Alisha's Advice | Jobs for Contemporary Dancers


Dancer Tyler Lotzof. Photo by Sean Higgins.

“Dance makes me feel Powerful.”

Congratulations Tyler!

Tyler, 14, attends a leading Melbourne dance studio. Her preferred dance styles are contemporary and lyrical and last year she was part of the youth Locreado Dance Company. She is adding acting and singing to her talent repertoire in order to become a better performer, and hopes to make a career in dance. Tyler enjoys the experience of working with different choreographers and was honoured to have been asked to perform a solo at last year’s Melbourne DanceLife Unite as a guest artist.


Are there Jobs Galore for Contemporary Dancers?

Advice for Aspiring Young Dancers by Alisha Coon

DanceLife’s continuing series on a career in dance
Do you love contemporary dance and know you want to be a professional dancer?
Well I have some good news for you!
You may be aware that Australia only has a handful of full-time jobs for contemporary dancers. Europe, on the other hand, has thousands of job opportunities for dancers and its not nearly as daunting or ‘out of reach’ as you may think. Even if you are not ready to audition yet, it is good to know what opportunities are out there in order to set some goals for your career path.
I spent most of my career dancing in Germany and discovered that nearly every city has a theatre and therefore has a full-time dance company. FULL-TIME DANCE COMPANY! Just to give you an idea of how much work that means for dancers – it would be like Sydney Dance Company is the big company in the city, and then there would be a full-time company in Gosford, Newcastle, Wollongong, Penrith, Katoomba and Goulbourn as well.
What are the companies like in Europe?
The repertoire and styles vary from company to company so it is really important to do your research. I would roughly categorize the companies into 3 groups:
Ballet Companies – These are usually quite large companies and are located in the major cities. They perform the traditional ballets (Swan Lake etc), and their contemporary repertoire will typically be classical-based and often en pointe. The director of these companies does not usually choreograph, so there are often guest choreographers.
Neo-classical Companies – The companies that I would put in this category have the most varied repertoire and only sometimes do pointe work. For example, a triple bill evening could consist of a bare-foot, earthy contemporary piece; a more balletic contemporary piece in ballet shoes; and a neo-classical piece en pointe. These companies are generally smaller and offer great opportunities to work closely with guest choreographers.
Contemporary Companies – Contemporary companies often perform the work of the director and depending on the piece, will be performed in socks, ballet shoes or bare-feet. Contemporary companies often give dancers the chance to choreograph as well, whether that be collaboratively or in special ‘young choreographer’ evenings.

IMPORTANT NOTE! I can’t stress enough how important your ballet technique is if you want to be a contemporary dancer. Nearly every company (including the purely contemporary companies) have a ballet class every day and when auditioning for companies you will have to get through a ballet class first. This is not to say you have to be the stereotypical ‘ballerina’, you just need to have strong ballet technique.
What is it like in a THEATRE company?
Some of the dance companies are involved in everything the theatre has to offer – operas, operettas, plays and musicals … Yes, even musicals! I have had no training in musical theatre, so for me they were a bit of fun; but for dancers who can sing they are a wonderful opportunity to play lead roles and earn a bit of extra money too. Therefore, adding singing to your available talents will increase your chance of professional work.
Most theatres have a full-time orchestra, choir and actors as well, so they create a wonderful opportunity to meet talented people from all of the world and collaborate artistically.
For those of you who are concerned that Europe is too far away from home… Trust me, the amazing companies and choreographers over there make it worth living away for a few years (in my case, 7 years!). I also flew home every year in the 6 week summer break (July/August) and with Skype and Facebook it is so easy to keep connected with your family and friends. It was funny how many of my friends and family suddenly wanted to visit Europe when I moved over there, so I had a steady stream of visitors while I lived there too.
An audition tour through Europe is expensive, but don’t ever think that it is out of your reach. Perhaps it means working and saving for 6 months so you can afford a plane ticket, but you can also use this time to research and contact companies because, believe me, you want to be prepared! I left for Europe on a whim, without researching companies and I wasted a lot of time and money. For example, I turned up at the Cullberg Ballet audition in Sweden with my pink tights and pointe shoes ready to go – not knowing that it was one of the most famous bare-foot contemporary companies in Europe … Lesson learnt!
Where to start?
Taking a look at company websites is a great start. Often they will be in another language but you are looking for the words “ballett” or “danz” and you will find photos, dancer profiles and information on which pieces they are dancing in the season. Most companies now have videos on YouTube too which is a great way of seeing if you like the company’s style.
Here are 3 websites with current auditions in Europe:
For example, Dance Europe currently has 16 auditions listed for full-time dancers to start in July!
The best website for sure is but the website is in German. If you are serious about auditioning in Europe, then contact me and we can organise a Skype consultation where we can discuss your career goals and find the exact companies you are suited to and have the best chance of getting a contract with.
Stay tuned for my next article where I will be delving even deeper into living, dancing and auditioning in Europe.
Lots of love, ALISHA xxx
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