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A Choreographer's Role & Duties

Definition of Choreography
   The word choreography comes from the Greek, meaning "circular dance," and is often referred to as the art of making structures in which movement occurs. This movement is referred to as choreography, and the people who create choreography are choreographers.

    Choreographers work in many different theatrical venues including opera, musical theater, and musical productions that feature folk, ethnic, tap, jazz, or other popular kinds music and dance. Choreographers are involved in television, movies, music videos, staging of commercials, auditioning performers for dance parts, and also working with non-dance performers in complex martial arts scenes. There is an increasing demand for choreographers in figure skating, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics and floor programs for individuals who have extensive backgrounds in the specific sport. Cheer teams at high school and colleges are another area attracting choreographers.

    Most choreographers usually have a performing dance background with years of experience working in the theater and with dance companies. A college degree is not generally a requirement for professional choreographers unless they are working in a school environment . A high school diploma, with courses in speech, drama, music, and the visual arts, is highly recommended.

    Some choreographers also may help coordinate costume design, lighting, and choosing the music/sound effects that convey a message.

    Choreographers communicate complex ideas and emotions through body movements and facial expressions that translate stories, ideas and moods into movements that may involve:

•    expressing ideas through physical movements, patterns, and formations
•    choosing music, sound effects, or spoken narrative to accompany movement
•    experimenting with different dancers, dance steps and placements
•    restaging a previous work of ballet or modern dance with a new interpretation
•    auditioning dancers for parts
•    teaching dancers or other performers
•    demonstrating the exact technique for dancers.

    In order to use the human body as a form of communication, choreographers must consider the physical and emotional limitations to individuals they will be working with.

    When conducting rehearsals, a choreographer must create a positive and trusting environment for individuals to be encouraged to participate in a creative "risk taking environment".

    To achieve a permanent record of a body of work, the use of recording equipment or choreographic methods are used to recording the dancers movements and patterns. For computer software see Dance Designer.

    In small dance companies, choreographers may have additional artistic or management responsibilities. For example, they may:

•    planning lighting effects, set, and costume design
•    incorporating images, text, interactive media, live or recorded music into production
•    coordinate out of own rehearsals and tours for part of the year to supplement a limited
      performance schedule at home.

Working Conditions    
    Choreographers work especially long hours including weekends and holidays. Rehearsals are particularly busy times for choreographers because they must spend time with artistic directors, theater designers and the technical crew. Rehearsals may take place during the day or in the evening to accommodate dancers who also may work at other jobs. Performances usually are in the evening.

Personal Characteristics    
    Choreographers need the following characteristics:

•    a strong desire to create innovative dances and teach others
•    ability to create a unique vision
•    taking charge/managing a project
•    the ability to build a support system to facilitate their vision
•    an appreciation of various music styles    

Educational Requirements    
    Most choreographers have a background in ballroom and ballet styles from classical to modern dance that allows them to draw on these traditions in interpretive projects. Choreographers should have an understanding of:

•    historical costumes
•    social and cultural trends
•    human anatomy
•    body movement potential of dancers
•    background in production design
•    ability to read music

    Dance training is available through colleges, universities, private dance schools and professional dance companies. There are universities that offer a four year Bachelor of Arts degree program in dance with a concentration in choreography and performance. Usually an audition is required. 

    Some dance companies provide opportunities for experienced dancers to learn by working under the direction of skilled choreographic designers. Usually classes in choreography are part of such dance programs.

Employment Opportunities
    Professional choreographers often work part time as choreographers and work in other occupations such as dancer, dance teacher or movement coach as well. Some are the artistic directors of their own dance companies.

    Choreographers usually work with professional dance companies. Full time or resident positions are rare. In fact, dance companies often ask a member of their dance troupe to create new works rather than contract with a choreographer.

    Prospective choreographers who enroll in formal programs should consider including courses in movement analysis and the history, composition and criticism of dance. Additionally, a degree in music, history or visual arts is a plus.

    Becoming a choreographer takes a lot of discipline and the ability to work with people as well as having good problem solving skills. The choreographer must be able to instruct performers in the proper way to carry out the steps and body positions to create the desired effect.

    The job of the choreographer is to tell a story or convey a message through a combination of dance, music, sound and other creative devices. Choreographers spend countless hours in a dance studio teaching step-by-step instructions and breaking down routines to individual dancers or groups. Choreographers are also usually responsible for costume design, sound effects and lighting when it is time for their students to attend a performance.

   Some of elite choreographers of U.S. figure skaters in 2010:

•Lori Nichol
•Tom Dickson and Shae Lynn Bourne
•David Wilson
•Jim Peterson
•Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva
•Natalia Linichuk
•Yaroslava Nechaeva and Yuri Chesnichenko

    The following resource articles discuss efforts to introduce performance skills into a well balanced and choreographed figure skating program.


What is the role of a choreographer  What is the role of a critic and innovator? The critic and innovator role is applied to minor parties in politics. The critic and innovator roles differ as the critic's job to to observe record the strength and weakness in order to compare the performance with other performances. The choreographer is charged with devise the best program that the performer can achieve in a balance with their ability to embrace the music through their creative body movements.

Production Staff Roles & Responsibilities

Contemporary dance  combines the elements of modern and classical ballet.


Figure Skating and Ballet Relationship    Does ballet really enhance the skater’s performance or on-ice technique? The “skating experts” say yes, and so do the ballet pros. But what is it specifically that is taught and practiced in ballet that relates to the specific elements on the ice?

How do you develop choreography?    Two methods that are standard are the structured and freestyle method . 

The structured method is described as movements that are formally arranged and repeated in a
predetermined order and usually performed to the same piece of music each time the routine is used.”

The freestyle method is described as “movements that are built and sequenced either by using
linear progressions or by placing movements into patterns or combinations. Linear movements
are easier for instructors to use in the beginning because the movement develops from the prior movement.

Artistry in Motion (AIM) Curriculum is designed to educate skaters on the basic principles and philosophy of ... incorporating Artistry in Motion in conjunction with the USFS Basic Skills Bridge Program.

Dance Technique Handbook, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Department of Dance

Music for Figure Skating    Skating to music is a very important part of figure skating. This article will help figure skaters with music selection.

Tips for Cutting Good Music  What are some of the things you should think about when you cut new music?

Choreography Expression and Style!    by Figure skating Choreographer Lorna Brown is a British and World Professional ice skating champion and a world and Olympic figure skating coach. In this article, she gives some thoughts on figure skating choreography, expression, and style.

How to Choose Music for Ice Skating  by Lorna Brown  Choosing your music is so very personal, if the skater doesn't feel the music then it will never look good no matter how good the choreography is, because it is the feeling above everything - else which allows the skater to interpret and express the music.

Interview with Figure Skater Oksana Baiul - Figure Skating News

Artistry in Motion by Paula Wagener    This is an excellent article by Paula Wagener who is the inventor of the Artistry in Motion (AIM) US Figure Skating Basic Skills Program.
Magic of Style DVDs and Videos by Ann-Margreth Frei    Ann-Margreth Frei was Swedish National Champion. This is a series of training DVD/videos, teaching step-by-step how to improve the style and appearance of skaters.

V. U. Sound Studio   V.U. Sound Studio produces and edits high quality figure skating music.
SK8 Tunes - Figure Skating Music    SK8 Tunes is a music editing service for figure skaters and coaches.
Michelle Kwan: World Champion Skates to Azerbaijani Symphonic   Michelle's choreographer, Lori Nichol discovered the Amirov music and choreographed Michelle Kwan's Figure Skating Program.

Richard Dwyer    Mr. Dwyer's was Mr. Debonair in Ice Follies and later in Ice Capades. His role made him one of the most popular ice show personalities in history.

Gary Beacom       Choreography, but for me it is not just a. matter of setting steps — “People have called my style weird and offbeat. It was not intended to be that way. I just came up with something that was little bit different.” — Gary Beacom

Relationship Dynamics and Dimensions of Support for Figure Skaters: Implications for Schooling

Coach’s Manual: Choreography & Style for Skaters by Ricky Harris

Ballet for Figure Skaters


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Choreography and Artistic Performances
Choreography - An Art or Science?
Role of Skating Technique in Choreography
Music's Role in Creating Skating Programs

Role of the Choreographer in Figure Skating
A Choreographer's Role & Duties
Choreography & Presentation
The Role of Choreography in Presentation
Event Required Elements
Choreographing Free Skating Programs
Choreographing Artistic Skating Programs
Differences in Artistic, Interpretive Events
Choreographing Showcase Events
Theater On Ice
Creating Dance Content
Skater Feedback

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