Choreographers design sequences of steps and movements, usually accompanied by music, for dancers and other artists to perform. Choreographers are the directors of dance. Unlike a conductor, they are usually behind the scenes planning the steps to music and for the visual delight of the audience.
They are different from a dance teacher: they are the people who make all the magic onstage happens for both the performers and the audience.
If you want to learn more about what is choreography, how to become a choreographer and iconic figures in the world of dance and choreography, keep reading!
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Iconic choreographers you should know
If you are in the world of dance you probably know and have been inspired by some of these great dancers and choreographers. These people have been true trailblazers of their generation, paving the way for future dancers and choreographers to experiment and create new moves. If you can, we invite you to check out some videos of their work and be blown away by their creativity and incredible moves.
- Merce Cunningham: he was a famous dancer and choreographer. He is well known for his innovative techniques in the realm of modern dance for more than 50 years. He collaborated with artists from other disciplines. In fact, the works he produced with these artists had a profound impact on avant-garde art beyond the world of dance.
- Loie Fuller: she was born in the United States in the midst of the Civil War and made her career in Paris, where she became a symbol of the Belle Epoque, performing most famously at the Folies-Bergère. She was a symbolist choreographer, seeking to use dance to go beyond herself.
- Pina Bausch: this German choreographer trained with Kurt Jooss in Essen and later at the Juilliard School in New York. In the 1970s, she set up her own company at the theatre in Wuppertal, for which she created dozens of works.
- Twyla Tharp: she is an American dancer and choreographer. She is most known for developing a contemporary dance style that combines ballet and modern dance techniques. Her work often used classical music, jazz, and contemporary pop music. In 1966, she formed her own company - Twyla Tharp Dance.
- Bronislava Nijinska: she started her career dancing at the Mariinsky and Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Bronislava Nijinska starts to choreograph in 1915, in a neoclassical style: she used classical steps (pirouettes and jumps), but revisited them in a new spirit, bringing in new elements (most notably more angular work with the arms).
- Paul Taylor: he was an American choreographer of the 20th century, considered by many to be the greatest living choreographer until his death in 2018. He led the Paul Taylor Dance Company started in 1954. He was among the last living members that pioneered American modern dance.
- Martha Graham: she invented a technique and style so clear that people still talk about the "Graham technique" today. At the Neighborhood Playhouse, where she taught since the beginning of the 20th century, she developed her own choreographic language and founded the Martha Graham Group.
- Alvin Ailey: he was an African-American dancer and choreographer. He is remembered by many as a modern dance genius. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City in 1958. His spiritual and gospel background, along with his desire to enlighten and entertain, formed the backbone of his unique choreography.
- Trisha Brown: she created a huge flow of new ideas in choreography. Her abstract dances fascinated with their fluidity and coordination, making her uncontrovertibly a central figure in post-modern dance.
- Agnes de Mille: she was an American dancer and choreographer. She contributed her amazing choreography to both 20th-Century ballet and Broadway musical Theater. Agnes De Mille was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1973. De Mille's many other awards include the Tony Award for Best Choreography for "Brigadoon" in 1947.
If you want to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of being a dance choreographer, you can head to our article here.
What is the job of a choreographer?
In a more poetic sense of the word, choreographers translate stories, ideas, and moods into movements for performance by professional dancers or individuals. Some of the things that are involved in the duties of a choreographer are:
- Conducting auditions to choose suitable dancers: when putting together a performance or a show, choreographers need to make sure that they have the best possible elements as part of their ensemble. This is why it is also their job to conduct auditions and make sure they have the best talent available.
- Expressing ideas through physical movements, patterns, and formations: this is part of the poetic side but it is important that they know how to communicate ideas to the audience, otherwise it will be to abstract for people to comprehend.
- Choosing music, sound effects, or spoken narrative for the movements: music and sound effects are a basic component of a performance and need to synchronize perfectly with the dance and movements that the choreographer had put into place.
- Experimenting with different dancers, dance steps and placements: doing a choreography is like putting a puzzle together, all the pieces need to fit with each other in order for them to make sense. This is why it is so important to play and experiment in order to have the best possible final outcome.
- Teaching dancers and other performers: teaching is a big part of being a choreographer. You need to have patience, a teaching method and lots of emotional intelligence to make sure that the performers understand what you envision and give you the space to lead them.
- Practising regularly to stay in shape: while it is true that choreographers don't perform, they do need to show dancers how to do the moves. This is why they need to stay in good shape, flexible and able to show any move that they are planning to incorporate into the performance.
- Discussing ideas, plans, and budget with producers, costume designers, and musical or artistic directors: admin work is an essential part of being a choreographer. They need to see performances as a full project with everything being an integral piece of the effort to put on the best possible show.
Depending on the size of the production they are working for, choreographers will have several duties like conducting auditions for dancers, have input regarding costumes, set design and lighting, and even pick the music for the show. Some choreographers could also be involved in administrative duties. Choreographers can be self-employed, while others work exclusively with one dance company. As a result, the job of a choreographer may come with some instability as job opportunities fluctuate.
Dance companies often travel for a portion of the year, and choreographers must go with the company as they move around. Workdays can be long, since rehearsals take place during the day and performances are held at night. Some positions may be physically demanding. Almost all choreographers are trained as dancers before tackling choreographic direction. Though no formal education is required, some employers prefer applicants with degrees in dance.
Learn more about jobs for choreographers in Canada.
Become a choreographer with Superprof
If you are ready to take on a job as a choreographer but don't know where to start, Superprof is here to help you out. Truth be told, you will need to build up your reputation little by little. People need to see what you are capable of doing, the dances you choreograph and your skills. Showcasing work whenever possible is important, and choreographers at any stage of their careers may find that community productions, dance recitals and festivals offer opportunities to demonstrate their artistic skills.
This is why giving dance classes in a platform like Superprof is a great first step to get you to meet new clients and build your dance portfolio little by little. Remember that networking is key to get your name out there.
The only thing you need to do is set up your profile with all your information:
- Your professional experience;
- The jobs that you have had;
- Your academic background;
- Your method;
- Your experience teaching dance;
- Your experience choreographing;
- Your availability to give classes (both online and in person);
- Your hourly rate.
Once your profile is ready, you will be able to receive requests from prospective students who can connect with you to ask for dance classes and choreos. Make sure to align your objectives with theirs so both will be in the same track. Don't forget to ask them for a good review once you have started the lessons together. A lot of students look at reviews and you will need to start creating a good reputation for yourself!
Are you ready to become a dance teacher and explore your choreo skills with Superprof? Learn more about the requirements to become a choreographer.
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