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Performing Arts


Performing arts are creative arts that are performed by individuals or groups in front of a live audience. Instrumental music, vocal music, dance, and theater are included in the performing arts industry and they are an intrinsic part of cultures around the world. The performing arts date back to ancient Greece, when plays, comedies, dances, religious rites, and other forms of entertainment and education were performed before live audiences in theaters and arenas.

Music may be classical or popular; it may stem from a particular culture’s history and rituals. It may be instrumental, with an orchestra performing classical pieces, or it may be a band with guitars, drums, and singers, or any combination of instruments and vocalists. Dance may also be classical, such as ballet, or modern. There are also religious dances, and dances that celebrate hunting, warfare, harvests, and other aspects of life in earlier times. Theater performances may feature acting, singing, dance, music, puppetry, or pantomime. Many artists contribute to the performing arts, including costume designers, prop designers, theater designers, choreographers, creative directors, and others. The focus of this article is on the performers in the performing arts: actors, dancers, musicians, singers, etc.

Musicians and singers perform before live audiences in theaters, concert halls, arenas, and clubs. They also record their performances in recording studios. The type of music they perform depends on their interest and specialty: It may be rock, hip-hop, jazz, classical, opera, or other. Musicians and singers perform solo or in orchestras, choruses, bands, or other types of music groups. They may provide background music for plays. Singers may provide background vocals for lead singers in bands. Musicians and singers perform music that has already been written and they may also write their own music. There were about 187,600 musicians and singers employed in the United States in May 2018, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).

There were 13,900 dancers working in the United States in May 2018. Dancers express stories and ideas through the movement of their bodies. There are a wide variety of types of dance, from ballet and tango to modern dance, tap, and jazz. Dancers usually perform as part of a performing arts group, such as a ballet troupe or the Rockettes. They perform in front of live audiences in theaters; some shows are performed in studios for TV broadcast. Casinos, theme parks, and cruise ships also employ dancers, musicians, singers, and other performing artists for shows.

Actors portray characters written by writers for theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They also act in roles for video, radio, and other settings for entertainment and information. Some roles involve dancing, singing, or playing a musical instrument. Actors use speech, gestures, and body movements to interpret serious or comic roles to entertain or educate audiences. They work independently and also as part of casts in shows, sometimes touring the country or traveling to other parts of the world to perform. They may work indoors in theaters or in outdoor venues also. The DOL reports that in May 2018, approximately 64,500 actors were employed in the United States. Most work in the motion picture and video industries and for performing arts companies.