Becoming a talented jazz dancer requires years of practice and performance to become a master at the craft. It can be even harder to make a full-time living as a professional dancer. Dancers who are accepted by dance companies may make $1,000 per month or more. Jazz dancers who cannot earn full-time dance employment often turn to teaching positions or audition for periodic gigs.
It's difficult to determine annual salary statistics for jazz dancers because of the intermittent nature of the work; professional dancers are rarely employed regularly throughout the year. The average hourly salary among all types of professional dancers in 2008 was $15.06, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among jazz dancers who make a full-time living off of dancing, the average salary level is around $30,000 per year.
Although dance companies exist in every major city in the United States, opportunity for work and the amount of money earned can vary greatly. For instance, New York City is home to a couple of hundred different dance companies, many of which employ jazz dancers, while entire states are only home to a few dozen dance companies, such as Texas or Pennsylvania. However, a much higher percentage of New York City companies do not pay their dancers; salaries for dance companies involved in producing jazz dance typically pay anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per month.
Professional jazz dancers must constantly audition in order to earn more work; most dancing gigs last a few months at most, so a dancer will need to earn multiple jobs throughout the year in order to support himself. Jazz dancers can find audition opportunities through newspapers, trade journals, union notices from the American Guild of Musical Artists and call boards at dancing schools. These audition notices are typically from dance companies seeking dancers to fill out a cast for an ensemble performance. In most cases, dance companies do not focus solely on jazz. Jazz dancers with a knowledge of contemporary, modern and ballet styles will likely earn more work than a less diversified performer.
In the world of dance performance, professional dancers usually earn a good deal less than others working in offstage capacities. Choreographers earned about $20 per hour in 2008, $5 per hour more than the dancers which they directed. Aside from working at dance studios or with dance companies, jazz dancers also earn professional work through universities, food service establishments and amusement parks.