As anyone pursuing a career in theater, drama, or dance can tell you, job opportunities are hard to come by. By its nature, it is an extraordinarily competitive field, so work opportunities on either side of the stage are becoming increasingly difficult to nab as the applicant pool continues to expand. That being said, if you open yourself up to theater job opportunities outside your home country, you will find an incredible array of positions that allow you to flex your creative muscles while continuing to work in the field you are passionate about. The theater, drama, and dance arena is an enormous and diverse one, and therefore, there are a plethora of jobs within it.
There are over forty hours of home videos of you holding a paper towel roll as a microphone belting Celine Dion. You’ve been bopping around the stage, dancing since you could walk. You went to an awesome college, got a fine arts degree, honed your skills, and learned from the best, but now what? You can now apply your passion and technical training by advancing your career on the international level and pursuing a theater or dance job abroad. Not only will working abroad expand your personal network and open you up to a larger audience and job pool, but it will also prove that you have the tools and talent to succeed on an international level.
As an expat, you will be expected to achieve a higher standard of excellence in regards to performance abilities in many places. This is because many countries have a stigma about foreigners taking over, especially when it comes to their art forms. Unfortunately for some places, that is just the nature of the beast. However, do not let this discourage you from your dreams; there are plenty of amazing locations with excellent theater job opportunities.
Italy, a country known for its constant role in the development of arts and culture, is an excellent place to find theater, drama, and dance jobs abroad. There are a slew of beautiful, historic theatres all across the country that attract both local and international theater enthusiasts and performers alike. These theatres can be hard to break into, but once you’re in, you will be set! Landmark locations such as the Teatro alla Scalla, Teatro Regio, and the Teatro Olimpico are just a few of the “giants” in Italy when it comes to culture and arts.
Greece. Home to a slew of beautiful islands, actors, and dancers, aspiring expats can find some very unique opportunities to work in Greece under the umbrella of the tourism and hospitality industry. Theater and dance jobs in Greece may entail working for a house ensemble at one of the many luxury resorts or performing six shows a week at a top hotel for guests from around the world. Similar to performing on a cruise liner (an international job that is very popular among actors and dancers), dance and theater jobs in Greece provide individuals with a distinctive opportunity to gain valuable performance experience abroad.
Spain. Another historic hub of culture, international job seekers can find many dance and theater job opportunities in this hot travel destination. There are plenty of lighting design, tech, and stage management jobs in Spain, which are aimed toward foreign workers, as well as those directly involved with performance. Foreign workers may even find themselves traveling across the country organizing and coaching events, providing family entertainment, and working with a team of other theater enthusiasts. Theater jobs abroad in Spain will be an experience like no other!
Applying, and sometimes auditioning, for dance and theater jobs abroad can be very competitive. Fortunately, lots of theaters, organizations, and companies look for foreign talent and seek external employees. This can play heavily in your favor as you compete with not only other international peers, but also local workers as well. A classical or formal training, in most cases, is preferred, and in some cases (especially performance), applicants won’t be considered without it. In regards to performance, since most companies will not expect you to travel for an audition, be prepared to record audition tapes.
Theater, drama, and dance jobs abroad will vary greatly, depending on the specialty within each field that interests you, but these are a few of the most popular overarching areas:
Education. Most education job opportunities will involve a combined performance and education environment. Many institutions use performance as a tool for group education, in subjects that range from what you’d expect, like theater and dance, or more abstract subjects, like philosophy and literature. You may also find yourself in a very traditional dance or theater education jobs, such as teaching ballet lessons to six to ten year olds at a dance studio or drama classes at a local high school.
Performance. This is the most straight forward area for both dance and theater jobs abroad. Typically, individuals will need to send in tapes and sometimes be asked for in-person callbacks, and if selected, will work for the duration of a performing contract, either as part of a touring company within the country or as part of a house repertory ensemble. Contracts typically last anywhere from three to twelve months.
Hospitality & Tourism. One of the more individualized types of theater and dance jobs abroad, individuals that work in the hospitality and tourism industry may work for a resort, hotel, or entertainment company, either running, coordinating, or performing sets and activities specifically designated for tourists and foreign travelers. Drastically different from a typical season of work at a theater, performers in this industry will perform the same show (or a rotation of shows) several nights a week. The advantage of this type of theater job abroad is that workers are often provided with accommodation and lodging within the resort’s complex or hotel’s properties.
Administration & Management. Those with a passion for the stage as well as a keen eye for business and marketing can find employment in many areas of the theater and dance industry abroad. From box office work to ticket sales to graphic design to advertising and promotion, job opportunities abound in this area of the field.
The average salary associated with working in theater, drama, and dance abroad greatly varies depending on each individual’s lifestyle choices, contract length, and destination, as well as if you are a performer or other type of theater worker. Typically, theater jobs abroad affiliated with house management, or the business aspect of “running the show,” will pay more. However, actors and dancers can expect similar contract amounts and weekly stipends for dance jobs abroad as they would at companies and ensembles in the U.S. in most western countries and top tourist destinations.
For performers, it is important to keep in mind that it is not uncommon for pay to be dependent on the type of production or show and its success and popularity. More importantly, theater and dance jobs abroad are not for the faint of heart. Many sacrifices will need to be made, both emotional and physical, in order to follow your dreams. At the end of the day, you will need to decide if living modestly (and sometimes penny pinching) is worth your passion.
Landing a theater or dance job abroad on any level is a huge accomplishment. Theater jobs abroad can be extremely rewarding on so many levels, and at the core, you will have the opportunity and privilege to professionally do what you love most in the world.
Some of the more obvious benefits of working abroad in theater, dance, and drama include travel and extraordinary performance opportunities, but the benefit of an improved network cannot be mentioned enough. In the theater and dance industries, the saying “it’s all about who you know” could not be more true, and if you prove your worth in the workforce and on the stage at an international level, you never know how it might come back to benefit you in the future.