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Careers in Choreography?


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#1 backstagemom

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:19 PM

My daughter's (14) school requires the advanced students to complete a choreography project which they will present in a few weeks. This has opened DD's eyes to a whole new world. She absolutely loves choreographing, and seems to have a natural knack for it. Where do we begin learning about careers in choreography (schools, certifications, background training, etc.)? She still wants to dance professionally first, but sees it as an extension to her future career.

#2 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 07:51 PM

Dancing professionally is generally the main route to becoming a choreographer. There are no certificates, although there is some training in some college programs.
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#3 Curandera

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 07:33 AM

My dd 13 also dreams of being a choreographer and that's a big reason she is studying for a dance career first as Ms. Leigh recommended.

However, I have seen ads for new choreographer perforrmances around the city for winners of different competitions. I've thought that that may be a good way to see where she may have an outlet for her interest somewhere toward the end of her training and the start of a career.

Unfortunately, we just haven't found time but I always have those on my calendar just in case.

#4 kiwiwdancer

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 01:39 PM

Dancing professionally is generally the main route to becoming a choreographer. There are no certificates, although there is some training in some college programs.

 

Are there certain colleges known for providing more thorough or comprehensive choreography training,opportunity or exposure? Many college websites state that they cover choreography, but how can we, sort of read between the lines or what questions can we ask ,to know if a program provides adequate choreography exposure to potentially choreograph professionally one day?



#5 Pierrette

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 10:11 PM

I could list several important factors one should look for in a college dance program that would give a student a solid basis in choreography and the satisfaction of really fulfilling one's creative urges for four years. However, if you think the odds of a female pre-pro dancer being able to achieve a full-fledged, fully paying, professional performing career are slim, the odds for a woman to choreograph "professionally" are astronomical. Most of the work is either in academia (college dance faculty choreographing for their students) or in the commercial dance industry (film, tv, musical theater and production companies). Most of the small modern companies you see performing in "fringe" festivals work for peanuts.

 

Whatever the style of dance, an aspiring professional choreographer needs performing credits, connections, and the resources (space and dancers) to compose. Those "new choreographer" showcases are often merely performance venues with the honor and opportunity to have one's work performed without having to mount a major financial campaign to produce a show yourself. It's men who are able to rack up the most performance credits and who are often sought out by companies. Thus it is more often men who get to go on to become handsomely paid choreographers.

 

For a college program:

  • The more choreography courses offered (eg. Improv, Basic, Advanced) and required, the better. (Always make sure that "offered" means a class that is actually scheduled each semester and not prone to getting cancelled due to low enrollment.)
  • Can choreography classes be re-taken for credit?
  • The more performance opportunities in faculty and guest choreographed pieces, the better. (Make sure "opportunities" means that your DK is allowed to audition for castings.)
  • The more student choreography showcases offered on the main stage (and part of the promoted season), the better.
  • What is the caliber of the dance majors in the style you wish to choreograph?

To give you some baseline for comparison in your own search, this is what my DD got to do at the University of Arizona:

  • One class of Improv, one of Basic Choreography, two of Advanced Choreography (re-taken for credit), and also choreographed a piece for Senior Capstone.
  • Three faculty/guest shows each fall and two each spring (of 2-5 performances each), in which all students can audition.
  • One selective "student spotlight" main stage show each spring, plus an end-of-semester main stage (but not promoted) student showcase for all submissions fall and spring.
  • My daughter's Senior Capstone piece was selected to be included in a spring faculty/guest program. (2-3 short student pieces are used to allow time for costume changes)

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#6 kiwiwdancer

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Posted 10 June 2013 - 11:13 PM

Pierrette,wow...thank you for this thorough and direct reply! This is exactly the information I was hoping to get.And DD and I have talked many times about the non-lucrative nature of dance in general.We have seen through attending professional performances the overwhelming ly male presence in choreo.We will see what comes of it in the future.DD may very well quit dance altogether while in college,who knows...college such a big time of change for young people.Until then,we will foster her interests and talents.DD has spoken of choreo for small amateur groups,so I m not sure she expects to get rich off of it.DD would be happy choreographing for the commercial and/or academia you describe.She has often spoke of doing just that.So wouldn't a good college background help attain that kind of job?

#7 Pierrette

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 01:11 AM

For academia, absolutely. Get the BFA, go out and collect as many credits as you can, and when the gypsy lifestyle becomes too much for you, go back for your MFA. Then search nationally for the best dance faculty job you can find and hope that the college doesn't ax the dance department down the road. After 8-10 years since starting college, you can finally set pieces on your students.

 

Choreographing for commercial work is another matter entirely. A couple of weeks ago, I was finally getting old stacks of dance magazines ready for a Purple Heart pick-up by removing the mailing labels or blacking them out. (My DD wanted them to find a good home.) I happened across a "Dance Spirit" from August of 2008 with Spencer Liff on the cover. I kept the magazine because he's the choreographer of one my DD's current shows. But in 2008, Spencer was 23 years old and on Broadway. The article says he's been "in the biz since he was 6, when he got a part in the first national tour of The Will Rogers Follies." At 15, Spencer spent a year at NYC's New School (he finished homeschooling early), danced on cruise ships, before getting film roles.....

 

Anyway, since our kids weren't stars when they were 6 years old, I totally support the college route for pursuing a professional dance career. At least with a college dance program, you get a bachelor's degree along with your advanced training and performing experience.


Edited by Momof3darlings, 11 June 2013 - 06:16 AM.
only to remove the (....) about 30 "returns" after the last sentence which created a blank space in the post twice the length of the post

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#8 kiwiwdancer

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 07:56 AM

Pierrette,you are so on the money here. DD had the exact same reasoning for pursuing dance in college.DD said she wouldn't mind choreographing for amateur groups like high school or the like,she has realistic aspirations,it seems. Since she's going to college anyway might as well find one that supports her interests. And by choreographing professionally,I meant getting paid,not necessarily choreographing for pro groups.The teachers at her prepro school choreograph often for the students,she's spoken of aspiring to that often.

#9 Pierrette

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 10:18 AM

"Getting paid" is the operative term, though, isn't it? How much do you think amateur groups pay? Backstagemom's question was about choreographing as an "extension" of her DD's professional performing career, so I can only assume she meant in terms of continuing to earn a living wage as a choreographer. And of course you asked about choreographing "professionally." Certainly dance teachers can earn a living wage and choreographing for their students is frequently a part of their job. And they have the ready resources of space and dancers to compose pieces. But then we're just talking about becoming a local dance teacher and there's no mystery in making teaching be your day job.

 

I also know of many adjunct (part-time) college dance teachers who must pick up work such as choreographing for amateur high school groups in order to make ends meet. However, you need to understand that, by the time you invest the hours in networking with student groups, finding music and fashioning combinations in your studio on your own time, the gratuity for the gig is going to work out to minimum wage or less. Of course, pay for most dancers, artists of various stripes, and K-12 teachers works out to minimum wage or less. I'm just hoping to make an impression when it comes to "realistic aspirations."

 

When I hear parents talk about their DKs performing professionally, first, and then going on to choreograph, I imagine that they envision a career that starts out by being able to pay the rent and then advances to being able to save for a house and retirement. However, this is what I was talking about in terms of the slim and astronomical odds. Are your DD's teachers at her prepro school married/ have live-in partners? Or do they fully support themselves along with saving for their futures? The truth is that the majority of female pre-pro dancers and their parents are really aspiring for their DDs to get their "MRS" degrees. Certainly nothing wrong with that! Just be sure you're helping your DDs gather all the facts.


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#10 gcwhitewater

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:22 AM

 The truth is that the majority of female pre-pro dancers and their parents are really aspiring for their DDs to get their "MRS" degrees. Certainly nothing wrong with that! Just be sure you're helping your DDs gather all the facts.

 

Are you suggesting the main goal of a parent with a ballet student is to find a husband through their association with ballet training???

