A Ballet Legend’s Career Advice For Young Dancers

Damian Smith, Artistic Director at the National Ballet School in Melbourne, began dancing as a young boy growing up in Newcastle.

Damian Smith, Artistic Director of the National Ballet School

He enjoyed a remarkable 25-year career dancing in Europe and the United States before returning to Australia in 2016.

We asked Damian Smith what career advice he has for young dancers.

Ausdance VIC: What’s the mantra for success that you try to impart to students?

Damian: Oh dear I could write a book of mantras, here’s some of my favourites:

  1. Avoid saying “I can’t,” as much as you can!
  2. Remain a student of the artform forever.
  3. Never stop exploring new ways to do things either differently, better, for your craft, your dance partner, your body, your sanity and your audience.
  4. Remain curious.
  5. It’s not about dancing better than those around you. Dance better than yourself.
  6. Listen to your body, it never lies.
  7. Remember it’s a privilege to be a dancer so be grateful, respectful and be ready for anything.
  8. Do each step like it’s your last.

Ausdance VIC: Can graduates find a good career path in dance today?

Damian: Absolutely! Graduate students of pre-professional dance training can find excellent career paths in the field of dance today. While the journey may vary for each individual, there are numerous opportunities available for those who are dedicated and passionate about pursuing a career in dance. For example,

Professional Performer

Many dancers aspire to become professional performers and join reputable ballet companies, contemporary dance troupes, or even commercial dance companies. With the right training and dedication, graduates can audition for these companies and secure positions as professional dancers.


Graduates who have a strong interest in creating and choreographing their own works can pursue a career as a choreographer. They can develop their unique artistic vision and collaborate with dance companies, theatres, or even freelance projects to showcase their creations.

Dance Educator

Teaching is a fulfilling career path for those passionate about sharing their knowledge and love for dance. Graduate students can explore opportunities as dance educators in schools, universities, dance studios, or community centres. They can teach various genres of dance, technique classes, or specialise in coaching aspiring dancers.

Dance Company Director or Administrator

Some graduates may choose to take on leadership roles within dance organisations. They can aspire to become directors or administrators of dance companies, managing the logistics, artistic direction, and overall operations of the organisation.

Dance/Movement Therapist

For those interested in exploring the therapeutic aspects of dance, pursuing a career as a dance/movement therapist is an option. These professionals work in clinical settings, using movement and dance to help individuals with physical, emotional, or cognitive challenges.

Arts Management

Graduates with a passion for dance but not necessarily performing may choose to pursue careers in arts management, working behind the scenes to support the production, marketing, and administration of dance organisations or events.

Additionally, there are opportunities for dancers in fields such as dance research, dance journalism, dance photography/videography, dance medicine, and more.

Ausdance VIC: That’s quite a broad spectrum of meaningful career options available to graduates today.

Damian: The versatility of a dance education provides a foundation for students to explore various paths according to their interests and talents. While the field of dance can be competitive, with determination, perseverance, and continued learning, graduate students of pre-professional dance training can forge rewarding and successful careers in the dance industry. It’s crucial to remain open-minded, seize opportunities, network, and continue honing one’s craft to thrive in this dynamic field.

Ausdance VIC: It certainly is a dynamic field. Thank you for sharing those mantras for success. It’s great advice for young dancers.