Do you like to dance? When you hear your favorite song come on the radio, do you begin to move to the beat? Dancing can be a wonderful way to express yourself artistically!

We like to watch dancers on television, too. Over the past several years, dancing shows have gained huge audiences. People can’t seem to get enough of dancing!

If you’ve ever watched professionals dancing on television, in a movie, or as part of a live show or ballet, you’ve probably noticed that their moves appear to be carefully planned out. What might look spontaneous at times was probably sketched out and practiced for hours before the first performance.

And who’s responsible for all that careful planning? While the dancers themselves may come up with ideas from time to time, the person responsible for putting it all together into a beautiful, compelling performance is the choreographer.

Choreographers design and direct dance routines. They not only invent and perfect dance moves, but they also practice them to make sure that they coordinate with music and provide entertainment for the audience. The word “choreography” actually comes from the Greek words that mean “dance writing.”

Some famous choreographers, such as Bob Fosse, George Balanchine, Alvin Ailey, and Martha Graham, may work as freelance artists who own their own choreography businesses. Other choreographers might work for dance studios, universities, or movie or television production companies.

Choreographers might work with individual dancers or large groups. As they teach dance moves by example, they also provide encouragement and guidance to the dancers. While the final dance might be just a few minutes long, it can take weeks and even months to perfect even a short routine.

In addition to professional dancers, choreographers often use their knowledge of dance and the body’s movements to choreograph routines for a wide variety of other types of professionals, including gymnasts, cheerleaders, synchronized swimmers, divers, and ice skaters. Anyone who must perform a routine to music can benefit from the help of a choreographer. Modern choreographers often use advanced technology to synchronize dance moves with lights, music and video presentations!

26 Join the Discussion

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    • We’re oh-so-happy to hear that you learned something new about dance today, Vidhya! Choreography and photography sound similar, but they are quite different! You can check out great examples of choreography and dancing by watching the movie Singing in the Rain! :)

  1. Dear Wonderoplis,
    I’m in my 4th year in dance in Lancaster, Wisconson. A choreographer is a person who make up the dance moves and picks the song.

    Ade from Lancaster

    • WOW, we’re so happy this Wonder relates to something you’ve been practicing for quite a while, Ade! How cool! We Wonder if you enjoy a certain type of dance? Have you’ve worked with the same or different choreographers during your four years of dance? We bet you have a great time dancing and learning! :)

  2. I sometimes like to dance, but I really love to hear the beat of the music. