Choreographers work with Directors, Producers, Designers and other members of the Production team to plan, create and realise the dance or movement design concept. Choreographers work with trained Dancers, and with Actors, to teach them the required steps and routines, and to ensure that continuity is maintained throughout productions.
Choreographers are always employed on any film production involving dance routines, and on larger-scale musical and/or dance television productions. On bigger budget productions, they may work with an Assistant Choreographer. They may also be employed as Movement Directors, demonstrating correct Period etiquette, robotic movements, menacing movements for gang warfare sequences, helping male actors to play women characters and vice versa, etc.
What is the job?
Choreographers are briefed by the Director about the production, and about the dance styles required. They may be expected to suggest their own ideas, or to realise the Director's vision, but they must always be able to assess the situation quickly in order to work effectively. They also work closely with a variety of production staff, including members of the Visual Effects and Costume Departments, Assistant Directors, etc., and may work with 2nd or 3rd Assistant Directors on scheduling and other organisational matters.
Choreographers are usually involved in the casting of dance roles for productions of all kinds. They also design routines, and may work with an Assistant to experiment in studios, before starting rehearsals with performers. Choreographers carry out any research required into period or contemporary dance styles.
Dancers should be able to learn and adapt quickly to any steps and routines they are taught, but different techniques are required for teaching routines to Actors, as it may be necessary to adjust the movements in order to find a style that suits the characters they portray. The movement is almost always narrative driven. If an Actor has to learn different dance styles, and a partner is required for rehearsals, an Assistant Choreographer may work with them as their dance partner in order to ensure that the routines match the Actor's abilities and capabilities, and also so that the Choreographer can see how the routines look as they develop, and before scenes are shot.
If no Assistant is employed on the production, Choreographers rehearse steps and routines with Actors and Dancers. They may work with the Director, or the Director of Photography, or the First and Third Assistant Directors to prepare performers for routines, and also to help set up shots using monitors to see how the movements will work on screen.
They check the movements during filming, and also on playback monitors, and to ensure the continuity of performances. Choreographers must have very close working relationships with Assistant Choreographers, and may also provide them with training and career development opportunities.
Typical career routes
Choreographers usually start their working lives as Dancers. They may become Dance Captains (who are responsible for ensuring the continuity of the dance, but who have no creative input into its design) in theatrical productions, progress to become Assistant Choreographers, and ultimately Choreographers.
Essential knowledge and skills
Choreographers must be able to retain the steps and routines for each character. They must be imaginative and creative, able to interpret the Director's instructions, and contribute their own ideas to the routines. They must be able to research and prepare for particular styles, and know how to adapt them during rehearsals to suit the needs of the production, the performer, or the Director.
Choreographers need a wide knowledge and experience of different dance techniques, including both historical and contemporary styles. They may also have to adapt sequences, or create new routines at very short notice, and teach them quickly to Dancers or Actors.
Choreographers should be quick thinking, as they often work under great time pressures, but they must remain calm throughout. They must adopt a disciplined approach to their work, and this is acquired during their training as Dancers.
Key Skills include:
Training and qualifications
Choreographers should be qualified Dancers. Courses are available at specialist schools which cater for young people from 10 years of age. Full time training may be undertaken from age 16. Choreography courses are offered by some specialist dance schools, e.g., The Laban Centre.
As the work is physically demanding, most Choreographers maintain their stamina and fitness levels by attending regular dance or fitness classes throughout their careers. They should also continually research and learn new dance styles, in order to expand their repertoires.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset's and the UK Film Council's Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film. For more information, please log onto the Creative Skillset website.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the audio visual industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is the UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit www.skillset.org/careers.
– Equity is the trade union representing artists across the whole spectrum of arts and entertainment, and offers representation, specialist knowledge and advice for its members and student members on work in Film, Television, Radio, and other Live Performance.
– Council for Dance Education and Training
– Dance UK
– BBC offers a wealth of information about careers and training in the media. – BBC Talent runs talent spotting schemes
– The Stage newspaper is the entertainment trade weekly, includes recruitment advertisements, useful links, and 'how to guides', such as finding an agent or drama school.
– Contacts is published annually by The Spotlight, and provides details of all aspects of the entertainment industry.
Choreographer - Film &TV
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