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Choreography Career

Career Description

A Choreographer creates original dances and develops new interpretations of existing dances. Because few dance routines are written down, choreographers instruct performers at rehearsals to achieve the desired effect. In addition, choreographers usually are involved in auditioning performers.

Common Work Tasks

  • Direct rehearsals to instruct dancers in how to use dance steps, and in techniques to achieve desired effects
  • Design dances for individual dancers, dance companies, musical theatre, opera, fashion shows, film, television productions and special events, and for dancers ranging from beginners to professionals
  • Choose the music, sound effects, or spoken narrative to accompany a dance
  • Advise dancers on how to stand and move properly, teaching correct dance techniques to help prevent injuries
  • Audition performers for one or more dance parts
  • Develop ideas for creating dances, keeping notes and sketches to record influences
  • Train, exercise, and attend dance classes to maintain high levels of technical proficiency, physical ability, and physical fitness
  • Record dance movements and their technical aspects, using a technical understanding of the patterns and formations of choreography
  • Re-stage traditional dances and works in dance companies’  repertoires, developing new interpretations
  • Manage dance schools, or assist in their management

Other Job Titles

Choreographers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Dancers
  • Dance Studio Directors
  • Dance Coaches
  • Directors

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Many colleges and universities award bachelor’s or master’s degrees in dance,  typically through departments of dance, theater, or fine arts. The National Association of Schools of Dance accredits 65 programs in dance. Many programs concentrate on modern dance, but some also offer courses in jazz, culturally specific dance, ballet, or classical techniques. Courses in dance composition,  history and criticism, and movement analysis are also available.

A college education is not essential for employment as a choreographer; however, many choreographers obtain degrees in unrelated fields to prepare themselves for careers after dance. The completion of a college program in dance and education is usually essential to qualify to teach dance in college, high school, or elementary school. Colleges and conservatories sometimes require graduate degrees but may accept performance experience. A college background is not necessary, however,  for teaching dance or choreography in local recreational programs. Studio schools prefer teachers to have experience as performers.

  Because of the rigorous practice schedules of most dancers, self-discipline, patience,  perseverance, and a devotion to dance are essential for success in the field.  Choreographers also must possess good problem-solving skills and an ability to work with people. Good health and physical stamina also are necessary attributes.


The median annual salary for a Choreographer is $36,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $65,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $17,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of choreographers are:

  • Other Schools and Instruction - $38,320
  • Performing Arts Companies - $52,630
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers - $41,920
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools - $31,990
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $48,800

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  2%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 500
  • Employment 2006 : 20,000
  • Employment 2016:  21,000
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