Clare Croft, a dance dramaturg and assistant professor of dance at University of Michigan, answers all our questions on what dramaturgs actually do, and how to best take advantage of one.
The Bottom Line: More choreographers should probably be using them.
Courtesy Clare Croft
What does a dance dramaturg do?
The primary job is to support the choreographer and creative team by helping them do research, like tracking down historic or visual material, documenting the rehearsal process and weighing in on creative choices.
How do they work with a choreographer?
Choreography is still stuck in the 19th century, where a choreographer is expected to be a genius, know everything and be the sole artist in the room. That isn't how people work. A dramaturg can facilitate an atmosphere where there is a healthy back-and-forth conversation. They can weigh in on things like structure and program order.
What can they provide for the audience?
A dramaturg might write a program note to provide context or conduct a post-show Q&A.
Any advice for a choreographer who wants to start using a dramaturg?
Bring them in early in the process, send them away in the middle, and then have them come back. The listening happens over time.
What's the best way to find a dramaturg?
There is no special requirement to be a dramaturg. They often come from academia, but not necessarily. A dramaturg can be your supersmart roommate. You should have some synergy with that person and be able to trust them.