How To Transition From Dancer To Choreographer
October 12th, 2018 by Richie Kormos
Draw from your dancer experience
As a dancer, you already have a huge advantage in becoming a choreographer. You already know what defines a successful dance piece. You know what works and what doesn’t work in the relationship between dancers and choreographers. Also, you know how it feels to be a dancer, and the importance of feeling, not only involved in the routine being choreographed, but also valued as an individual and a person. Taking what you already know and have experienced as a dancer will help you to become a choreographer that dancers come to admire.
Gain the trust and respect of fellow dancers
According to Jessica Lang, who danced with Twyla Tharp before creating her own dance company, you must ensure to place value on your dancers in order to establish an environment of mutual respect. “Drawing from my own experience as a dancer, I’m determined to create an environment in which dancers feel safe and able to be themselves,” Lang says. “When they know they’re valued, that results in the best working atmosphere.”
In order to gain the respect of your peers, and to effectively establish yourself as a leader, Nicholas Villeneuve, a choreographer who has made works for Ballet Hispanico, emphasizes the importance of establishing, and maintaining good relations with the dancers you lead. “Always have a great relationship with your fellow dancers—they’re your partners one minute and your bosses the next,” he says.
Put in the prep work
To further your success as a choreographer, and to build up the amount trust dancers hold in your role as a leader, make sure to put in the time and effort to prepare before each rehearsal. This means having your music ready to go and your ideas organized, so when it’s time for your next rehearsal, you can begin working right away and no time will go wasted.
While it is important to prepare for rehearsal, make sure to stay flexible. When choreographing a piece, try and maintain a balance of authority and flexibility when coordinating your work. “Especially for pas de deux work, it’s impossible to discover all the possibilities without creating on living, breathing bodies in front of you,” says Matthews.
Balancing your role as a dancer and as a choreographer
While it may be challenging to switch back and forth between dancing and choreographing, doing so can serve as an effective way to explore and understand the art of choreography at a greater depth.
According to Joey Dowling, an NYC-based choreographer, switching between the roles of dancer and choreographer helped her to expand upon her mind as a creative. “I would think to myself, ‘Why is the choreographer making that choice? Would I do that?’ I started to ask questions a dancer wouldn’t normally ask,” says Dowling.
Getting you and your work out there
Upon making the decision to start choreographing, thinking up new dance performances isn’t the only thing you’ll have to do. In order to succeed, you also must face the challenging job of actually getting your work out there. Lucky for you, as a dancer, you probably already have a fairly established network of creatives in which you can publicize your work. If not, there are other easy ways to network with important people.
Today, creating an online presence is key to your choreography success. You could do this through a personal website or your social media. In addition, creating a YouTube account in which to showcase the work you’ve choreographed can help further promote yourself.
“Don’t be afraid to take on the tiny jobs and to ask your friends to dance for free,” says Dowling. “It’s difficult, but when someone says, ‘We’re not accepting work,’ send your reel anyway.”
According to her, having both artistic vision and establishing your voice as a choreographer are both important. However, Dowling credits persistence as being one of the greatest qualities of a choreographer.
Genni Abilock is a writer for StarQuest. She loves baby carrots, SpongeBob, and playing Frank Sinatra songs on the ukulele.