Things you should know about dance

Dance facts

NEW REPORT: How UK theatre talent nurtures the wider economy -

Dance is the art form that communicates through the body.

Dance is an integral part of the live and recorded performing arts and cultural industries. It is often collaborative and provides creative and work opportunities for artists working in a range of other art forms including music, design, film, sculpture, theatre. In addition, dancers and choreographers frequently contribute to other art forms.

Dance as an industry

It is estimated the dance economy employs around 30,000 people; dancers, teachers, choreographers, technicians and managers. In addition to this, people work in dance as community dance practitioners, promoters, producers, designers, publicists, technicians, physiotherapists, medical and alternative practitioners, therapists, writers and academics.

There are an estimated 200 dance companies in the UK. Dance also plays a central or supporting role in commercial and subsidised theatre such as West End musicals, and in opera, film, television, live music and video, corporate events, variety shows, clubs and many other industries.

In 1969/70 the Arts Council of England supported seven dance companies and organisations, in 1998/99 this number had grown to 74.

In 1999 there were an estimated 1,472 dance performances given in theatres around the UK, in addition to drama, opera, musical and other productions which incorporated dance. Estimated ticket sales for these dance performances reached £20,682,000, while the Arts Councils of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gave out a total of £54,900,000 in subsidy for dance.

The scope of the UK dance industry is vast. There are at least 450 dancers in West End musicals. Cruise ships (not a widely researched area) have more than 209 dancers from the UK performing onboard. Contemporary dancers in the UK are at least 539 strong (this figure was found through researching all UK dance companies known to Dance UK). Professional ballet dancers within England and Scotland total 262.

Equity is the UK Trade Union representing professional performers and other creative workers from across the spectrum of the entertainment, creative and cultural industries. Equity's dancers make up 3,000 of their membership (this figure could potentially be higher as some dancers are listed as 'performers')

NDTA (National Dance Teachers Association) the leading subject association for dance in schools. Their individual members total 477 and organisational members total 278. The NDTA themselves recognise that their individual membership total does not equate to the amount of dance teachers within the UK.

The diversity of dance

There are many types of dance practiced and performed in the UK including:
African, ballroom, bellydancing, Bharatha Natyam, bodypopping, breakdancing, classical ballet, contact improvisation, contemporary, Flamenco, historical / period, Irish, Kalari, Kathak, jazz, jive, Latin American, line dancing, national and folk, Raqs Sharqi, salsa, square dancing, street dance, tango and tap.

Beyond the traditional theatre context, dance artists create work for particular locations. Dance performances have been created for castles, disused factories, sports centres, shopping centres and other unusual locations across the country. Increasingly dance is being created for the screen and digital dissemination.

Dance organisations

The UK has a well-developed network of strategic support and development organisations for dance. They include: 

  • Dance UK
  • Foundation for Community Dance
  • Youth Dance England
  • Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD)
  • South Asian Dance Alliance
  • Council for Dance Education and Training
  • National Dance Teachers Association
  • Dancers' Career Development
  • Equity
  • Independent Theatre Council
  • Society of London Theatre
  • Theatrical Management Association
  • English Folk Dance and Song Society
  • The network of national dance agencies and smaller regional dance agencies in England, plus agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Together, these organisations and agencies provide an infrastructure of support for innovation and experimentation that is the envy of much of the world, and of other art forms in the UK. Further information on and links to many of these organisations can be found on the Links and Resources section of this website.

Dance and audiences

Audiences for dance are growing.

The Target Group Index (TGI) found that audiences for dance had grown by 13.7% over the last six years, and had increased by 18% between 1997/98 and 1998/99. Comparing TGI figures for contemporary dance for the five-year period of 1990/01 to 1994/95 with those for the period 1995/95 and 1999/2000 shows an increase of 28.8%.

In addition to this, when dance is broadcast on terrestrial television its audiences reach hundreds of thousands, often surpassing those for televised opera.  Dance is the fastest growing art form, with over 13% of the population now attending dance performances. (Arts Council England). Dance is also popular at home. The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing is regularly watched by 10.5 million viewers.

The ability for musicals to appeal to a wide audience was proved in 2008. Box office figures show the musical Mamma Mia became the highest grossing film ever released in the UK, surpassing Titanic's record. ( It is continuing to reach audiences in homes, 1,669,084 DVDs were sold on its release date, breaking the previous record held by Titanic.(

West End musicals are continuing to prove popular ticket sales are up despite a recession: Box office receipts for 2008 reached £480.6 million, up three per cent on 2007 - which was itself a record year - according to the Society of London Theatre.

Dirty Dancing the Musical was the fasted selling show ever in the West End, taking over £12 million advanced ticket sales.

Over 200 theatres are participating in ‘A Night Less Ordinary’ offering free theatre tickets for people aged under 26 introduced by the arts council in response to the McMaster’s Report.

The Arts Council England’s regularly funded organisations (RFOs) reach millions through touring. The English National Ballet is just one example of these. 9,588 people went to see their production of Swan Lake performed at the Grand Theatre Leeds. 88,900 people bought tickets for the Christmas at the Coliseum season which included The Snow Queen, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. (English National Ballet

Learning dance

Dance is part of the National Curriculum, and can be studied at further education and degree level, including MA and PhD levels.

