Exploring this Job
There are many ways to learn about careers in choreography. First, since many choreographers start out as dancers, you should take dancing lessons and build your skills as a dancer through participation in dance schools. If you are interested in choreography, your instructor may allow you to work up routines to perform. Try to dance and choreograph numbers in high school theatre productions. Attend as many dance performances as possible, and enroll in dance summer camps.
Check out DanceTabs (http://dancetabs.com), which features articles about dance and choreography and interviews with well-known professionals. To understand the challenges choreographers and dancers face as they attempt to create works of art, you might also want to check out Breaking Pointe, a reality television series that ran for two seasons in the early 2010s that went behind the scenes at Ballet West, a ballet company in Salt Lake City, Utah. Additionally, YouTube is a good source of free videos about dance and choreography. Some well-known choreographers even have their own channels.
Finally, talk to choreographers about their work. If you’re still in high school or college, ask your theater or dance teachers to help arrange information interviews with choreographers. If you're already a dancer, tell choreographers you’re working with that you’re interested in exploring the career. Most will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of their jobs and recommend colleagues who can talk to you about their career journeys.
Choreographers create new dance routines and record the steps using notation systems such as Labanotation (http://dancenotation.org) or Benesh Movement Notation (https://www.royalacademyofdance.org/about-us/benesh-international-benesh-movement-notation). They must be knowledgeable about dancing, music, costume, lighting, and dramatics.
Choreographers cite many inspirations for their dances. Some are inspired by a particular piece of music, story, poem, work of art, current event, or even a dream or nature. Others create dances for specific dancers that they’ve worked with before, or they are given starter ideas by the creative directors or other managers. And, of course, many works are commissioned by arts organizations. Choreographers also may have to help develop and rehearse dance productions on television programs, streaming video productions, and music videos that require performers to learn complex and straightforward dance routines and sequences.
In addition to choreographing dance sequences or entire dance productions, choreographers have many other duties, including;
- Auditioning dancers
- Directing rehearsals and teaching/demonstrating dance steps, techniques, and sequences to dancers
- Working with directors to understand their vision for the production (style, pacing, etc.) and how their choreography can be integrated into this vision
- Working with music directors and composers to create or select the music that will accompany the dance routine
- Working with costume designers, set designers, lighting designers, and others on the artistic aspects of a production
- Attending dance performances and working closely with directors, dancers, lighting designers, and music directors and composers to improve aspects of the production for future performances
- Assisting with the administrative duties of their employers (such as budgeting)
Many dancers combine teaching with their stage work or are full-time dance instructors in ballet schools or in colleges and universities. Some open their own dancing schools with specialties such as ballet for children or ballroom dancing. A small number of dancers and choreographers work in music videos. While they may not become rich or famous in this line of work, it does provide good experience and increases their visibility.