Job insecurity is a consistent worry for freelance and commercial dancers (especially considering the current climate of the industry and those involved in the SAG-AFTRA strike), so much so that it’s often a necessity for dancers to turn to part-time jobs in hospitality, retail, fitness, and other industries to pay the bills between dance jobs or dance company contracts. The reality of the commercial dance industry is that it’s not uncommon to see dancers performing at a major music festival one weekend, then serving at a restaurant the next. While it’s common for dancers to consider side jobs in other industries, what about considering a side hustle within the entertainment industry?
At the end of the day, making money dancing is making money dancing
Event entertainment group agencies are production companies that provide entertainment acts for various events, for everything from weddings, to parties, to corporate events, brand activations and promotions. Ranging from small bar mitzvah’s or club events to major New Year’s Eve parties and television appearances, these companies can offer dancers an industry-adjacent way to make an income in between more major dance jobs or during slower times in the year, by employing them as dance acts, ambassadors, and more. Beyond the extra money, these ‘gigs’ can provide some unique benefits that make entertainment companies a perfect side hustle for dancers.
1. Develop performance skills
Unlike a shift at a coffee shop, spending your extra time rehearsing and performing in front of crowds - even simply onlookers at a wedding - can be extremely beneficial and complementary to your work as a dance artist, allowing you to practice your craft in more low stakes settings. Every dance gig can be seen as practice for some of the bigger dance jobs you want to do, so that you can be sure you’re comfortable and confident on stage and in front of crowds. Oftentimes, these gigs happen in spaces you don’t get to rehearse much in, if at all, so you also learn to develop skills like adaptability and thinking on your feet. Even rehearsals for these types of gigs offer you the chance to practice more skills you will need for other dance industry jobs, like picking up choreography quickly, navigating transitions with other dancers, and learning rehearsal etiquette.
2. Seasonal work when times are slow
There are naturally some down times in the commercial dance industry and within a dance company, so when it seems like a dry spell has hit in your work, entertainment groups can be the answer to keep you dancing. An especially busy time period for entertainment companies is the holiday season, starting around Halloween and continuing through the new year. Gigs at these times of the year can be a financial boon for dancers who can lend their skills to holiday parties and celebrations. Start checking in with entertainment companies around August and early September to be sure to get booked on these holiday gigs.
3. Utilize and hone skills beyond dance
Working with these companies also offers dancers the chance to utilize skills they may not normally get to on commercial jobs. Great with kids and love to sing? Donning a princess costume for a children’s party may be the perfect gig for you. Great at making friends and love the spotlight? A brand ambassador gig speaking to passersby would light you up. Even some of your specialist skills, like pointe, tap, or even rollerblading and acro skills could be called upon for entertainment gigs, and the more special skills you have, the more opportunities for work (and most likely, higher pay!). If you also have skills that lend themselves to behind the scenes work, you could also look into working for entertainment companies as an administrative assistant, corporate event manager, company manager, or even in costuming.
4. A plethora of networking opportunities
We all know how important our network is in the dance industry, and the great thing about getting involved in entertainment agencies is that the people you are around at dance gigs are most likely also all working in the commercial industry. Oftentimes, entertainment gigs are a great opportunity to meet both dance peers and choreographers that can build your network in the industry. Also, it always pays to be aware of the clients and other performers you may be working with on gigs, as these events are great places to meet people who work in the industry in other capacities, from musicians to event planners - you never know who you may meet on a gig that may refer you to an industry job!
You never know who you may meet on a gig that may refer you to an industry job!
5. Exciting and unique experiences
It may seem like commercial industry jobs are the only ticket to exciting experiences like traveling, performing on TV and film, or with major artists, but the reality is many entertainment agencies are often the ones tasked with casting jobs like these. From massive parties at Las Vegas casinos for New Year’s Eve, to luxury destination weddings on yachts and islands, to celebrity-led events and even major music festivals, dancers can find themselves a part of these unique and exciting experiences simply from working with an entertainment agency.
Beyond these benefits, at the end of the day, making money dancing is making money dancing, whether it be because you were behind a major artist at a live show or on the dance floor at a gorgeous luxury wedding. Dancing for entertainment companies offers dancers the chance to literally do what they love to do, oftentimes more frequently than industry jobs. So if you’re ever feeling like you lack consistent work in the commercial industry, consider submitting to an entertainment company to find more opportunities to dance professionally outside of the usual - and often sparse - industry jobs.