How To Become A Choreographer

Choreographers are experienced dancers who use their skills and knowledge to interpret existing performances and craft original arrangements. Not only do they design new dance routines—through existing or original dances—but they often instruct other dancers and perform themselves. Their advanced training and talent makes them experts in interpretation, movement, music, styles, techniques, and performance-related theories.

Why Become A Choreographer

The duties of choreographers include planning and creating performances based on original design or existing movements; conducting auditions and training dancers; and choosing music accompaniments, costumes, and stage sets. They may also be responsible for overseeing dance companies’ budgets and other administrative duties. It is important for them to remain up-to-date regarding their knowledge of contemporary dances to remain relevant in the field.

Choreographers must have unique talents and experience to be successful, which includes the following qualities:

Choreographer Work Environment

Choreographers work in numerous environments, as long as dancing and coordinated movement is the objective. They may work for dance companies, musical productions, performing arts schools, film sets, cruise ships, amusement/theme parks, and casinos. Half of all choreographers work for educational institutions, while a small percentage is self-employed.

For those who work in schools, their work schedules may be during normal business hours. They will spend time in independent study and creation; however, their role as a choreographer is typically as an instructor. For those who work to build performances for films and musical/dance productions, their hours may be long, and include work during evenings, weekends, and holidays. This type of work is usually seasonal. Many part time positions exist, as well, especially at amusement/theme parks, casinos, and cruise ships.

There are many types of choreographers who specialize in different techniques. Those who are experts in ballet will most likely work for a ballet dance company. Those who are experts in martial arts will most likely help directors and actors perform sequences during film rehearsals.

Choreographer Salary

The median annual salary for a choreographer is $44,130. Salaries may range from $20,000 to $94,830, per year. Top paying industries for choreographers are educational institutions and performing arts companies. Jobs at amusement/theme parks, casinos, and cruise ships will pay the least, per hour. It is also important to note that geographic location can alter the pay and availability of positions. Large cities, such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles are excellent locales to find choreographic work. Salary and benefits may also change depending on unionized versus non-unionized work.

Choreographer Career Outlook

The career outlook for choreographers is tepid, with job growth at 6 percent. Funding for performing arts schools and companies depend largely on grants, private donors, and public funds; these sources of revenue are highly competitive and may lead to limited work. In addition, larger dance companies have decreased hiring, so choreographers will have to look for work in alternative industries or in larger cities with smaller companies. Choreographers will have an easier time finding employment in television, at smaller establishments (casinos, theme parks, etc.), as dance instructors, or as competition judges.

Choreographer Degree

Successful choreographers must have talent and experience in dancing. While a degree is not always required, many dance companies and other employers desire a candidate with at least a bachelor’s degree. Performing arts schools and other educational institutions will require a college degree.

Step 1: Gain formal dance training. To become a choreographer, it is necessary to be a trained dancer, in many techniques. It will take several years’ experience, if not decades to become a seasoned dancer. Many people begin to dance in their preschool years, although this is not a requirement. Regardless of how many years’ experience an individual gains, the most important aspects of choreography include interpreting, understanding various techniques, and having raw creative talent.

Step 2: Obtain academic training. Choreographers must understand the theory behind dancing to advance; therefore, it will be beneficial to complete a bachelor’s or master’s program in a related subject. Degrees in dance and performing arts exist, but the most applicable degree is a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Choreography.

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