💫 Nurturing Aspirations: A Guide for Dance Educators in Supporting Students with Professional Goals

Jan 26 / Caitlin Sloan
Dance can be so many different things for our students. For some, it’s a recreational hobby that they enjoy doing a few times a week for fun. For others, it’s a safe place they can escape to outside of their everyday life. There’s a good chance that many of our students won’t continue dancing after they graduate high school.

But for some of our students, dance is not only a lifelong passion but a potential career path. As dance educators, it is our responsibility to not only impart technical skills but also to nurture the aspirations of our students who dream of a professional career in dance.
Whether you are teaching in a pre-professional setting or in a recreational studio, you are bound to work with students who dream of turning their love of dance into a career. In this blog post, we will explore ways in which dance educators can provide support and guidance to students with professional aspirations.

Open Communication Channels
Creating an open and trusting environment is essential for students to feel comfortable sharing their aspirations. Encourage them to express their goals, fears, and doubts. Create a safe space for them to work toward their big dreams. Show them what is possible if they are willing to continue showing up and putting in the effort. By understanding the specific aspirations of our students, we can tailor our guidance to their individual needs.

Setting Realistic Goals
Dance careers are not born overnight. The path to a professional contract is all about consistent growth, not instant success. It's crucial to help students not only dream big, but also set realistic and achievable short-term goals to keep them motivated on tough days. Breaking down the journey into smaller milestones makes the path more manageable and allows for a sense of accomplishment along the way. 

Expose Them to Industry Professionals
Arrange for workshops, masterclasses, or guest lectures by professionals in the dance industry. As a student, I was so fortunate that my teacher consistently brought in professional guest instructors to not only challenge us but also to pull back the curtain on the dance industry. Exposure to experienced dancers, choreographers, and directors can provide valuable insights and inspire students to pursue their goals with renewed vigor.

Provide Career Guidance
Many students may be uncertain about the various career paths within the dance industry. As a young student, I was fixated solely on a career in classical ballet - completely blind to all of the other amazing opportunities available to me. Educators can offer information on different dance genres, performance opportunities, choreography, teaching, and even dance-related fields such as dance therapy or arts administration. Even better, take it a step further and offer opportunities for students to choreograph in a production or assist in a dance class, giving them valuable real world experience.

Support in Audition Preparation
For students considering auditions for professional dance companies or dance programs, provide guidance on audition preparation. This may include tips on resume building, choosing appropriate audition attire, and honing audition skills. Most important of all, encourage them to get in the room! More than anything our students fear the unknown - the more auditions they go to, the more comfortable they will get with putting themselves in uncomfortable situations.

Encourage Versatility
While specialization is crucial, encourage students to explore different dance styles. Versatility not only enhances their skill set but also increases their chances of finding diverse opportunities within the dance industry. There’s no such thing as a strictly classical ballet company anymore. Dancers are out on stage performing Sleeping Beauty one night and an Jiří Kylián work the next. Simply put, the more versatile your dancers are, the more employable they are!

Provide Emotional Support
The journey toward a professional dance career can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Be a source of emotional support, offering encouragement during setbacks and celebrating successes. As dance educators, it’s never our job to tell a dancer whether or not they are cut out for a career in this industry. Our job is to give them all the tools and support they need to reach their goals. A nurturing and understanding environment is essential for students to thrive.

Facilitate Networking Opportunities
Help students build connections within the dance community. This can be through participation in dance events, networking sessions, or even introducing them to alumni who have successfully pursued dance as a profession. The dance world is small and it really is all about who you know!

Know When It’s Time to Let Go
For any student serious about pursuing a professional career in dance, there will come a time where they need to spread their wings and fly. This may mean attending a summer intensive, going to a full-time training program or even attending another local studio that specializes in the genre of dance they are hoping to pursue a career in. Although it can be difficult to say goodbye to our students, we have to admit when our student’s goals have surpassed our abilities and encourage them to take the next step.

As dance educators, our role extends beyond the studio walls. By actively supporting students with professional aspirations, we contribute to the growth and success of the next generation of dancers. Through open communication, realistic goal-setting, exposure to industry professionals, and a commitment to their holistic development, we empower our students to chase their dreams with passion and dedication. Together, we can shape a future where dance becomes not just a passion, but a fulfilling and sustainable profession.


At The Brainy Ballerina, I’m on a mission to empower dancers with the tools to build smart + sustainable careers in the dance industry. As a former School Director, I know how much you have on your plate and how difficult it is to fit career development into your already bursting schedule. I’m here to work with you to offer professional dance career support and guidance to your students so you can give them a bright future without feeling overwhelmed and overworked

Here are some of my favorite resources to get you started:
💫  The Intentional Career Handbook
💫 The Ultimate Audition Guide
💫 Studio Workshops
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Learn More about These Topics:
  • Learn More about Motivating dancers
  • Learn More about Studio Workshops
  • Learn More about Audition Preparation 
  • Learn More about Standing Out & Being Versatile
  • Visit Her Website!

Meet Caitlin Sloan

Caitlin Sloan is a Dance Educator and Career Mentor based in Madison, WI. Caitlin received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Grand Valley State University and Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Missouri.  She danced professionally for nine years with companies including Ballet Tucson and Missouri Contemporary Ballet (now Mareck Dance). Caitlin has taught at schools all over the Midwest, most notably serving as Director of The School of Missouri Contemporary Ballet and Youth Company Director for Central Indiana Dance Ensemble. She is currently on faculty at the School of Madison Ballet. Caitlin founded The Brainy Ballerina® in 2019, a virtual resource providing support and guidance for aspiring ballet dancers. Follow @thebrainyballerina on Instagram for your daily dose of dance career guidance and inspiration.
Guest Blog Writer
— Caitlin Sloan 💫
I’m a former professional ballerina turned Dance Educator and Career Mentor. I’m on a mission to empower dancers with the tools to build a smart + sustainable career in the dance industry.
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