Backup Dancers: The Forgotten Entertainers


Ty’Shae Cousar
Staff Writer

Though many may not believe it, backup dancers are crucial to the entertainment industry. You see them in music videos, commercials, award shows, huge events such as the Super Bowl and just about anywhere else for entertainment. These dancers support music artists to the likes of  Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Lady GaGa, Usher and Chris Brown by livening up a performance or making a music video more interesting. Today, commercial dancing has become bigger than ever, with audiences expecting to see more than the main performer on a large venue’s stage.

Even though these dancers appear in the background, there are dancers who are known and have unintentionally claimed a household name such as the “Beyonce Dancers.” These backup dancers are known for dancing alongside Beyonce, specifically during her 2016 Formation Tour. They have become so famous by their iconic performances with Beyonce – from their afros to their costuming to their complete sassiness. They have also appeared at the SuperBowl and other award shows, driving fans off their rockers.

Being a backup dancer or a dance performer in general does seem like an easy task, but there is so much that goes into it. A typical day in the life of a professional dancer can be exhausting.  Professional dancers look for constant work. There seems to not be enough hours in a day with the callbacks, dance classes, exercises, training, rehearsals and performances. Some dancers even go through 12 hours of nonstop physical dancing during rehearsals.

However, the professional dance life is not always extravagant. There is a lot of rejection and disappointment in the industry. Some dancers deal with cuts from auditions and have to look for work elsewhere. Professional dancers also do not get paid as much in the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that backup dancers are paid an average of $13 an hour; however, it also depends on the gig.

In order to stay versatile and in the scene, these dancers take a multitude of dance classes such as in the genres of  jazz, hip hop, ballet and contemporary. Backup dancers not only perform on television award shows and music videos, but they can also perform in operas, concerts or musicals.

Many think that even though we see these dancers in the background, we will never know who they are. Before they started selling out shows, there are some celebrities who used to be backup dancers, such as Jennifer Lopez. In 1991, she used to be a “Fly Girl” in “In Living Color.” She has also performed for Janet Jackson. From that point on, she toured around in her dance career being a backup dancer, and then eventually made it big in the entertainment industry as the star we know today.

Madonna also started her career as a backup dancer. At age 21, she was casted as a background dancer for Patrick Hernandez in 1979. Glee star, Heather Morris originally from “Dancing With The Stars” was chosen to dance for Beyonce back in 2007. Later on, she was scouted and casted for Glee.

Ashley Everett, Beyonce’s Dance Captain has been around for awhile. She has danced with Beyonce since 2007. She was 17 years old when she started dancing with Beyonce. Even though she stays in the background, true Beyonce fans know where to spot her with her bright red curly hair.

Backup dancers play a vital role in the entertainment industry and lead performers would not have as much of a thrilling production without them. These are not just backups, they are entertainers and artists themselves. In other words: they make the show.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Visual & Performance


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