How to Become a Backup Dancer: Steps and Tips

How to Become a Backup Dancer: Steps and Tips

If you have always been passionate about dancing and dream of being on stage, a career as a backup dancer might be just what you are looking for. Backup dancers are an essential part of music videos, concerts, and live performances, providing the energy and movement that make the main artist shine. In this article, we will discuss the steps and tips to become a backup dancer, including training, networking, auditions, and how to prepare for a successful career in this exciting field.

The first step to becoming a backup dancer is to receive proper training. Taking dance lessons is crucial for developing your skills and improving your technique. Look for dance courses or classes in your area that focus on different dance styles, such as hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, or ballet. By expanding your dance repertoire, you will become more adaptable and able to perform in different styles of music, giving you a better chance of getting hired.

While taking dance lessons, it is also important to network and make connections in the dancing world. Joining a dance studio or theater group can provide opportunities to meet other dancers, choreographers, and agents who can help you find auditions and gigs. Attend workshops, seminars, and industry events to meet and learn from experts in the field. Building a strong network of connections will increase your chances of getting hired as a backup dancer.

When it comes to auditions, preparation is key. Keep in mind that backup dancers need to be versatile and able to adapt to different styles and choreographies. Instead of focusing on just one dance routine, practice a variety of movements and styles. Be ready to perform in front of judges and showcase your flexibility, technique, and stage presence. It is also important to keep an active and healthy lifestyle to maintain the stamina and energy required for a backup dancer.

Although backup dancers are not always in the spotlight, they play a crucial role in making the main artist look good. Therefore, it is essential to have a positive attitude and be a team player. Backup dancers need to be able to follow directions and work well with others. Show that you can take direction and adjust your movements accordingly. Being reliable and professional will make you stand out and increase your chances of getting hired for future gigs.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that a career as a backup dancer might not always provide a stable salary. Some dancers work on a freelance basis and are paid per gig, while others might be on a salary, especially if they work with a specific artist or band. It is important to have multiple revenue streams, such as teaching dance lessons or doing dance-related jobs, to ensure a steady income. Consider taking courses or workshops to expand your skill set and make yourself more marketable in the industry.

Steps to Becoming a Backup Dancer

If you’ve always been passionate about dance and dream of becoming a backup dancer, there are several steps you can take to make that dream a reality. Here are the key steps to becoming a backup dancer:

Step 1: Build your dance skills

The first thing you need to do is develop your dance skills. Take classes at a dance studio or online courses to learn different styles like ballet, jazz, and hip-hop. It’s important to be versatile as a backup dancer, so try to expand your repertoire as much as possible.

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Step 2: Network and make connections

In the dance industry, connections are everything. Attend dance workshops, seminars, and performances to meet people in the industry. Build a network of friends, dancers, choreographers, and dance managers who can help you find opportunities and gigs.

Step 3: Join a dance agency

Working with a dance agency can greatly increase your chances of finding backup dancer jobs. These agencies have connections and can help you find gigs and auditions in your city or even internationally. They also provide valuable advice and support throughout your dance career.

Step 4: Gain performance experience

Every opportunity to perform is a chance to showcase your talent and gain experience. Take every opportunity to perform, whether it’s at small local events or larger productions. This will help you build a strong performance resume and demonstrate your skills as a backup dancer.

Step 5: Take professional development courses

To stay relevant and competitive as a backup dancer, it’s important to continuously improve your skills. Take professional development courses, workshops, or masterclasses to learn new techniques and stay up to date with the latest dance styles and trends.

Step 6: Create a professional-looking portfolio

As a backup dancer, having a professional portfolio is crucial. Include high-quality photos and videos of your performances, as well as your dance credits and any relevant training or certifications. This portfolio will help you showcase your talent to potential employers.

Step 7: Find an online platform to showcase your talent

In addition to a physical portfolio, it’s important to have an online presence. Create profiles on dance-related websites or social media platforms where you can showcase your talent and connect with potential employers.

Step 8: Keep learning and improving

Becoming a backup dancer can be a challenging journey, but with dedication and perseverance, you can achieve your goals. Take every opportunity to learn and improve, and don’t be afraid to seek advice from experts in the industry.

Qualifications and Skills Required for Backup Dancers

Being a backup dancer requires a unique set of qualifications and skills. Here are some key elements to consider if you wish to pursue a career as a backup dancer:

1. Dancing Technique

One of the most important qualifications for backup dancers is a strong foundation in dance technique. Having a solid understanding of various dance styles such as ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary will make you a versatile dancer. Take dance lessons and master your technique to stand out in auditions.

