How Much Do Broadway Dancers Make? Salary Info, Roles and Career Options
Updated June 24, 2022
Performing in a show on Broadway can be an exhilarating and career-defining moment for a professional dancer. Broadway dancers gain a range of experiences and skillsets that can determine the types of shows they audition for and perform in. As performing artists, Broadway dancers are often responsible for negotiating their employment contracts and salaries. In this article, we explain how professional dancers are compensated and different career roles on Broadway.
How much do Broadway dancers make?
Professional dancers in the U.S. earn an average of $24.50 per hour. Salaries vary depending on the dancer's company, location and experience. Dancers in New York City earn an average of $64,256 per year. A Broadway dancer's income depends on the amount of experience they possess and the scale of the production they perform in.
Many dancers work long days while performing to learn new choreography, practice routines and prepare their hair, makeup and outfits for each show. When the show ends, the dancer may not work again for a while, depending on their schedule and production needs at the time. This can lead to instability in paychecks for dancers.
While performing for a specific show, dancers are paid a minimum weekly salary following their negotiated contract. They may also earn additional pay by working in other roles beyond their contract requirements, such as moving sets, working in wardrobe, cleaning and assisting with props. If the role is determined to be high-risk by the dancers' unions, they are required to pay the performers an additional wage.
In a single production, each dancer may earn a different wage based on the number of sets they perform in. Each show has a dance captain and an assistant dance captain, who will receive additional compensation for their extra work on the production. The show will also likely have understudies or swing dancers who can step in if a particular dancer is unable to perform in a show. Understudies for major roles and swing dancers who are trained for multiple roles typically earn more than chorus understudies due to the additional practice required for these roles.
Unions for professional dancers
Some professional dancers are employed under a union agreement that outlines minimum pay rates, benefits, working hours and other conditions to protect the dancers. Union members can collectively negotiate contracts, pay raises and working conditions, which can create standards of treatment and work environments for professional dancers. Popular unions that a professional dancer may join include:
The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA)
This segment of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) provides services for dancers who perform for the opera, in ballet shows and for modern dance troupes. As one of the 55 union organizations under the AFL-CIO, the American Guild of Musical Artists works to protect their dancers' rights in the workplace, create harassment-free work environments and collectively bargain for higher wages and safer working conditions.
Actors' Equity Association
Also a member of the AFL-CIO, this union strives to build live theater as an important part of everyday life by representing more than 50,000 stage managers, actors and dancers. They have negotiated contracts with Broadway, touring productions, operas, dinner theaters, off-Broadway and Hollywood area theaters.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)
This national labor union combined with the Screen Actors Guild in 2012 to create the SAG-AFTRA labor union. Together, the union represents over 150,000 actors, dancers, journalists, broadcasters, musicians and stunt performers who appear in television or radio broadcast media. The SAG-AFTRA union works to negotiate the best wages, working conditions and pension plans for their members.
Different roles for professional dancers
Professional dancers can perform in a variety of roles, including major Broadway shows, off-Broadway productions or on the road as part of traveling theater productions:
Broadway dancers are performers in shows taking place in New York City's theater district at one of the 41 theaters currently running Broadway performances. The theater must seat at least 500 spectators to be classified as a Broadway theater. Most Broadway productions are musicals and plays, but they can also include magic performances, comedy shows and other special events.
Roles in Broadway shows are competitive and require attending many auditions to build experience and relationships with the casting directors. When a dancer is cast in a show, they must commit to the time and effort required of rehearsals to learn the choreography and script, if required.
Rehearsals commonly last three to five weeks before the show opens for a dress rehearsal in front of a live audience. After the production opens, the cast may perform in multiple shows per day and up to seven days a week. Every performer is expected to execute each show with precision, following the choreography and script.
Professional dancers also work off-Broadway in productions both in New York City and around the world. Off-Broadway theaters seat between 100 and 500 spectators, and small theaters seating less than 100 people are considered "off-off-Broadway." The Rockettes are one of the most well known off-Broadway dance troupes. During their peak season, September through January, the Rockettes perform in up to four shows per day. While the dancers are paid per show, they are typically employed under a union contract, which includes a benefits package through the entire year.
Traveling theater productions
Traveling theater productions can be a touring version of a show originally produced in a Broadway theater, children's performances or any other performing arts show that travels around the country or world. These dancers are often employed under a longer contract than Broadway dancers, because they travel for extended periods of time to perform for many audiences. They are also compensated for travel, lodging and sometimes meals, which can reduce their expenses and increase their overall salary.
Other jobs on Broadway
In addition to dancers, there are many positions required for successful Broadway productions that you might consider, including:
National average salary: $10.72 per hour
Primary duties: Broadway actors perform in theatrical productions on Broadway, including plays and musicals. They attend auditions where they perform a short excerpt from the script for the casting directors. Once an actor is chosen for a part, they spend time studying the script, learning their character and rehearsing scenes with the rest of the cast. Like dancers, Broadway actors can perform in multiple shows per day, every day for weeks until the production closes. They are responsible for conveying their character to the audience in an authentic manner and adhering to the story's plot.
National average salary: $16.39 per hour
Primary duties: Stage managers are responsible for ensuring production runs smoothly. They provide organizational support on the set so the production follows the director's vision. A stage manager gives direction to the actors, stage crew, set designers and set technicians so the entire production is cohesive and well-designed. They work backstage, give the performers cues to enter the stage, communicate lighting changes to the technical team and direct the set team to change the sets when each scene ends.
National average salary: $44,359 per year
Primary duties: Musicians perform for audiences by either singing, playing an instrument or both. They can perform original compositions in a concert style, someone else's music as a tribute or in a musical production. Musicians use lyrics, instrumental compositions and acting to convey the story of the song to the audience. In a musical, they may be responsible for following choreography and dancing with other performers as well.
National average salary: $64,400 per year
Primary duties: Costume designers are responsible for designing and tailoring the clothing worn by the performers in theatrical productions. They follow the director's vision to choose outfits and create original costumes that follow the theme and setting of the production. After determining the overall costume aesthetic and choosing clothes for each actor, a costume designer fits each piece of clothing to the performer. They use sewing machines to alter existing garments or to develop new, custom-fitting clothes for the performers.
5. Set designer
National average salary: $64,400 per year
Primary duties: Set designers are responsible for creating the sets used throughout a theatrical production. They may design one set with prop adjustments for various scenes or multiple sets that are unique to each scene. They partner with the directors, producers and costume designers to create the overall set design. The set must adhere to the theme and setting of the play and create items that are functional and safe for the actors. A set designer oversees the set crew as they develop and choose props, backgrounds and special effects to authentically convey the production's story to the audience.
Explore more articles
- 35 Jobs You Can Pursue With a Career in Pharmaceuticals
- How To Ask for Time To Consider a Job Offer
- How To Find a Job You Will Love: 7 Proven Tips That Work
- How To Become a Pathologist in 8 Steps (With Salary)
- 15 Careers in Construction (With Salaries and Duties)
- What Is a Constitutional Lawyer? (Duties, Skills and Salary)
- 31 Words Describing Company Culture
- What Is a Doctor? Definition, Types and How To Become One
- Employability Skills: 10 Examples of Skills Companies Value
- How To Get a Private Jet License in 6 Steps (With Tips)
- How To Become a Private Investigator in Florida in 8 Steps
- 8 Careers in Digital Media (With Steps To Get Started)