Dancing for dollars, making a creative college major pay

Earning money for college by belly dancing
Earning money for college by belly dancing

Ask any dancer: Moving your feet is a tough way to make a living. Still, college dance departments are filled with students devoted to their art, and determined to make a go of it.

Performers in the dance industry rarely get paid for the hours of rehearsal put into their art form. Recent college graduate Linnea Schlegel considers herself lucky to receive $50 each month for the long rehearsal hours dedicated to dance, even though $50 doesn't even cover grocery money, let alone rent and student loans.

Schlegel's reimbursement for participating in the acrobatic and aerial dance company Ameba doesn't amount to much. "It can be frustrating," said Schlegel. "You see all your friends with real jobs and they make decent money, enough to say, 'I'm going to go buy a new couch today.' And I'm like, 'Well I'm going to go buy myself a cheeseburger today.'"

Although rare, private party performances, often sponsored by corporate businesses or for weddings, pay the most. According to Schlegel, an Ameba performer earns around $25 per performance, but reimbursements vary depending on the venue.

Laura Riebock, a 2010 Loyola University Chicago graduate with a degree in dance and Spanish, says hookah bars give her about $50 per night. She holds a regular, monthly gig in downtown Chicago, at Tizi Melloul, which provides her with $120 for two 15-minute sets of belly dancing. According to Riebock, in the world of dance her monthly income from the restaurant is higher than average (although Tizi Melloul is closing May 16),