I am NOT aspiring for my daughter to get her "MRS" degree. I also find that statement offensive as a teacher of those who are pursuing a ballet career.



#11 mom2

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:37 AM

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that what I was really doing was encourage my dd to get an "MRS" degree. She has actually surprised me with her ability to scope out ways to find employment, even between company seasons.  I hope that this is not what you meant to say, Pierrette?

 

Regarding choreography - I can't imagine that the road there is easy either, but some extraordinarily talented young people are having some success.  One is Robert Binet - a Canadian in his early 20s who will have a work premiered by the National Ballet of Canada next season.  Here is a link to the blurb on the company website:

 

http://national.ball...314/Innovation/



#12 kiwiwdancer

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:42 AM

The teachers that choreograph at her pre-pro school are married to each other, they seem to have a good gig. DD is looking into minoring in business. I, honestly, don't even know if she will continue to dance once in college. That is the reason I spent 3 years lecturing and trying to instill the importance of getting a college degree. At least, if DD decided while in a college program that the dance world isn't for her, she would already be in college and wouldn't have to take ACT and go through the hell of college application process like she would if she went the trainee route right out of high school and things weren't working out. We have seen dancers tackle that problem in the trainee program at the prepro school she is at now, it seems very difficult. Plus, the cost of a trainee program is not far from that of college, so why not earn a degree? Plus, financial aid is available for college, I don't think that is possible with a trainee program. DD came from a local studio, wasn't the favorite, so did not get the attention that she needed and entered the prepro school knowing she was behind her peers. Plus, the local studio instilled some bad habits which resulted in a stress fracture(Orthopedic doc and PT concluded that was the cause) that she had to take time to recover from which set her further behind. So, DD knows she has a mountain to climb over, but she has had some good SI acceptances and the prepro teachers stress education, she wants to have a good choreography program, that can only help her reach her artistic potential and get satisfaction from that.  

 

I haven't even thought about the "MRS" degree, haha, all I know is that I have a degree in healthcare field that I could adequately support myself with, I would never get rich off of it, but life circumstances pulled me away from that field. So, one never really knows where life's circumstances will take them, even those that aspire to "MRS" degree. DD is following her passion and talents, we will see where that leads. 



#13 kiwiwdancer

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:50 AM

I would say there are many careers that are not even in the arts category that pay women so low they couldn't support a family with the salary, like certain healthcare workers, pre-school teachers, maybe even elementary teachers in some locales, there is a long list. Are those also aspiring to an MRS degree? Or are they following their talents and interests? We can't all be doctors and lawyers. I have a child that is an artist through and through, I wouldn't call encouraging her to follow her talent/interest a search for an MRS degree.



#14 kiwiwdancer

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:54 AM

mom2 and gcwhitewater , thank you for your insights, as well.



#15 Momof3darlings

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 01:16 PM

"MRS" degree?  Really in 2013?  And here I thought my daughter worked hard to achieve her dream of dancing ballet on a professional stage because she wanted to dance ballet with a professional company.  If she wanted to get married, most of her college graduated friends did just that this year and I'm sure no one passed judgement that after they finished their degrees their next step in choosing marriage was what they went to college for.  I'm hoping we all misread this statement or that it was misspoken.  Because it surely was offensive. 

 

With that stated, there are many ways to choreograph and many places you can.  Sort of like the Whoopi Goldberg quote that is paraphrased by saying: if you want to be a star that's one thing, but if you want to be an actor there are many places you can do that without all the hoopla that comes with a name.  While there has been a glass ceiling of sorts for women nationally in these endeavors, it depends on how you start and your talent how far you might be able to go with it.  So start now, study in college on on site if a dancer not in college and reach for your dreams.  Follow a path that gets you where you want to go.  You can start locally, then move to RDA companies as an Emerging Choreographer, then choreography workshops to get your feet wet.  Key is that you get your name out there by doing after the study is over.  I recently went to see Shaping Sound here locally and read an article on how the goal of this tour for Travis Wall's company was two fold: both jobs for his dancers and proof that he could go from start to finish on a full length worth not just the shorter ones.  


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