Case study

Professional performer, teacher and choreographer — Anita Mannings

After completing a degree in musical theatre, Anita went on to study in and work in New York City. She shares her worldwide experience of working as a choreographer

How did you get into the world of choreography?

I completed a three-year course in Musical Theatre at Bodywork Company, graduating in 2016. I then completed an extra year of training at Broadway Dance Centre in NYC and graduated in 2017.

I have been employed as a choreographer in many ways - there isn't really a 'set in stone' method, as the arts industry is extremely subjective. Different ways I've gained work as a choreographer include through social media, by submitting ideas to a choreographer call out, through teaching, word of mouth and through producing my own work.

What's a typical working day like?

Working as a choreographer and teacher means that every single day can vary. I find that daunting and exciting at the same time.

A typical day would involve doing admin/emails in the morning at home, then the rest of the day would usually involve taking dance classes, applying for opportunities and auditions, teaching or choreographing if I have a job that day, attending auditions and going to the gym. Being self-employed means that you must put yourself out there constantly.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the power that choreography gives me. As a dancer you're just a body, but as a creative you make your own rules - and can use dance to make an impact and to raise awareness of things that you feel strongly about. Choreography is my way of expressing myself.

What are the challenges?

For me, the biggest challenge is staying motivated and self-disciplined. There is no-one to tell you you must be at work from 9am-5pm - it's up to you. Furthermore, being a creative can be lonely at times, as you're on a different schedule from everyone else.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My performing arts training made me extremely versatile, not only as a dancer but as a singer and actor. Having an equal respect for the varied disciplines in the arts allows me as a choreographer to be open to new ideas, styles of movement and collaborations. I feel my training has also given me a deeper understanding of being an artist and adds a storytelling element to each of my pieces. During my training, we were deeply encouraged to choreograph alongside our practical studies, and when I took the leap of faith of choreographing in my third year, I never looked back.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When I first started to choreograph, I used mostly contemporary and lyrical dance styles. As the years have gone by, I've trained in more commercial and hip-hop styles and this has filtered into my work. When I look back to my first piece and compare it to my most recent, they are worlds apart!

One of my career ambitions is to choreograph for a West End show; I love the collaboration process of dance, acting and singing.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

My three tips to any aspiring choreographers:

  • Don't be afraid to be different. Sometimes watching too much social media or our peers can make us think that our style isn't relevant enough. Just be yourself and trust yourself.
  • Find ways to keep yourself motivated because as a freelancer, work doesn't always come to you directly (watch a show that inspires you, talk with other creatives, go to a dance class).
  • Although your job is a big part of your life, don't forget to take breaks from it. Sometimes, the best ideas and inspiration can strike when you're relaxing with friends and family, or taking some time for yourself.

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