Want to become a Choreographer?
Updated: May 31
Hey there guys,
I’ve been asked to talk about choreography and becoming a choreographer. First off, for those who may want to know more about myself, instead of boring you with the details I’ll just let you know that my name is Madeline McQueen, I have performed in several live dance shows, and as you might have guessed, I have choreographed a couple of those dance shows myself. I have experience in 8 different types of dance styles but my main dance is Salsa. If you would like to know more or contact me directly, please feel free by going to the "Contact" tab on this site.
Starting from the beginning
With most careers at the beginning you have to make sure you really want to be a choreographer. If you are 100 % certain this is your career path you want to follow, then now is the time you need to look ahead and prepare. Of course like most careers you will have to be dedicated and put long, hard hours into it. But if you love it you will enjoy it all the same.
What style to choose?
Now you have to think; do you already dance? If so, what style(s)? Is it these styles you want to teach? If you don’t already dance then now is the time to start. Of course you can’t choreograph a dance if you can’t dance yourself, or even know what you are talking about. If you can dance but want to choreograph a different dance style from what you have already learnt, or a style you do not know well enough yet, then of course you will have to learn and become at least a high intermediate level at that style.
Where to learn?
If you want to learn a new dance style then there are plenty of opportunities for you to do so now-a-days. There are plenty of dance Colleges, Universities and Clubs. See which one suits you more depending on what you can afford and how much time you can spend on learning. Clubs are usually the best for cheaper prices and more flexible times, but if you want a more thorough education, colleges and uni’s are the best for that. Also some companies will only hire people who have graduated from either a college or uni unless you have already made some kind of name for yourself.
I was taught to dance only a little at college, I learnt mainly at clubs so it can be done.
What level should I be before I can become a choreographer?
You should not become a choreographer or even think about teaching until you have reached high intermediate level at least. Intermediate – expert levels are the only people who are truly qualified. Of course no one would want to learn or would even spend a penny to be taught by someone in between beginner – improver levels. You will also have to be assessed, either by a teacher or an assessor. Just because you have reached a high level doesn’t mean you have the ability to teach just yet. A teacher or an assessor should guide and help you. You might also need them to vouch for you.
Should I do a part time teaching job while learning?
It can never hurt. When you are at a comfortable level where you think you can teach and you can find a school or club to take you on, then yes, go for it. It’s not just about earning extra money on the side (some places won’t even pay you at first until they have seen your teaching abilities) but it’s more experience for you and something to spice up your resume. Also teaching a dance class is choreographing, you are teaching your students a dance routine which uses the same skills. If you are teaching in a club for example, yes they are there mainly to just have fun and won’t take it to a professional level and they won’t take the routine you taught them and use it in shows, but it will teach you to teach others how to follow a dance routine, which is exactly what a choreographer does.
That’s how I started, before I choreographed my shows I started shadowing my dance teacher in his classes; learning how he taught. I even performed with him in most of his live shows and watched how he choreographed. Then I became a dance teacher myself which lead me to choreographing my first show.
Where to teach?
Here you have to think about where you want your career to lead, how far you want it to go and what the best steps for you in your current situation is. Unless you already have connections who are prepared to wait until you have completed your course / degree and is holding out a job for you, you might have to work your way up. As I mentioned above, clubs can be a good way to add on experience until you land the position you are looking for. Apply to any school, college and uni who are looking for choreographers. Again if that is a dead end for now, maybe being a dance teacher somewhere might help you until you land the job you are looking for. Some companies who hire choreographers might not have available space to take you on but might later on down the line. Also don’t forget to ask independent / freelance groups. A few of them are usually in need of choreographers for their shows.
I started dancing for fun but now want to do it professionally
That’s absolutely fine. A lot of people never planned on becoming a dancer / choreographer but fell into it. If you are one then you need to get to a level that lets you teach (high intermediate – expert level). You then need to get the experience to choreograph. This can only be gained by going to a college / uni (unless you are lucky enough to know someone personally who can teach you) or attending shows / shadowing a choreographer and being apart of the choreography until you know you are now ready to lead.
How long will it take?
That is entirely up to you and what course you are on. If you are on a 1, – 3 (or longer) year course then that’s how long it will take, unless you retire or take on more courses. If you go to clubs that will depend on how fast you pick it up, as I mentioned above, you need to be a high intermediate level at least and that doesn’t happen over night. Personally it took me a year to reach intermediate level in 2007 but I didn’t want to start teaching until 2012, which is also the same year I started choreography. I already had 5 years of intermediate level dance skills, teaching, shadowing and performing in shows under my belt before I began. But I was also fortunate enough to be taught by a couple of the UK’s finest. Try to remember, this isn’t something to rush, you should want to inspire to teach your students well and become the best you can be.
Is a resume important?
Yes, like any job you need a resume to represent you and your skills to make you stand out. You need to put your skills, education, if you have taught or choreographed before; anything to do with dance and choreography. The more you have to show the more points that might buy you.
Thank you to those who have read this, I hope it has helped you in any way. If you feel I have left anything out, have anymore questions or would like to contact me, please feel free to let me know.