Hive by Boston Conservatory student Alyssa Markowitz. Photo by Jim Coleman

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 Magazinechoreography 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.

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Jim Coleman

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.

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Jim Coleman

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

Eric Antoniou

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

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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.

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Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

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:

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Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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