CriticalDance Forum

Becoming a Choreographer?
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Author:  corrival [ Mon Jul 18, 2005 7:42 am ]
Post subject:  Becoming a Choreographer?

An interesting article in the Washington Post made me wonder, how does one get to be a choreographer? What opportunities exist?

Choreography's Emerging Stars, Eager To Get on Their Feet
By Clare Croft
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 10, 2005; Page N01

In 1991, the San Francisco Ballet canceled a three-week tour, leaving the company's dancers unexpectedly unemployed. Looking to create work for themselves, the dancers staged their own choreography workshop, creating pieces for their temporarily laid-off colleagues.


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Jul 23, 2005 6:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Great theme, Corrival. I'm sure the situation will vary from country to country, but in the UK, the differences between the routes in ballet and modern/contemporary couldn't be more different.

Contemporary dance students will normally complete a degree course over three years plus perhaps an additional 1-year pre-professional course, perhaps at MA level. Within their undergraduate course ALL of them will take course in choreography and have the chance to try their hand and then at MA level there are several courses devoted to choreography.

When they leave, the first step is often "Resolution" a festival at the well-known dance centre, The Place, in which around 100 young choreographers will get the chance to put their work on stage. Some is bad and much merely OK, but a number of now-famous choreographers, such as Wayne McGregor, have presented their work there.

Then there are other levels of infrastructure support, for instance, Choreodrome also at The Place, for choreographers with some success behind them, to research without having to produce a final work. There are also a few summer school opps for choreographers. Rambert have a strong tradition of giving choreographic workshop opportunities and over the past few years I can think of several of these that have been incorporated into the Rambert main company programme.

For ballet, the UK situation is very different. To get students to professional standards by age 18 demands a deep focus on technique and little on creativity. Having said that the Royal Ballet School does have a tradition of encouraging choreography among some of the students. But, after leaving, the budding ballet choreographers have few of the opportunities that their contemporary colleagues enjoy. Although the RB does now have a workshop programme for a few once a year and I believe that Birmingham RB also does.

What is the effect of these radically different approaches? If I was to quickly name my current top six UK-based choreographers (thus omitting Wheeldon) then a ballet name would not appear.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Jul 23, 2005 6:28 am ]
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Immediatly after writing the above, I read David's review of the latest Ballet Boyz presentation with a pre-curtain up foyer performance by the much less well known Motionhouse Company. The Ballet Boyz, Nunn and Trevitt have an enviable record for presenting and commissioning top quality work, but have only just started choreographing.

In contrast, the Motionhouse Artistic Director, Kevin Finnan completed an MA in Contemporary Performing Arts at University College Bretton Hall in 1997 and has created 16 works for his Company, sometimes in collaboration. It shouldn't come as a surprise that David found the Motionhouse work more satisfying despite a budget probaly less than 10% of that for the Ballet Boyz.

Here is the link to David's excellent review: ... =15#165448

Author:  salzberg [ Sat Jul 23, 2005 7:03 am ]
Post subject: 

I've long said that the three biggest myths in dance are:

1. All dancers can teach,

2. All dancers can choreograph, and

3. All choreographers can be Artistic Directors.

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Jul 23, 2005 7:55 am ]
Post subject: 

As far as the U.S....

In some company schools, young ballet dancers do get encouraged to try their hand at choreography.

At SAB, there is a choreography project for students in the intermediate and advanced levels:

To quote from the website:

Each fall, students are invited to apply as choreographers. Selected students consult with SAB's music instructor on their music selections and select up to four dancers from SAB's Advanced Division on whom they will choreograph a short ballet. Student choreographers are allotted studio rehearsal time over a two week period, culminating in a series of performances in a workshop setting for faculty, staff, fellow students, parents and friends of the School.

Several students have also participated in the NY Choreographic Institute, a program which also helps to nuture budding and emerging ballet choreographers. The alumni of this program include some of the big young names in choreography - Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky etc. SAB students participate as dancers in the Spring sessions.

I don't know about programs at other companies, though given the number of dancer-choreographers at the San Fransisco Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet, I'd assume they have some sort of program. Miami City Ballet has also provided opportunities for young choreographers.

My impression is that dancers like the ones at SAB may do some choreography in school, but that it gets set aside for at leaast the first few seasons in a professional company due to time and energy constraints. It's not until they have a more secure and comfortable position in the company that they may return to choreography on more than an occasional basis.

The combination of SAB and the NYCI seem to have nurtured a lot of choreographic interest at NYCB. Current and former dancers who have had ballets danced by NYCB include Albert Evans, Damian Woetzel, Edwaard Liang, Melissa Barak, Benjamin Millepied and Christopher Wheeldon. Several other dancers have taken part in a NYCI session. Not that all of them a brilliant choreographers, but I believe that the more people who are given the chance to choreographic, the more likely the real talents are to be found.


Author:  Andre Yew [ Sat Jul 23, 2005 12:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

Our local company's school also encourages their kids and the company dancers to choreograph pieces for their annual recital, so the teachers don't have to make everything. I think the best part for me is being surprised at the talent some of the kids show. This year, I was really impressed with the ease and naturalness with which one of the students (probably all of 14 years old) moved her dancers around the stage.


Author:  pixie [ Fri Oct 21, 2005 1:06 pm ]
Post subject:  where to go for choreography?

I am currently doing my degree in Royal Academy of Dance, its my final year and i have picked choreography as my elective.
I am very interested to know what is the next step for me.
I would like to do more choreography; but i am unsure as to where i should go to do my MA, or, if I really need a MA to be able to choreograph.

Author:  artemis [ Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:01 am ]
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I just wanted to say that I don't believe you can get a degree of taking courses will teach you how to choreograph. It might teach you some technical aspects related to choreog. but not how to choreog. Same goes for becoming an artist or writer. You cannot learn to be an artists you either have the genius/magic or you don't.

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