Choreographers express and interpret music through directed movement.
When the cast of a musical bursts into a dance number or everyone at the club starts to do the moves to a popular song, there's a choreographer behind it. Though they may not be visible, their work requires a very particular skillset and is instrumental to many disparate components of media and entertainment. Choreographers come from all kinds of backgrounds, though most have a grasp of several types of dance or have worked as professional dancers. Dancing takes a degree of physical ability that many never achieve and requires an understanding of the capabilities of the human body in order to move both safely and precisely.
A choreographer is the bridge between sound and movement, effectively translating a piece of music into movements that correspond to individual beats and moments.
Choreography work may include...
- Creating sequences of movement set to specific music
- Designing simultaneous complementary movements for multiple performers
- Conveying precise movements to performers in rehearsal
- Working with artists, composers, or directors to find the tone of a piece
- Running movement rehearsals for performers
The work of choreographers appears all over media, from concerts and music videos to commercials and circus art. Many choreographers work as freelance professionals, lending their knowledge and skill to an array of individual projects. Theater and dance companies occasionally have a staff choreographer, but more commonly they will hire one to work on each production. Musicians often work closely with choreographers to develop movement for performances and media; many well-known musicians have close relationships with the choreographers who designed their most iconic moves and choose to work with them again and again. Film and episodic television occasionally calls for choreography, and it can be exciting to arrange movement for cameras rather than live audiences.
Working choreographers have all kinds of backgrounds. Some come to choreography from professional ballet or competitive ballroom, while others practice moves in their bedrooms or participate in community dance activities. What they have in common is a work ethic, a devotion to dance, and an interpretive creativity. Becoming a good choreographer requires a strong understanding of music and excellent communication skills, as well as an awareness of the different elements that make up a movement performance. Many choreographers pursue Bachelor's degrees in dance or performance, which can provide opportunities to choreograph student work. Some professional dancers start choreographing independently in order to find their own voice outside of the technical box. In the age of social media, aspiring choreographers can share their movement work and gain notoriety online.
If you're a dedicated mover committed to sharing your vision in dance, a career in choreography might be right for you!
Dance ICONS supports, connects and advocates for thousands of choreographers globally, providing them with resources and knowledge.
World Dance Alliance Americas is one branch of the larger World Dance Alliance, which provides information and advocacy for organizations and individuals in dance.