Case study

Professional performer, teacher and choreographer — Emily Weaver

From teaching to charity events, Emily has covered a wide range of roles as a choreographer. She shares her experience of working as a part-time freelance choreographer alongside her full-time job

How did you get into choreography?

I studied a BA Honours Degree in Performance from Southampton Solent University. I met Julie, the principal of Mad4Dance, in a workshop. She was looking to expand her classes in contemporary dance and asked if I'd like to come in for a test class. I've taught contemporary for 12 years and set up a group called New Springs, which is a group of dance professionals who come together once a week to choreograph a piece of dance which will be performed at the end of term.

What's a typical working day like?

As choreography is a part-time role, I normally take an hour or so a month to plan what ideas I could use for inspiration. This could be a dance piece I've seen online, a piece of music, a feeling, situation, object... anything! Then, depending on whether I'm teaching or not, I'll choreograph at home or in the studio. Before each class, there's a warmup and a good chat to get anything on our minds out into the open so that we're fully focused.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Watching an initial thought or inspiration develop and grow into a piece of dance.

What are the challenges?

Getting choreographer's block! I try to just go with what I can at the time and go back to the original concept or listen to the music to see what images come up. This can be hard if you've had a busy day and you're not fully in it.

Another challenge can be getting inspiration for new movement. At times you can feel as though you are using the same material but in a different sequence. It's important to keep learning yourself and trying new styles/teachers and learn from other dancers.

In what way is your degree relevant?

In my final year I learnt many techniques of how to gain inspiration and generate ideas for choreographing. It helped me learn how to move through the blockers and most of all taught me that there's no set way to dance. Movement is your own.

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

I have taught from ages 4-18 throughout the years, which has given me confidence and experience in dealing with a vast variety of abilities and personalities. Learning to work with each person individually and adapt my choreography to best suit the dancer has enabled me to grow as a teacher and choreographer.

My group, New Springs, is a class for dance professionals such as teachers, dancers and choreographers to come together in a non-intimidating environment to choreograph and dance to build their confidence and self-esteem. We've been running for three years now and have performed many times at Mad4Dance shows, as well as created our own dance show, 'Road to Recovery', to raise money for Dorset Mind charity.

I now help Julie at Mad4Dance with her business, having just moved into the Mad4Dance new premises. In the last year we've raised £50,000 to renovate the Royal British Legion community hall into dance studios and create a brand new wellbeing centre for Christchurch to help young adults in the community.

What advice can you give to other aspiring choreographers?

  • Don't stop learning from others. Keep up to date and you'll never run dry of choreography.
  • Go with it. When you feel a blocker, try not to overthink. Listen to the music and your body and go with what comes naturally.
  • Remember each person is different. If the choreography doesn't fir the person, don't force it - adapt.

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