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Choreographer Job Description, Career as a Choreographer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Median—$33,670 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Choreographers create and arrange original dances, combining steps and movements to form an artistic whole. They also develop new interpretations of traditional dances. Choreographers usually audition performers and teach them a dance at rehearsals. They often stage and direct presentations of their own works.

Choreographers work in all forms of dance, including classical ballet, modern, tap, jazz, folk, ethnic, and ballroom. They must be knowledgeable not only about dance techniques but also about music, costumes, lighting, and drama.

Many of the major full-time professional dance companies have resident choreographers under contract. These companies also invite guest choreographers on a seasonal basis. Some choreographers work for small, regional dance companies. Others find work with opera companies and in musical theater, television, movies, music videos, and commercials.

Education and Training Requirements

Choreographers are usually former dancers with years of experience working in the theater and with dance companies. A college degree is not required for professional choreographers, but high school courses in speech, drama, music, and the visual arts are highly recommended. It is very important for choreographers to develop their sense of rhythm and their understanding of music. They must have strength, flexibility, grace, and coordination. Other characteristics vital to a successful choreographer include self-discipline, patience, commitment, and perseverance.

Getting the Job

Choreographers start out as dancers. Prospective choreographers should seize every opportunity to gain experience and polish their dancing skills by performing frequently. Performing with or creating dances for local groups is a good way to begin a career. Trade magazines contain announcements for auditions. Dancers can move into choreography by becoming assistants to established choreographers or by creating brief pieces for their own dance companies.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Better choreographic commissions and higher pay for choreographers come with recognition. Some choreographers form their own dance companies. Others become directors, as well as choreographers, for the musical theater and film industries. Still others become college teachers, usually after obtaining a degree.

Employment opportunities for choreographers will be good through the year 2014. The field is highly competitive, however, and a choreographic career does not necessarily provide long-term security. The best job opportunities are expected to be with national dance companies and in the field of music videos.

A choreographer must be knowledgeable about all facets of a production, including dance, music, costumes, lighting, and drama. (© Nicolas Six pour Danser/Corbis.)

Working Conditions

Choreographers must have physical stamina to endure long hours of dance creation and the subsequent rehearsals needed to perfect a new work. Although employment may be intermittent, choreographers often work every day, including weekends and holidays, when staging a new work. They travel often. Success in the performing arts requires frequent personal sacrifice. The hours are long, the stress rate is high, and creativity is expected on demand.

Where to Go for More Information

Dance/USA
1111 16th St. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-1717
http://www.danceusa.org/

National Dance Association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance
1900 Association Dr.
Reston, VA 20191-1598
(703) 476-3400
http://www.aahperd.org/nda/

Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers
1501 Broadway, Ste. 1701
New York, NY 10036-5653
(212) 391-1070
(800) 541-5200
http://www.ssdc.org/

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings of choreographers vary greatly depending on experience and job type. The median annual earnings for salaried choreographers is $33,670. Established choreographers can earn more than $70,000 per year. Many choreographers enjoy the benefits of union contracts, but freelancers do not receive these benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts