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Performing Arts

Many people are attracted to the idea of working in the performing arts. For the successful few who make their living as actors, musicians, singers and dancers, it can seem a glamorous life. However, there are many more people working away from the spotlight, making sure performances run smoothly, and promoting artists and productions.

Opportunities are available in a number of areas, including:

  • acting and directing theatre performances, including plays and musicals
  • dance, involving choreographers and dancers creating everything from classical ballet to music video routines
  • music, from classical and popular musicians to promoters and managers
  • design, including costume, make-up, sets, props, lighting and sound
  • backstage jobs in stage management and organisation.

Late nights and long, irregular hours are common in this sector. While performances may be in comfortable venues such as theatres, cruise ships or concert halls, rehearsal spaces can be cold and draughty. Backstage areas can be dark and cramped.
Many people working in performing arts are employed on short-term contracts. Work may be available with theatre companies, TV and film production companies, cruise ship operators, holiday companies and dance companies.

Performing arts is a very competitive industry. Even the most successful and experienced people can find it hard to make a full-time living. Many people find they need to do some other part-time work to supplement their income. Despite the competition for roles, skills shortages have been predicted in some areas. In the future, more trained people will be needed for backstage work in theatres and at live events.
Most jobs are based in large cities - close to theatre, concert, studio and audition venues. However, there are opportunities to work throughout the UK and overseas.

It is rare to succeed in the performing arts with just creative talent alone.
Determination and the ability to cope with rejection are key to surviving in the industry. Experience, either paid or unpaid, and useful contacts are essential. Those with experience of helping in school or college productions, local workshops, events and festivals may be at an advantage.

Nearly all professional performers enter the industry after training at drama or dance school, or at university. Many colleges offer performing arts courses, while a range of routes is available to people wanting to work in technical or design jobs. Some start at the bottom and work their way up within the industry, learning on the job and building up experience, while many work towards relevant higher education qualifications, such as HNDs and degrees, or take vocational training in specialist areas. Creative Apprenticeships are also available.

Many people who work in the performing arts try to develop their skills by taking on different types of projects or by moving on to those of a larger scale. They may move into more senior positions in their specialist area or into related areas of the industry.