The process of getting a job as a choreographer can be quite elusive. Many people assume the best path is to hone your skills and establish your network while working as an assistant or associate. My path was different. I got my first job from someone who saw me freestyling in a nightclub and asked me to choreograph for a recording artist. There are many ways to get work as a choreographer and it’s important to explore all options.
No matter what area of choreography you’re looking to get into, it’s important that you have a great reel to convey your style and skill. Beyond proving your choreography expertise, it’s equally important to show that you can communicate professionally outside of the dance studio. Choreographers need to interact with producers, executives, investors, and other higher-ups that often speak a very different language than is used in a dance rehearsal. Being just as comfortable in a board room as you are in a dance studio is a key skill choreographers need to develop.
With that in mind, here are four tips that can help you book a choreography job.
1. Network with the right people.
Think about who hires choreographers and network with those people. Depending on what area of choreography you’re interested in, try to find out who is actually doing the hiring. Choreographers rarely hire other choreographers so you need to go a step beyond. In theater, you need to build relationships with directors and writers. Those are the people who put together projects in the early stages. Usually, teams are already in place by the time a project gets to its first reading. In TV and film, it’s the producers and the networks who do the hiring. Any connections you can build with high-level executives will be beneficial.
2. Apply for festivals and grants.
There are many opportunities available to choreographers through grants and festivals. Although creating work for a festival will most certainly end up costing you money, these events can be a good way to get some press, a professional video, and most importantly, give you a space to invite everyone you have been networking with to see your work live. There are also grants and residencies that offer anything from free rehearsal space to development money to performing opportunities. It takes some Googling to find the right match to apply to, but it can be worth it.
3. Think outside the box.
Some of my favorite choreography jobs involved working in corporate events—an area I didn’t know existed until I was immersed in it. Many companies create shows to launch a product or celebrate a brand at a conference or holiday party. These events often have huge budgets and can be a lot of fun. Event companies, fashion brands, and nightclubs all hire choreographers.
4. Make your own opportunities.
Don’t wait for someone to hire you. The only way to get better at choreography is to do it, so grab some friends, make a video you’re proud of, and share it.
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