Career Profile: Choreographer
Have you ever watched a movie, musical, or theatre production and wondered where the dancing or fight scenes come from? This is the work of choreographers, entertainment industry professionals who use their love and passion for music and dance to create dance routines and other physical movement performances, then teach them to the actors, singers, dancers, and other people who will perform them.
Choreographers can work on television or movie productions, live theatre and musicals, or for dance and stage productions, and can create routines for single or duet performances, as well as chorus dancers or large groups of performers. They can also work as dance instructors at all levels of experience, and for all different types of dance, from formal ballet to ballroom to modern dance. They take a script or musical score and develop a routine that matches the lyrics or song to tell a story, evoke emotions, or otherwise interpret the music into a physical performance.
In many cases, formal education in choreography isn’t required; many choreographers begin their careers as dancers themselves, and over time begin to create routines for themselves and others. However, it is common to participate in workshops or learn directly from a mentor in the industry to broaden one’s skillset and learn new techniques and movement styles.
Besides a strong understanding of music and body movement, choreographers need a creative mind, a great sense of rhythm, and strong interpersonal skills to work with many unique creative individuals at all levels of a production. Choreographers also need strong time management skills in order to manage instruction, practices, and performance schedules with multiple participants, so that everyone is ready by the time a performance goes live.
There are choreographer jobs all across Canada, though the largest number and higher paying opportunities tend to be in larger towns and cities that have multiple theatre, dance, teaching, and performance businesses. Cities with strong entertainment industries, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, will have the greatest number and variety of job opportunities.
While some choreographers can be employed full-time by a theatre or other entertainment company, in many cases choreographers are hired as contractors for individual shows or productions. This means that along with their choreography skills, they need to know how to operate as an independent business person, market themselves and their work, and manage their own bookings and work schedule. This includes creating and keeping current a portfolio showcasing their dance and choreography work – relatively easy to do with a website and social media featuring performance videos – as well as general accounting and business management.
This is a great career path for those who love music, being creative, and creating art. Those who love working as part of a team will enjoy working with dancers to create dance routines. On the other hand, this is also a very physically demanding job. It can be very stressful to prepare performances, and freelance work can be very irregular.
The salary for a choreographer will vary depending on the type of job and whether it is a large or local production, but average earnings are around $50,000 to $60,000 yearly for experienced people. Early career choreographers can expect to start out earning around $30,000, or around the provincial minimum hourly wage.
CareerExplorer. “What does a choreographer do?” https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/choreographer/
Get Into Theatre. “What Does a Choreographer Do?” https://getintotheatre.org/blog/what-does-a-choreographer-do-in-theatre
Glassdoor. “Choreographer Salaries in Canada.” https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/choreographer-salary-SRCH_KO0,13.htm
Job Bank. “Choreographer.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/summary-occupation/5372/22437