Why Every Dancer Should Choreograph At Least Once, According to Boston Conservatory at Berklee
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
At Boston Conservatory at Berklee—which was just named a top school for aspiring choreographers by College Magazine—choreography courses are an essential aspect of the curriculum. "The skills you learn choreographing make you a better artist all-around, and help you build a diverse portfolio," says dean of dance Tommy Neblett. "Not to mention these skills are transferable to so many different areas within and beyond the performing arts."
Here's why Neblett recommends all dance students try choreography at least once:
1. You'll have a huge professional advantage.
What Goes Unsaid by Boston Conservatory student Brittany Brown
Even if your focus is as a performer, understanding the creative process behind telling a visual story makes you far more valuable to any choreographer or director, says Neblett. Not only do you understand their language, but you can speak it, too.
2. You'll become a better communicator.
Creating new work forces you to practice communication with your dancers and collaborators. Neblett believes that choreographing will give you the skills to clearly articulate your artistic vision, give productive feedback and generate meaningful dialogue.
3. You'll be inspired in new ways.
No Matter How Far They Wander by Boston Conservatory student Asia Pyron
Approaching dance from a choreographer's perspective allows you to think about the art form in ways you might not otherwise, says Neblett. It can unlock stores of creativity you didn't know you had, and that could translate into your artistry as a performer.
4. You'll learn from watching the final product.
There's nothing quite like watching your vision come to life onstage and seeing how audience members respond to it. It's also a great learning opportunity to see which moments translated well, and which didn't, says Neblett.
5. You'll have more freedom.
God Be With Us by Boston Conservatory student Brittany Brown
Professional dancers who can choreograph have more control over their career paths, says Neblett. If you're in between gigs or just feeling like a change, being able to switch gears and channel your creativity in a different way keeps you doing what you love and opens up new opportunities.
On a Hook by Boston Conservatory student Carly Cherone
As the leading school for contemporary dance and a recognized champion for emerging choreographers, Boston Conservatory believes that learning to choreograph is critical in the development of a well-rounded dancer. Learn more about Boston Conservatory's top-ranking BFA in contemporary dance and its many opportunities for choreographers at bostonconservatory.berklee.edu/dance.
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.