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.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.