20 Dancers Who Made The Switch To Acting And Hit Their Big Time

Many actors do not start out as actors. In other words, they do not pursue professional acting at the beginning of their careers. They got their start as models, musicians, or dancers. Opportunities came, and they decided to make a leap into acting to see how far they could go. Surprisingly, some hit their big time, becoming well-regarded actors. Their beginning is different from professional actors but this doesn't stop them from making it big in their careers.
This list is of 20 dancers who made the switch to acting and became successful actors. Take Oscar-winning actress Penelope Cruz, for example. She was trained to become a ballerina at Spain’s National Conservatory. She started her acting career at 15 while signing with a talent agency. The Spanish actress has since starred in numerous movies and earned three Oscar nominations and one win.
Scroll down to see how 20 these dancer turned actors have achieved success in the acting field!

#1 Jennifer Garner

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Jennifer Garner studied ballet as a child. Though the actress never quite had the skill for it, her passion for dance continues today. The proof is that she often re-posts New York City Ballet videos on her Instagram.

#2 Christopher Walken

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Did you remember Christopher Walken in Fatboy Slim’s music video “Weapon of Choice”? The well-regarded actor is a trained tap dancer who can also sing.

#3 Audrey Hepburn

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Audrey Hepburn started taking classical ballet classes at 5 and kept up her dancing even during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Holland. However, she later decided to pursue the stage and acting. The actress got her breakthrough for her role in the 1953 romantic comedy film “Roman Holiday.”

#4 Channing Tatum

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Channing Tatum may not be professionally trained like other celebs, but surely, he can dance. This heartthrob rose to fame for his role in Magic Mike and of course, the dance film, Step Up.

#5 Charlize Theron

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Charlize Theron studied at the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC before a knee injury ended her dance career. Her ballet dancing skills eventually came in handy for various movie roles such as “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

#6 Tupac Shakur

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Rapper Tupac Shakur attended the Baltimore School of the Arts in high school and took ballet classes as part of his schooling. He then became a full-fledged member of Digital Underground, an American alternative hip hop group from Oakland, California.

#7 Sam Rockwell

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Sam Rockwell is also known for having some smooth dance moves. The Academy Award-winning actor went to San Francisco’s School of the Arts for part of high school.

#8 Jennifer Lopez

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Before getting her breakthrough in the 1997 biographical musical drama film “Selena”, Jennifer Lopez was a Fly Girl on “In Living Color” and a dancer in a Janet Jackson video.
“I always consider myself as a dancer first,” Lopez said at an NBC press conference in 2017.

#9 Elisabeth Moss

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Elisabeth Moss rose to fame for her award-winning role in the dark and dramatic The Handmaid’s Tale. The actress danced as a child. She attended the School of American Ballet and was trained with former New York City Ballet ballerina Suzanne Farrell.

#10 Penelope Cruz


Penelope Cruz grew up taking dancing classes and trained in the art through her teens. The Spanish actress then attended theater school.

#11 Zoe Saldana

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Zoe Saldana wowed viewers in the 2000 teen drama film "Center Stage". Did you know that her ballet performances in the film weren’t all just acting? The actress started out as a ballet dancer and has since gained recognition for her role in franchises such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Avatar, and Star Trek.

#12 Amy Adams

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Amy Adams grew up taking ballet and musical theater classes. The actress said ballet was “too disciplined and too restrained and I was always told off in the chorus lines.” However, she put her dancing skills onscreen in the famous dance film “The Red Shoes.”

#13 Diane Kruger

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The German actress Diane Kruger studied at the Royal Ballet School until an injury ended her professional dancing career. She then became a model and switched to acting.

#14 Jean-Claude Van Damme

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Action star Jean-Claude Van Damme grew up studying ballet and martial arts. He said that that if you can withstand a ballet workout, you can stand anything. His ballet dancing skills came into handy in a scene from “Kickboxer.”

#15 Kim Basinger

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Kim Basinger had music and dancing in her blood. Her parents were a jazz musician and a ballet dancer. She grew up taking dance lessons but she later pursued modeling and acting. Basinger can also sing.

#16 Christian Bale

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Believe it or not, Batman star Christian Bale attended ballet classes as a young child. He studied at the Royal Ballet School as a young child before focusing on acting. The actor brought his dancing skill to the screen in a creepy “dance” scene in “American Pscyho”.

#17 Colin Farrell

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Serious, tough-guy actor Colin Farrell used to be a professional country line dancer. He grew up in Ireland taking traditional Irish dancing for a few years.

#18 Madonna

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Madonna aspired to be a dancer since her childhood. She even won a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan. However, she left her college to pursue life as a professional dancer in New York City in 1978. She later switched to Broadway and hit her big time.

#19 Mads Mikkelsen

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Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen grew up taking gymnastics and ballet classes. He danced for 10 years before deciding to pursue professional acting.

#20 Sarah Jessica Parker

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The Sex and the City star was trained in ballet and singing as a child. She landed on Broadway before the TV and big screen.
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