Choreographers and dancers interpret music and other art forms through the use of the human body. It requires formal training beginning from childhood, and constant practice and rehearsal. Competition is very strong, and only the most talented and persistent find steady work. Their salaries depend largely on who hires them.
Dancers use the movement of their own bodies as a means of creative expression, usually to musical forms. They can perform by themselves or in groups, in musicals, ballet stages, opera, TV shows, movies or live entertainments. The work is strenuous, and the profession has one of the highest rates of non-fatal on-the-job injuries. Most dancers stop performing by their late 30s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2010, dancers earned a mean hourly wage of $16.55, with a low of $7.79 per hour and a high of $30.43 per hour. Because work is sporadic, average annual wages could not be totaled.
Almost half of all dancers work for performing arts companies, which have the third-highest wages for dancers of $19.89 per hour. The next biggest employers were the amusement and recreation industries, with mean wages of $10.93 per hour, and drinking establishments, with pay at $10.56 per hour. The highest salaries for dancers are in colleges, universities and professional schools, with hourly pay of $23.36 per hour. Ranking second for wages is travel arrangement and reservation services, with average pay of $21.79 per hour.
Many dancers who quit their profession often become choreographers who create original dances and interpret existing ones. Because dance routines are rarely written down, choreographers also instruct dancers on how to perform, through demonstration and constant rehearsal. They may work with other types of performers, such as with actors, by arranging complex martial arts moves for movies. Choreographers earn an average of $20.25 per hour, or $42,110 per year. Salaries can range from $8.93 per hour, or $18,570 per year, to $34.22 per hour, or $71,180 per year.
More than 80 percent of all choreographers work for dance schools and other alternative educational institutions, according to the BLS, where they earned $20 per hour, or $41,590 per year, as of May 2010. Other large employers are performing arts companies, with wages at $22.51 per hour, or $46,820 per year, and other amusement and recreation industries at $22.51 per hour, or $46,820 per year. Their highest wages, however, are with junior colleges, which pay $36.20 per hour, or $75,300 per year, on average, and elementary and secondary schools at $26.61 per hour, or $55,350 per year. Independent choreographers make the third-highest average salaries of $24.28 per hour, or $50,500 per year.