Become The Muse: What Choreographers Want

May 4, 2016

What do choreographers look for in dancers? I always love hearing the wild range of answers dancemakers give whenever we ask them that question. Their responses vary like crazy, but even when someone’s super specific about technical qualities they want in the dancers they hire, I’ve yet to hear someone ask for only “great extensions and turnout.” (Thank goodness.)

In Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron’s “Choreography in Focus” video series, in which she chats with top choreographers about their process and latest projects, this question is something she almost always asks. My favorite responses tell you just as much about the choreographers themselves as what dancrs who want to work for them should strive for:

Michelle Dorrance:
“I look for their individuality, their unique style…or a character I can see inside them.”

Listen to her full answer at minute 5:42.


Susan Marshall:
“I like dancers who are clearly thinkers, who are making choices, who have an active interior life.”

Hear more at minute 5:50.

Varone and Perron

Doug Varone:
“I look for dancers who are mature. Even though they might be young, they have an old soul.”

Hear more at minute 6:21.

Tere O’Connor:
“I’m looking for people who have a certain kind of expression, and maybe a little bit of a fatigue of doing that expression… Just being in a constant state of questioning, saying, ‘What are we doing here? Why am I doing this?’ And then letting that happen. Just a very kind of complex presence onstage.”

Hear more at minute 8:34.

Annie-B Parson:
“I’m looking for people who can be dry.”

Hear more at minute 0:25.

Margo Sappington:
“Diversity. You have to be able to tap.”

Hear more at minute 5:38.


Perron and Neenan

Matthew Neenan:
“Heart. And I think coordination—they don’t necessarily have to have the most beautiful balletic line…but their body understands how to get from A to B to P and Z. And they understand how it feels to be lifted up and really earthy.”

Hear more at 5:57.


Dwight Rhoden:
“They have to have a sense of who they are. Or if they don’t know who they are yet, they have an idea of who they want to be.”

Hear more at minute 7:15.



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