Picture this: you’re in the final round of interviews for that dream job at the biggest dance studio in town. You’re nervous, sweating, and you’re stumbling through an answer to a question that you don’t totally remember. It’s not going well.
Luck is a combination of opportunity and preparation. You’re blowing it because you have the former, but didn’t do enough of the latter.
But it’s okay, because you’re not actually in that final interview. You’re reading this article, which means you still have a bit of time, and you should use as much of that time to prepare as you can.
With that in mind, we’re here to help with some practice interview questions for a position as a dance choreographer, and some tips on how to ace them.
Who is a choreographer whose work you respect and why?
If dance choreography truly is your passion then hopefully this is a question you can rattle off the answer to without even trying. If not, you should be doing your research before showing up at the interview.
Your studio is going to want to get a sense for your aspirations and for the type of work you like to do. Asking you to name some of your favorite choreographers, and why you like them, is a great way to do this.
Don’t neglect that last part either—you’ll need to provide a justification for why you lean towards a Kyle Hanagami over a Dytto.
So, if you haven’t already, spend some time getting to know the top 100 choreographers, especially those in your niche or city. Identify those who you admire or like the most, and write down some reasons why.
Practice answering the question above with a focus on that choreographer. Even if you’re never asked directly, being able to namedrop and display your familiarity with the state of the industry will definitely be useful for other answers.
Can you describe a time when you had difficulty working with a colleague or dancer? How did you resolve it?
Strong teamwork skills are literally always relevant to hiring managers, and that goes double for dance choreographers. You’ll be working with other dance professionals in your studio, clients, visitors, dancers, etc.
The group you’re interviewing with is going to want to know whether you can handle that kind of involved teamwork.
Honesty, here, is the best policy. Your interviewer doesn’t want to hear that you’re perfect. They want to get a window into your mind and the way you think about teamwork. Telling a story about a time when you struggled to work well as a team is a great way to accomplish that goal.
Last tip: Feel free to branch out into other life experiences that have presented you with similar challenges. School projects? Family drama? Rec league sports? Any story that gives you a good platform to talk about a time you learned how to better work as a team is a good one to use.
How do you work with clients who are terrible dancers?
Hate to break it to you, but your career as a choreographer is going to be filled with just as many awkward foot-shufflers as awe-inspiring dancers. As the long-time pro Tanisha Scott points out, “not all your clients will be great dancers”.
She learned that while working with Drake on his smash hit music video for Hotline Bling. You might learn it while working with a similar clumsy star or just while teaching a class of beginners.
Your studio is going to want to know that you have the temperament and skill to help less-than-stellar dancers hit their steps. Do you have what it takes?
Again, the best strategy is to stick to stories. Hypotheticals are vague and unconvincing. If you can tell the interviewer about the time you taught your Dad to dougie properly for your sister’s wedding, you’ll be able to get a sense of how you’ll do the same for your future clients.
Have you ever had to deal with a time crunch for preparing a dance? What are your techniques for dealing with this?
Timeliness means different things for different types of dance choreographers. For educational studios, schools, and youth clubs, there’s fortunately not much more at stake than performance at the next competition. And, ya know, showing up to class on time.
You’ll look better by emphasizing your organizational skills to prove that you can handle many students at once and plan ahead for important dates.
But if you’re fortunate enough to be interviewing for groups that work with large productions like live performances, music videos, movies, and more, your interviewer will want to know that you can bring the thunder with minimal prep time.
Can you point to an incident where you needed to prepare a great dance in a short amount of time?
If you can’t, you may want to take this opportunity to give yourself a challenge. Prep a dance with some friends over a weekend, or try a high-volume challenge to record a new dance every day for a set amount of time.
The beautiful thing about practicing tough questions like these ahead of an interview is that it gives you time to generate an answer even if you don’t have one right away.
What personal attributes do you have that make you a strong candidate for this position?
Hiring Managers want to hire people who are confident in their abilities. You should be your own biggest supporter!
This is especially critical when you consider that a third of hiring decisions are made in the first five minutes of a job interview. You need to walk into the room, grab the attention of the interviewer, and convince them that you believe you’re the best possible person for the role.
You might say something like this:
“I would have to say my ability to effectively instruct and teach is my strongest asset when it comes to being a Dance Choreographer.
You can be the most talented dancer in the world, but if you can't connect with your students and teach them with patience and understanding, then you aren't an effective choreographer.
The relationships I've formed with students and clients over the years really is an indicator of the success I have on the dance floor.
I am so proud of the choreographed dances I've done, and my students and clients make every ounce of hard work worth it.”
How do you deal with stressful deadlines and challenges?
Hiring Managers are looking to see how you respond to challenging situations. It is important that you showcase a positive attitude that is exemplary of a person who can rise up in the face of adversity.
You should communicate your ability to problem-solve and ease tense situations. This is also a great chance to highlight the lessons you’ve already learned to help you perform at your peak.
You might say something like:
“Any job comes with challenges or stresses. Being a Dance Choreographer is not a job for someone who avoids hard work. It can certainly be taxing and challenging on the body and on your mind.
The biggest defense I have formed against challenges and stress in this industry is taking care of my body. Dancing is about movement, and you can't have positive movement with a body that isn't functioning properly.
Being in excellent shape is a part of my job, and I take it very seriously. It enables me to have the stamina and strength to put in long hours and choreograph numbers until they are perfect. Treating my body right has made such a positive impact on my career.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hiring Managers want to hire people with foresight and a good grip on their personal goals. Nobody wants to hire someone who might take off for a fresh start in Bali on a week's notice. Have you ever thought about your five-year plan? Now is a good time to do just that!
In this case, the truth shall set you free. If you don’t see yourself in the same role in five years, tell the interviewer! If anything, ambition is going to be attractive to your future-employer, even if it means you won’t be working there forever.
You might say something like:
“In five years I hope to still be choreographing dances and working with dance students and clients. Dance has been the biggest and most steady pursuit in my life and I can't imagine doing anything else professionally.
A big goal of mine is to choreograph a dance for a Lincoln Center performance. I saw my first ballet there, and I was so moved and inspired by the talent of the dancers. It would be such a tremendous honor for me to showcase my own talents there, and I certainly will strive to try and achieve that goal.”
What led you to become a Dance Choreographer?
Hiring Managers want to hire people who are passionate about what they do. Part of understanding your passion is understanding your story. People want to know how you ended up in the interview chair before them.
Your answer should be indicative of the passion and dedication you have for your career in dance choreography.
You might say something like this:
“For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about the world of Dance.
I realized I wanted to choreograph professionally during college where I choreographed several performances for our dance team. It came so naturally to me, and the feedback I got from viewers and dancers was truly priceless.
Watching the way dances come together and seeing talented dancers turn my vision into reality is an incredible feeling. I knew I wanted to feel the way I do after watching a performance I choreographed for as long as possible. So here I am.”
That’s our set of practice questions! How did you do?
If you want more information on providing great answers to interview questions, check out some other tips. And, always remember that putting time into preparation will help you make sure that you’ll be able to make the most of the opportunity you see.