Choreographer Career Overview

Choreographer Description

Do you like to dance? Are you good at putting movements together? It might be time to look at a new career path and become a choreographer. Not everyone can dance, but those who can have a great opportunity to make money at it. While you might not be the next star on a popular TV show, in time, you could be the next famous choreographer. It might be time to finally score that job that also serves as your passion.

Choreographer Career Overview

Dance Choreographer

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Before you can decide if this is the job for you, it is important to understand what a choreographer does. These amazing artists create dance routines for a variety of clientele including:

  • Musicals
  • Ballets
  • Marching bands
  • Singing artists

Choreographers put together dance routines to music and stories. It can be for a new music video or for the purpose of creating some new moves to an old classic. Whatever the need, they sketch out the routine and spice it up. These are talented people who love to express different genres of music in different ways.  

It goes without saying that going into this field requires you to know about movement and how to relate it to music. It is necessary to have some dance experience under your belt, but you can learn more as you go.

Skills, Training, and Qualifications

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There are skills you must have to become a choreographer. Most were once professional dancers and know a thing or two about being in the spotlight. They have been on the other side of the curtain and can use that experience to help their clients. This is a vital skill for pursuing this area of work, but there are other important skills in this profession.

Communication Skills

Having the ability to communicate to the audience through dance is not enough. A choreographer must also be able to talk with the client and assess what they need. This skill will prove beneficial in brainstorming with the directors as to the timing of movements in the routine.

Patience

Knowing how to work with people and teach them isn’t something everyone can do. This requires patience and understanding towards others. A good teacher can show various ways of learning something and adjust it so that everyone gets it.

Researching Skills

A good choreographer knows how to research various dances and put together a unique routine that fits the show. Knowing how to find out information on new moves or find other performances that might be similar is key to creating the dance needed.

Keep Your Body in Shape

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This isn’t a job you can sit back and watch others do. It is one that requires you to be an active participant in ways such as demonstrating dance moves to dancers. You must also stay in shape and continue to learn new dances. Being fit will allow you to show the routines and keep up with those you are teaching.

Training Needed

The training for a choreographer typically starts at a young age, usually early childhood. People who become choreographers have taken dance classes when they were younger and then attended a dance school. Some also get their training by getting a degree in Dance and Musical Theatre. While these are both a good start nothing compares to learning in the field. It often helps to work with someone already in the field, in addition to your studies. Being an assistant will not only provide you with experience but may also get you noticed.

Qualifications Needed

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The real thing that choreographers need is a background in dance. This is necessary to create and properly show the new routines. The training you have should correspond with the area of dance you want to get into. There are a lot of different areas you can study, and it is best to know a bit of each, so you are more versatile as a choreographer. Some areas to know are ballet, jazz, dramatic and modern dance.

As with any job you want, it is important you arm yourself with all the knowledge and experience you can. You are going up against others who also want to be a choreographer, so you want to make sure your skills outshine theirs and get you noticed. Having a degree is unnecessary, but can get you in the door sooner.

Career Path and Salary

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Because this is a job where having a degree is optional, it is essential you gain as much experience as possible. This can be done a variety of ways.

Join Your Local Theater

Join a theater group in your community. This will not only help with adding to your experience but possibly get you some valuable connections to help move you up in this field.

Go to Recitals

Being a choreographer is like being an actor who is trying out for a role. Going to dance recitals will help you show off your talent. You will also meet a lot of people waiting in line and have the opportunity to make connections with those hosting the recital.

Enter Festivals

There are a lot of different types of performers at festivals, and dancers are among them. Showing off your skills at these festivals can pay off, depending on who is in the audience. Either way, you gain experience and exposure for your choreography talent.

Promotion

To get yourself out there and known, you must have tools that showcase your talent. Just as every artist needs a portfolio of their work, being a choreographer is no exception. Create a video of your work. Pull friends together to help you shoot your routine on a video. This will be your digital business card and get you noticed. It shows that you are a professional choreographer and want to get serious work.

Practice Makes Perfect

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No matter what area you are looking to work in, it is important to keep your skill set sharpened. If you have not been hired as a choreographer yet, don’t wait around for the phone to ring. Get out and volunteer at places like local dance groups and dance theaters for children. Keep yourself active and practicing. You don’t want to be rusty when that call or opportunity comes in.

Search for Jobs

Don’t wait around for that perfect job to come to you. Put yourself out there and apply for ones on the internet. There are job listings online; you will have to do research to find them, but they are there. Go to sites like LA Casting or Actor Access, to name a few. You can also conduct your own search using "choreographer jobs" as the search term.

Remember Your Link

While we all carry business cards and one-sheets when we go to our interviews, this isn’t enough for a choreographer. You must be able to show your recent work. This could even include being asked to dance at an audition or interview. Most, however, will want to see what you have created for others you have worked with. This can be done with a link to the website of a company you have done work for. Bring that with you or put it on your business card or CV. It is a great tool that will save you time explaining how talented you are.

Salary

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There is wide variation regarding salary for choreographers. On average, the annual salary is around $45,000. However, it is not uncommon for any choreographer to earn well above or well below this amount, depending upon the quantity and quality of jobs they have accepted.

Another area to look at is whether to join a union. Joining a union can provide benefits beyond salary. You might need this if you have a family to support. These benefits would include health and possibly retirement benefits. If you do not join a union, then you are on your own and will pay out of pocket for these.

When deciding what kind of employment you want to pursue, whether it is as a freelancer, a business owner, or an employee, you will put forth great time and effort when you're getting started. It takes a while to make a name for yourself so be prepared to exercise hard work and patience. The hours are often long and unreliable, but if you are doing what you love you won’t care.

Conclusion

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Being a choreographer is a great way to enjoy your love for dance and show your talent of expression by creating dance routines and teaching them to others. People in this profession may not have the same physical skills and agility as dancers, but they have the creative vision to help dancers achieve beautiful works of art on stage and bring joy to the people in the audience. Dancers add beauty to this world and we definitely need more of that. Making a living by doing what you love is a luxury that many people don't get to enjoy, so if you have the opportunity to pursue your passion, take it!

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