Read as Gregg Russell gets JobShadowed about his career as a choreographer. You can find Gregg on his website at www.tapintothenetwork.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am a professional dancer/choreographer and teacher. I also run my own corporation titled 3D Dance Network, INC. which produces and creates opportunities for dancers.
How would you describe what you do?
My main profession is traveling and teaching dance to all ages. I work with private workshops along with conventions like Co. Dance and Dance Olympus. I also produce and host a summer tour of tap intensives called Tap into the Network. Other side projects include mixing music, writing for dance publications, and having my own tap company, Tap Sounds Underground.
What does your work entail?
Teaching all ages in usually tap, musical theater, jazz and hip hop. Also, with running my own corporation, I also need to manage finances and organize details for traveling and shows.
What’s a typical work week like?
I teach 2-3 days during the week locally in LA and then travel around 40 weekends a year, with another 15-20 weeks, teaching and choreographing. This includes preparation and coordinating music.
How did you get started?
My mom taught dance when I was young and she put me in class to keep me occupied. I was a very hyper kid and tap dancing was the one art form that I gravitated towards that challenged me and taught me focus.
What do you like about what you do?
Just to say out loud “I dance for a living” is awesome. Also, with teaching and creating projects, it is amazing to see people achieve what they want and enjoy the sense of movement. I would not be at peace with my life if dance did not exist in it. To create this for others is the most satisfying.
What do you dislike?
I would say the constant traveling can be grueling. And sometimes when I end up teaching discipline and rules instead of dance. I feel that this is the responsibility of the parents/guardians, so it can be frustrating as a few students make it difficult for the full class. With that said, my motto is: “A good teacher teaches what they want. A great teacher teaches what is necessary.”
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I get paid independently from studios, conventions, etc… I also sell my own instructional DVD’s along with music. Lastly, with working professionally, you can make residuals on movies, TV shows and commercials. This is where every time it is played or sold, you make a small amount. Adds up after many jobs.
How much money do Choreographers make?
This can range from $400-$20,000 for the day. Depends on your resume, and type of job. A lot of times, you are compensated not just for the time on set or in the studio, but for all the preparation time and direction of concept.
How much money did/do you make starting out as a Choreographer?
You usually can get paid $1000 for the day with film or TV or stage show. If you are choreographing in a studio for recital or competition group, you could start anywhere from $350-$500 for the routine, depending on the size of the routine. Sometimes, if you visit or see the students numerous times, you might get paid your hourly rate, which can add up more over time.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
You can go to college to get a degree in dance, but it is not necessary. A lot of known choreographers, grew up around dance at dance studios, worked professionally for a bit then developed into choreographers. Skill set varies with what style of dance. In the big scheme of things, the more you study and learn of all styles of dance, allow you to create your own style which helps you stand out.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I would say the traveling again.
What is most rewarding?
Experiencing the people and opportunities throughout my career.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Be patient and never forget that passion you have for dance. So many dancers have certain expectations, and when they don’t occur, then frustration sets in and the passion can get lost. Also, always have another vocation to help with the financial side of things. You can make a lot of money dancing, but it takes time, so set your self up so that you can be patient and not have to stop dancing because of finance problems.
How much time off do you get/take?
Maybe 3-4 weeks total a year. It’s very time consuming, but worth it.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That because we are dancing, it’s not a real job. Teaching dance alone, helps so many kids and adults with self expression, confidence and personality. And that’s not even “tapping” into the physical benefits of being fit, flexible and healthy.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Not to sound cliche, but just continuing doing what I’m doing and creating more opportunities for the community of dance.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
Be prepared and remember that a professional dancer/choreographer is not just a job but a life style!