Choreographers create and plan the routines for performers to play out, usually to music, for film, theater, and television performances that convey stories, ideas, and moods. They also direct rehearsals for Dancers or Actors to achieve the desired interpretation. Choreographers may specialize in specific types of dance such as ballet, ballroom, folk, salsa, jazz, or contemporary. However, versatility is certainly an asset and usually a requirement for Choreographers.
They are employed by ballet and dance companies, television and film productions, night clubs and similar establishments, dance academies and dance schools, broadcast departments, advertising companies, sound recording studios, and record production companies. They may also be self-employed.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Choreographers are required to complete.
- Teaching dance techniques and artistic interpretation to amateur and professional individuals and/or groups:
- Teaching the techniques, cultural origins, and symbolic meanings of any dance;
- preparing dance students for specific auditions and performances;
- writing down steps or sketching out moves to teach to the performers; and
- helping performers perfect the movements, techniques, and timing.
- Auditioning and casting Dancers or Actors for musicals, performances, ballets, or any kind of musical spectacle.
- Choreographing and staging musicals, working under the director’s supervision and supporting his vision:
- Meeting with the director to learn more about the production and brainstorm ideas;
- attending pre-show production meetings with the director and producer and collaborating on show concepts before choreographing the show;
- gaining a full understanding of the director’s vision of the show, including style and pacing;
- creating dance and movement routines, sometimes by revising or combining existing routines, using their bodies and their expert movements to tell stories and convey emotions;
- making the choreography part of an organic whole, supporting the story, characters, and the overall artistic intent;
- selecting music, wardrobe, set design, and effects alongside the director; and
- adapting dance moves where necessary.
- Interpreting and developing ideas in order to transform them into the finished performance.
- Working closely with the musical director, costume designer, set designer, and lighting designer to make sure that all stage movement is compatible with musical cues, costuming, set, and lighting.
- Scheduling and supervising rehearsals:
- Working overtime when necessary, especially when opening night/concert/production is approaching.
- Overseeing dress rehearsals in order to determine the practicality of costumes/clothes.
- Giving feedback to the director and the cast following rehearsals and continuing to do so during the run of the show.
- Doing research in order to look for influential dances or performances to help create new moves.
- Training and exercising to maintain the required levels of ability and fitness, as well as understanding the limitations of the body:
- Exercising, stretching, and attending classes in order to keep their skills sharpened.
- Creating dance routines and movement sequences for Dancers and other performers in a broad range of settings.
- Working hand-in-hand with the director.
- Auditioning and rehearsing Dancers.
- Turning ideas into steps.
- Fitting movements to music.
- Training and exercising.
The average salary for Choreographer related jobs is $46,800 per year or $24 per hour. This is around 1.4 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $33,000 while most experienced workers make up to $66,000. These results are based on 1 salary extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding creativity and a strong artistic sense.
- Interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, especially verbally, in order to convey clear instructions to the Dancers/performers;
- displaying strong leadership skills;
- being able to work cohesively with the director and an assistant; and
- having the patience to teach the appropriate steps to both amateurs and professional Dancers.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- being highly responsible, reliable, and organized; and
- being greatly detail oriented and structured.
- Self-motivated, willing to teach and work as a team.
- Motor coordination and physical strength:
- Training and exercising every day in order to maintain the required levels of ability and fitness; and
- being able to rehearse 8 to 12 hours a day.
Aside from the skills listed above, in order to become a successful Choreographer, a person needs to have a good balance between creativity, artistic sense, leadership skills, and dancing experience. Choreographers are required to have a minimum of 6 to 8 years of experience dancing and at least 5 teaching and/or choreographing. Although Choreographers are not required to have any formal postsecondary training, studying Dance or Musical Theater at a university, a conservatoire or a performing arts college may increase job prospects for those entering this field, as well as giving them both the practical and theoretical knowledge required to truly succeed.
Most Choreographers start out as professional Dancers and then move into the role of Assistant Choreographer, where they help to rehearse the moves and give their input on what steps would fit, without taking on the full creative burden that the Choreographer has. From there, their progression is performance based, thus, the way to get noticed is to choreograph amazing routines.
Choreographers often run their own dance schools, which also involves balancing their own accounts, doing taxes, and managing costs. Running their own dance company can also involve hiring staff and applying for funding. Marketing themselves or their school will also be a necessary task while being self-employed.
Finally, the working hours for a Choreographer tend to be long due to rigorous teaching demands in the daytime and further classes or performances in the evenings, because they tend to be working on more than one performance at a time. There can also be travel involved as popular shows often tour a whole country or even an entire continent.