The numbers of those taking GCSE Dance has increased from 2,752 in 1990 to 6,469 in 2000 (an increase of 235%). In June 2008, 17,855 candidates were entered into GCSE Performing Arts: Dance (source: AQA). On the other hand, those studying dance at AS and A level has increased from 352 in 1990 to 808 in 2000 (an increase of 229%).

There are around 22 dance colleges offering professional dance training courses accredited by the Council for Dance Education and Training and over 292 university courses with dance as a subject area.

An estimated 1,000 dancers graduate each year from the vocational training schools and university dance courses.

Research by the 'PE and School Sport Club links scheme' shows dance is second only to football as the most popular activity of school children (Source: PE and School Sport Club Links Scheme (PESSCL)

According to the 2007/08 HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) Student Returns, 1220 pupils graduated with a degree in dance. (

The number of students taking GCSE dance has increased from 7,003 in 2001, 15,730 in 2005 to 18,866 in 2007.
(source: The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance

Six new Centres of Advanced Training (CATS) are to be opened between 2008 and 2011. They provide children with local access to the best available teaching and facilities alongside strong links with dance profession. Enabling the support of 1,500 talented young people: The current CATS are based in Newcastle (Dance City Academy), Leeds (Yorkshire Young Dancers), Ipswich (DanceEast Academy), London (Laban & The Place), Swindon (Youth Dance Academy), Birmingham (Momentum) and Nottingham (CAT East Midland).

The number of pupils choosing dance has risen 83% in four years, according to research by the Arts Council. A third of those are boys ( 14th March 2009)

Contemporary dance reaches millions of pupils through education programmes and visits. An example of this is Welsh contemporary dance company Earthfall who last year delivered 168 workshops in education to almost 4000 participants. (


Dance is important in education, health, social cohesion and regeneration. People dance for fun, recreation, social reasons and for health. Research undertaken by People Dancing identified over 73,000 participatory projects, engaging over 4.78 million people in 2002.

According to the Central Council for Physical Recreation, dance is a popular activity for 5 million participants, or 10 percent of the UK population. • Over 4.8 million people participate in community dance each year (Foundation for Community Dance).

ACW (Arts Council Wales) show that dance is the most popular participatory art form in Wales with around 200,00 people getting involved with ACW funded activity each year (Arts Council Wales

Over 2005-2008 234,817 young people aged between 5 and 14 participated in Scottish Youth Dances’ Dance in Schools Initiative Program (

Youth Dance England’s new initiative U.Dance: the national dance performance scheme that gives every child and young person the chance to take part in a dance performance each year, was launched on April 2 as part of Youth Dance England’s Conference. U.Dance currently has approximately 27,257 children and young people from over 1,170 schools, taking part in over 140 dance performances across the country. (Youth Dance England

19,000 over 3 days (up from 12,000 in 2006) travelled to Move it! Dance London 2009 Britain’s only dedicated dance exhibition. (

Research commissioned by Barclays shows that 76% of men now think dancing is a great way to keep fit and one in ten have actually taken up dance as a direct result of the 'Darren Gough effect'.

The number of participants taking part in an English National Ballet Learning activity during 2007/2008 totalled 12,700. (English National Ballet

Dance 4s (Nottingham) platform ‘Episodes’ is an opportunity for educational and community groups between the ages of 11-19 years to present their dance work to the public. Staged over two nights: it involved 298 performers and 1021 audience members. (

Dance events and festivals

• Hip-Hop goes from strength to strength: Breakin' Convention is an International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre. Originating in 2004 held at Sadlers Wells for two days, 3,600 tickets sold, 250 dancers performed. 2008 saw 300 dancers performing to 4,800 people over three days at Sadlers Wells, as well as a National Tour. ( ) 

• Dance Umbrella: dedicated to young British dancers and informing potential audiences about contemporary dance. 5,000 people attended the first Dance Umbrella festival in 1978. 33,000 people attended the 30th festival in 2008. With 13,000 tuning in on

• English Folk Dance and Song Society had around 120 festivals scheduled for  2009. 
• Although it may appear as a tenuous link people are dancing every Saturday night in clubs across the UK. Luminar Group Holdings Plc: owners of 90 venues in the UK. Showed an increase in dancing revenue to £91.0m (2007: £90.7m). 
• Chaz Royal’s 3rd Annual International London Burlesque Festival 2009 was an sold out event, drawing an estimated 3000 patrons for 8 showcases over the course of 5 days (

Facts about Dance UK

• Dance UK was founded in 1982 and was originally called the National Organisation for Dance and Mime (NODM).
It changed its name to Dance UK in 1991.
• Dance UK's Founder Chair Bob Lockyer was succeeded by Christopher Bannerman in 1993, Jane Mooney in 1999, Alistair Spalding in 2003 and Farooq Chaudry in 2010.
• Dance UK currently has approximately 1,000 individual members and  240 corporate members including dance companies and training institutions, and others who are reciprocal members such as national dance agencies, regional arts boards and VIPs. 

For information on membership see the  Members and Joining Information page. For a list of Dance UK's staff and their contact details see the  Contact Us page.
Sources of information:
• Cultural Industries Mapping Document 2001, published by The Department of Culture Media and Sport.
• Siddall, J, 21st Century Dance, published by the Arts Council of England, 2001.
• Inquiry into dance published by the Culture Media and Sport Committee (2004).

We welcome your input into these pages. If you know of any interesting facts or figures about dance, please email them to