Lauren Outlaw talks about her career as a Choreographer. You can find Lauren at www.mzoutlaw.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a professional choreographer and dance educator.
How would you describe what you do?
WORK HARD! I choreograph and create dances for all arena’s. From competitive high schools and colleges to concert tours, and TV Shows.
What does your work entail?
Creativity, Originality, Commitment, Flexibility, Positive and Open attitude, and lots of passion. First and foremost I strongly believe that you have to be passionate about whatever you are doing. If you are not passionate about it, then don’t do it. You need to have a natural knack of creativity in you.
You need be able to get inspired and create even when you’re not inspired. You want your work to stand out and be original. You want people know it’s your work based on your style and originality. Kind of like a signature! You need to be 100% committed because some jobs require lots of time and energy. Flexibility comes in when you create something and the person you are working for is not happy with it, or wants you to make changes or adjustments to it. You can never be 100% committed to a movement or routine because you never know what may need to happen in order to satisfy the client. In some instances, you make create something and when you put it on your dancers, it doesn’t look how you imagined it to or created it to.
Another reason to be completely flexible with your creations. Sometimes, when you have to re-create something or adjustments, you are pleasantly surprised how it comes together better than the original did. At that moment you are happy the adjustments were necessary because it challenged you to create an even better piece of work.
What’s a typical work week like?
It depends on the season. This job has moments where there is lots of work, and then there are times when you are in need of work. A work week in this job is never typical. It changes from week to week and sometimes day to day. You have to love and welcome the unexpected.
How did you get started?
Originally I was asked to just teach some dance classes at a local studio. I started teaching weekly classes, and along with teaching comes creating dances. The more I got the opportunity to create, the more I fell in love with idea of creating.
What do you like about what you do?
Everything. I love every minute of what I do. I get to teach and educate dancers about the art form as well as the industry, importance of education and hopefully I am inspiring them along the way.
What do you dislike?
Nothing. I love every minute of what I do. I take the good with the not so good, and turn it into good. I am Blessed to be able to do what I Love everyday! And get paid to do it!
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
Each job comes with different compensation. Some jobs are hourly, some are daily, monthly, and some are contract. Based on the level of your experience and what the job entails you can adjust your rate accordingly.
How much money do Choreographers make?
Most choreographers start out as dance teachers. Dance teachers are usually paid by the hour, by the class, or by the student. It all depends on the situation. Depending on your level on experience, choreographers can make anywhere from 35K a year upwards to 250K a year.
How much money did/do you make starting out as a Choreographer?
Starting out of a choreographer you need to be able to take a lower pay scale. Experience is the most important thing you can gain. While you are gaining experience, sometimes you will need to do things for free, to build your resume. You have to be very humble, and remember that everyone has to start out somewhere. Starting out I think I made $14/HR. Now with my level of experience I can and do charge up to $150/hr for my time and work. Again, it also depends on the type of job and what the job entails.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Technically speaking you don’t need any education or training to be a choreographer. Realistically speaking, Education, Schooling and Training is necessary to be successful at this job. I would suggest anyone who wants to be a choreographer know their dance style’s basic technique. You can’t teach someone something you don’t know.
Education is also important. Knowing the fundamentals of other dance styles is very helpful. Knowing the connectivity between different styles. For example; If you are going to be a jazz choreographer, you need to know the basic fundamentals of ballet and know that jazz is in a way an extension of ballet. The more you know, the better equipped you are. You can Never stop learning and you can never feel like you don’t need to learn.
I highly recommend taking classes from as many different teachers and choreographers as possible. There are so many amazing choreographers out there, you want to be able to find you voice amongst them all. Dance is constantly changing and evolving and the more educated you are, the better choreographer you can be or become.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Dealing with different personalities all the time can seem challenging at times. You have to deal with the client’s personalities, which vary, and then you have to deal with the dancers personalities. They also vary. Melting everyone’s attitudes together to create a magical moment while keeping yourself sane and professional at times can be difficult.
What is most rewarding?
Seeing all your hard work come to life on the stage. Another amazing feeling is having dancers come back to you and say “You inspired me to do this or after working with you, I had the courage to go try that.” Knowing that you are making a difference in lives is to me, more rewarding than any paycheck I have ever received.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Be dedicated to it. It may take some time to get to where you want to be, so you have to willing to put in the hard work and time. Rejection is part of this job, so being able to handle NO is also very important. You have to realize that everyone wont like your work and style, but stay dedicated to it, and in the end you will succeed!
How much time off do you get/take?
I try not to take off at all. This career give you down moments, from time to time, so whenever there is work I am working. Sometimes I am on the road 8 straight months out of the year. I love the travel and everything that comes along with it, but I can honestly say I do have moments when I say, “It feels good to be home.”
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I honestly don’t know? This is something I’ve never really thought about it?
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I’m a big believer in DREAMING BIG! I have goals and dreams to do plenty of things dance related and some not dance related. One goal that I have that is dance related is to choreograph a Super Bowl half-time show. I am a football fanatic, so to me that would be an ultimate achievement and accomplishment! Your work, aired on a stage to millions across the world! Priceless! Something else on my list of things to do would be to be a guest judge on Iron Chef America! It may sound stupid to some people, but I love eating World cultural foods, and having the tops chefs in the world compete to feed you would be great!
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
This job takes Hard Work and dedication to be successful at it. No one else is going to work as hard for your career as you will. So be prepared to knock down and overcome every and anything that may stand in your way. DREAM BIG. WORK HARD!