Having just finished working on The World’s End, and with extensive experience in choreography (from Scott Pilgrim to Supernoodles), Litza Bixler will be joining the Rizzle Kicks set next week. She took time out of her busy schedule to give you guys some tips on how to be choreographers…
Assisting a choreographer is essential
Litza didn’t do this – she came from an arts background and worked her way up – but she stresses its importance. “Assisting is free training, you won’t get paid but it’ll mean you don’t have to pay for a choreography course,” Litsa says. “Too many people come out of uni or whatever and think they should be getting choreography jobs. You have to assist before you can run the show – same with directing.” Whether you’ve done a course, or been a dancer first, both of these are legitimate ways in. Courses allow you to spend a whole year working on pieces, but…
Being a dancer is the easiest way in
In an industry that’s heavily based on who you know, professional dancing means you’ll make contacts that can be mined later when moving behind the scenes. “The route tends to go ‘dancer, assistant then choreographer’. My assistants have mostly been dancers but you don’t need to be the best in the world,” says Litza. “In fact, highly trained and successful dancers sometimes don’t make the best choreographers as they find it hard to let go of the performer in them.” Depending on the sort of choreography you’d like to go into, it can lead to a stable job as opposed to a freelance lifestyle, too: “Ballet dancers who work for a company, can become choreographers for that company. That’s a lot more stable and secure than starting out freelance.”
Know which area you want to go into
Commercial choreographers work on film, adverts, music videos and TV programmes like The X Factor, whereas there are on-stage choreographers who do West End work, contemporary dance, or ballet. Doing some form of course can often help you figure out which type is for you: “With the contemporary dance world, it’s a mix of training in both contemporary and ballet. Most would have done a uni degree or gone to somewhere like White Lodge or Central London school of contemporary dance.” You can, of course, do a bit of everything – and keep in mind that fight choreography is where a lot of the jobs and the money is at. “I do all sorts, but there are those who make names for themselves with a signature style. If you’re physical and good at movement, it’s worth looking into becoming Stunt Certified. There are lot of courses, and it’s hard work but fight choreographers are always in demand.”
Create a showreel
“This is essential, as there’s no other way people are going to see what you’ve done. Of course, when starting out, doing a course is useful because you’ve got material you can put together,” Litza advises. Here’s a great article on editing your showreel if you’re a bit of a novice, but make sure it’s slick and shows off a range of your best work – you’ll also need to tailor it for different types of work.
If you want to work onstage, why not set up your own touring company? “Young choreographers can apply for the Arts Council or local authority funding,” Litza says. “Matthew Bourne, for example, probably started out doing Arts Council funded projects, but has become more commerical now, raising money through investors and box office sales etc.” Festivals and competitions specifically for young choreographers can really help with exposure too: “There are lots of festivals run at Jacksons Lane and The Place runs a Resolution! show which is a great opportunity to get your work seen as well as receiving feedback.”
Check out Litza’s site and keep your eyes peeled for more of her work over the next few weeks as she takes to the set of Rizzle Kicks’ Lost Generation video, which we’re producing together with O2.