By. Brian Henninger
Today I want to talk about a job I recently worked where I was the choreographer and 3 things that I noticed in the most valuable members of the cast. When you get the chance to step on the other side of “the table” as we metaphorically like to call it you really begin to notice some of the habits, both good and bad, that dancers have. Even if you are the most aware dancer ever, its not until you get the chance to choreograph or direct that you really begin to notice the qualities of dancers that you really want to work with. Here are 3 qualities that will definitely set you apart from the pack and make you valuable to almost any choreographer you work with.
Ask “SMART” questions: This is hugely helpful in the rehearsal process for more reasons then you might think. When you take the opportunity to ask a question about something specific to the piece and also a question that several other dancers may also have, it helps the choreographer to actually set the piece better. There is so much that is going on in a choreographers mind in a rehearsal setting that things will inevitably fall through the cracks. Choreographers may breeze over details or rush through teaching choreography. While it is your job to be able to pick up the steps no matter what, if your aware and know that several people are missing the same step or there is a crazy traffic pattern that just isn’t working, the ability to ask a intelligent question that addresses that issue in a way that doesn’t undermine the choreographer but instead supports them not only solves the problem but creates a very beneficial energy in the room. Often times there is this invisible line between the choreographer and dancers, but in reality it is a collaborative process. asking smart questions and clarifying sections of choreography lets the choreographer know that your paying attention and that you could potentially be a valuable asset as an assistant.
Be completely present: As a choreographer it can get very annoying to be trying to articulate a creative idea and concept while people are talking, even if it is about the routine. The more focused you can be on the choreographer and their direction, and TRUSTING them that any crazy transitions or holes in choreography will get sorted out, the more easily the rehearsal process will run for everyone. I know as dancers that we can easily fall into being to in our own heads during rehearsals. We stress about a section we learned an hr ago instead of staying in the moment and trusting that we will go back and review. There is a lot of dead time at rehearsals for the individual dancer because of focusing on different sections at different times, but the more engaged you can be in the entire process the easier it is for the choreographer to get their job done.
Have a champion work ethic and personality: I can’t stress this one enough. Your work ethic and personality are the two most important things you possess as a dancer. I would rather work with someone who I enjoy being around who works hard, but maybe isn’t as fast a learner or as talented as others. The reason why is because I LOVE WHAT I DO. I want to spend my time enjoying what I do, and if surrounding myself with real, genuine, good people contributes to more happiness for me then thats exactly what I am going to do. Thats not just me either, thats 99 percent of choreographers. No one really wants to work with a lazy person or a bad energy, no matter how brilliant of a performer they are. Long story short? Just be cool, and work hard. Its really that simple!
These are just 3 qualities that I really noticed as being valuable in a dancer from the viewpoint of myself working as a choreographer. Every choreographer has their quarks, likes and dislikes, but these 3 qualities will absolutely help you to create a positive work environment when on set or in rehearsal.
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