2. Flexibility and Physical Fitness

Backup dancers need to be agile, flexible, and physically fit. This allows them to perform demanding choreography and endure the physical demands of touring or performing on stage. Regular exercise, stretching, and conditioning can help you maintain your flexibility and stay in great shape.

3. Professional-Looking Image

Backup dancers are often seen on stage with popular artists, in music videos, or in the media. It is important to project a professional-looking image that aligns with the artist’s brand. Take care of your appearance, dress appropriately, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to look your best.

4. Strong Work Ethic

Working as a backup dancer requires discipline, dedication, and a strong work ethic. You may have long rehearsal days, late nights, or tight tour schedules. Being reliable, punctual, and committed to your craft will help you excel in this competitive industry.

5. Ability to Adapt and Learn Quickly

Backup dancers often have to learn new choreography quickly and adapt to different dance styles and routines. Being able to pick up choreography fast and execute it accurately is crucial. Continuous learning and staying up to date with the latest dance trends will enhance your versatility as a backup dancer.

6. Teamwork and Collaboration

Backup dancers often work in groups and need to be able to collaborate effectively with other dancers and choreographers. Developing good teamwork and communication skills will help you work well within a team and contribute to the overall success of a performance.

Training and Education for Backup Dancers

When it comes to training and education for backup dancers, there are several options available. Most backup dancers have been dancing for many years and have had extensive training in various dance styles such as ballet, jazz, and hip-hop. This cross-training is important to make them adaptable to different choreographies and styles they might be doing.

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Courses and Classes

One of the most common ways to prepare for a career as a backup dancer is to attend dance classes and courses. Many studios and dance schools offer classes specifically designed for aspiring backup dancers. These classes typically focus on technique, choreography, and performance skills.

In addition to physical classes, there are also online courses and tutorials available for those who wish to learn at their own pace or cannot attend in-person classes. These online resources can provide valuable information and teach transferable skills that can be applied to a backup dance career.

Assist Industry Experts

Another way to gain experience and improve skills is by assisting industry experts. This could involve working as a dance assistant or attending workshops and intensives taught by renowned choreographers and dancers. By working closely with professionals, backup dancers can learn from their experience and receive personalized feedback and guidance.

Build Experience

Building experience is crucial for backup dancers. This can be done by performing in small local shows, community theater productions, or even as part of a dance company. By gaining practical experience, dancers can refine their skills and become familiar with the demands of performing in front of an audience.

In addition to performing, it is also important to network and make connections within the industry. Attending auditions and reaching out to agents can provide opportunities for backup dancer jobs and open doors to bigger and more high-profile gigs.

Stay Fit and Take Care of Your Body

Physical fitness is crucial for backup dancers, as they need to maintain the stamina and strength required for long rehearsals and energetic performances. Taking care of their body through proper nutrition, rest, and injury prevention is essential to ensure a successful career as a backup dancer.

Networking and Auditions for Backup Dancers

When it comes to pursuing a career as a backup dancer, networking and auditioning are key components to securing opportunities. Here are some steps and tips to help you navigate this aspect of the industry:

1. Prepare Yourself: Before diving into the world of auditions and networking, it’s important to have proper training. Take several dance classes in different styles, such as ballet, jazz, hip hop, or contemporary, to make yourself versatile and ready for any dance-related gig. The more skills you have, the higher your chances of getting hired.

2. Keep Up with the Music: Stay updated on the latest music and artists in the industry. Being familiar with popular songs will help you better prepare for auditions and performances. Take the time to master different dance routines to these songs.

3. Network through Social Media: Social media is a powerful tool for networking in today’s digital age. Create a strong online presence by posting dance videos, sharing articles or discussions related to the dance world, and connecting with other dancers, choreographers, and industry professionals. You never know who might be able to help you land your next gig.

4. Attend Dance Conventions and Workshops: Dance conventions and workshops provide a great opportunity to meet and learn from experienced dancers, teachers, and choreographers. They often include dance classes, performances, and discussions that can further expand your knowledge and network.

5. Hire an Agent or Manager: Although not always necessary, having an agent or manager can greatly assist in finding auditions and securing opportunities. They can also help with contract negotiations and provide valuable advice on advancing your career. Do thorough research before choosing one, as there are costs involved and not all agents/managers are reputable.

6. Find Dance Companies and Performance Groups: Joining dance companies or performance groups is a great way to gain more experience and exposure. Look for local companies that specialize in your preferred dance style and inquire about auditions or opportunities to perform with them.

