dancers. It's difficult to remain patient, but I believe that we will see a turnaround in 2021. One way that dancers and dance educators alike can tread water until then is through the online experience of dance. Many dancers/educators have found success on social media by teaching virtual classes, whether they be in dance or fitness. As you wait for the market to rebound, that might be your best bet. The number one thing, though, is to stay active. Keep creating work, keep taking classes, and keep your foot in the door.
Chris Compton: Versatility, and problem-solving. Many companies that are hiring are looking for dancers/dance teachers who can perform a variety of tasks. Can you handle the company's social media? Are you good with administrative work? Are you a videographer? Are you good with film editing? Can you handle book-keeping? Can you teach classes for the company? With some companies consolidating positions, being versatile will make you more attractive to a potential employer.
Chris Compton: The dance hubs in the U.S. are also some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, etc. I think that some of the smaller, regional markets may recover sooner. For those graduating in May, it may be a few months before I would move to a major market. I would hope for a September/October turnaround for NYC, and Chicago, but it may be longer for Los Angeles. It also really depends on what you're looking for. The states with the fewest restrictions may be able to provide you with a job sooner, but you would have to be comfortable working in a state with fewer restrictions. And vice versa. Again, the market for dance educators is a little more open, right now. But it's the same idea. You need to establish your comfort level with each state's handling of the pandemic, and look for jobs in those markets.
Southern Methodist University
Division of DanceWebsite
Christopher Dolder: The hiring of graduates to teach virtual classes from a safe and small cohort-based studio.
Christopher Dolder: Gap year students should focus on the skills that will help them become the artist they envision. Acting skills, voice, multiple dance techniques. Work on self-health, yoga, meditation, etc.
Christopher Dolder: Do not put a timeline or a specific definition on what it means to be successful in dance. Just approach areas of dance that are your current interest.
University of Michigan
Department of DanceWebsite
Amy West: I believe we have just opened the door to video conferencing using platforms such as Zoom to connect globally. I predict there will be audition screenings through Zoom as we have just begun to see the possibilities of what is possible. It saves time and money on both sides. Social media, such as Instagram, is being looked at for job opportunities in booking a job. Many performing artists will have to develop a side gig to make ends meet. I believe the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in dancers thinking creatively to stay afloat.
Amy West: Certifications in somatics such as Pilates, Personal Trainer, nutrition, yoga, etc. Dancers have such a body awareness that they would be a great candidate. They should look for organizations that are nationally accredited since those companies have had to go through rigorous accreditation certifications. Certifications are affordable and can be done in a relatively short period of time. Also, the information they learn will only enhance their dancing and body knowledge.
Amy West: A new career in anything requires patience. One cannot expect to rise to the top overnight. Be willing to do the grunt work, keep the focus and have faith that all will be well. We are surviving a pandemic, the job market is competitive, so be willing to go the extra mile to stand out in a good way. Professionalism never goes out of style!
Quilan Arnold: I believe we'll continue to see a drop in the availability of performance jobs for dancers in general. I think there will continue to be an increase in virtual/online/video opportunities for dancers until theaters come back in some capacity. I also think we'll continue to witness artists moving out of the bigger cities until theaters - and thus live performance opportunities - return.
Quilan Arnold: The best thing for a graduate to do right now - in my opinion - is to intensively work on self. This encompasses understanding who they are, what they care about, and who they care about. Then, constantly produce practices and products that combine these elements in a creative way. Through this pursuit, the world will respond to each graduate's creative call by providing them the skills necessary for their future.
Quilan Arnold: I have no advice to give, but a question to ask, "When nobody expects anything of you, what are you pursuing?"
Department of Performing ArtsWebsite
Miriam Giguere Ph.D.: The live performance industry has been exceptionally hard hit during the pandemic, as it relies on large gatherings. Dancers, dance educators and choreographers have been very creative in pivoting to online practices and I think some of these will remain. Dance on film has done well, and dance companies have made a lot of content available for free online, which has boosted audiences and interest. Jobs for choreographers who can work in the digital realm will be desirable, as well as videographers experienced in dance production and editing. I think having master classes with someone from across the country, who you previously wouldn't have been able to take class with in-person will be a practice that will continue after the pandemic as well. My guess is that having skills to teach embodied classes online will become a new threshold requirement for dance educators.
As we heal from the pandemic as a society and as individuals, those who do somatic or body work will also be in high demand. Dance/Movement Therapists, Pilates instructors, yoga instructors, whose work connects with the dance field, will be trending, I believe. Many of these practitioners have figured out how to lead sessions online, and I believe the private lesson/session industry online in these fields will continue to grow.
Miriam Giguere Ph.D.: This varies greatly according to the kind of dance position. For those applying to work in higher education, a clear focus and area of expertise is attractive. There will always be small programs who need generalists, but a lot of programs hope to differentiate themselves in the market and are looking for faculty with a viewpoint or lens on the field. Experience in leadership and the ability to do administrative work is always a plus! If you took a business, marketing or accounting class even better.
Molly Faulkner Ph.D.: The pandemic is hard on graduates in dance and all of performing arts - there are markedly fewer jobs. That means that graduates will need to be entrepreneurs. I've seen a lot of creative web performances, live and pre-taped. This Covid market creates a captive audience if you can tap into it.
Molly Faulkner Ph.D.: Get as much performance, tech, marketing, and box office experience as you can - take any job that is theatre or dance related. Volunteer. Grab your friends, and put on a show. Do theatre and dance.
Molly Faulkner Ph.D.: Take a marketing class - your job is to sell yourself. Audition for everything even if you know you aren't suited. I've gotten several jobs because I applied, and the director, knowing I wasn't right for their needs, referred me to someone else. And don't be afraid of failure - it leads to better things.