7. Attend Open Auditions and Casting Calls: Keep an eye out for open auditions and casting calls for backup dancers. These opportunities are often advertised on websites, social media, or through professional dance organizations. Be prepared with your dance resume, headshot, and demo reel if required.

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8. Be Professional and Responsible: When attending auditions or working on a gig, always present yourself in a professional manner. Arrive on time, be respectful to everyone present, and follow the instructions given. Remember that your actions and attitude can leave a lasting impression on casting directors and choreographers.

9. Always Keep Learning: Never stop learning and growing as a dancer. Take additional classes, attend workshops, and seek feedback from professionals to improve your skills. The dance industry is continuously evolving, so staying versatile will help you adapt to different dance styles and trends.

10. Be Persistent: Rejection is a common part of this industry, but don’t let it discourage you. Keep attending auditions, networking, and improving your skills. With time and effort, you can increase your chances of landing a backup dancing opportunity that can lead to more fulfilling experiences in the world of dance.

Tips for a Successful Career as a Backup Dancer

Working as a backup dancer can be a thrilling and fulfilling career path for those who have a passion for dance. Here are some tips to help you navigate your way to success:

1. Take dance classes and complete coursework

If you wish to become a backup dancer, it is important to have a solid foundation in dance. Taking dance courses will not only teach you different dance styles but also help you expand your skills and experience. Courses in ballet, jazz, contemporary, and other dance-related styles can be a great starting point.

2. Build a strong résumé

Your résumé should include your dance education, any professional dance experiences, and details about performances or shows you have been a part of. It is also important to list any additional skills, such as acting or singing, that may make you more versatile as a backup dancer.

3. Get professional headshots and update them regularly

Having professional headshots is essential for auditions and casting calls. These photos should showcase your dance skills and personality. Keep them updated, ensuring that they accurately represent your current look and style.

4. Attend auditions and casting calls

Auditions are a crucial component of becoming a backup dancer. Stay informed about audition opportunities through social media, online dance forums, and industry websites. Be prepared to attend multiple auditions, as securing a position may take time and persistence.

5. Network and make connections in the industry

Building a network of contacts and connections can greatly enhance your chances of finding dance opportunities. Attend dance-related events, workshops, and classes to meet other dancers, choreographers, and industry professionals. Engage in discussions, seek advice, and stay connected with others in the field.

6. Consider having a dual career

While pursuing a career as a backup dancer, it is wise to have a backup plan. Many dancers find it helpful to also develop skills in teaching dance, choreography, or other dance-related roles. This can provide stability and additional income when dance opportunities are limited.

7. Stay in shape and take care of your body

Physical fitness is crucial as a dancer, so it is important to stay in shape. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate rest and recovery are essential for your overall health and performance. Taking care of your body also includes addressing any dance-related injuries promptly and seeking the necessary medical or dental assistance when needed.

8. Stay up to date with the industry

Keep yourself informed about the latest dance trends, styles, and opportunities. Follow influential dancers and companies on social media, attend workshops and performances, and stay connected with online dance communities. Being knowledgeable about the industry can help you stay competitive and adaptable.

By following these tips and striving for excellence in your dancing, you can greatly increase your chances of success as a backup dancer. Remember that building a career takes time, patience, and dedication, but with passion and hard work, you can achieve your dance goals.


What are the steps to become a backup dancer?

To become a backup dancer, you need to first develop your dance skills by taking classes and workshops. Then, you should gain experience by performing in local shows and events. Networking with industry professionals and joining dance agencies can also help you find opportunities as a backup dancer.

Do I need formal dance training to become a backup dancer?

While formal dance training can be beneficial, it is not always necessary to become a backup dancer. Many backup dancers gain experience through self-training, workshops, and local performances. However, having a strong foundation in dance techniques can increase your chances of success in the industry.

Is it important to have a specific dance style to become a backup dancer?

Having a specific dance style can be an advantage when pursuing a career as a backup dancer. Many artists and choreographers look for dancers with expertise in certain styles, such as hip-hop, jazz, or contemporary. However, being versatile and able to adapt to different styles can also be highly valuable in this profession.

What are some tips for finding opportunities as a backup dancer?

One tip for finding opportunities as a backup dancer is to network with industry professionals, such as choreographers, agents, and other dancers. Attending auditions, workshops, and dance conventions can also help you meet people in the industry and showcase your talent. It’s also important to create a strong resume and demo reel to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.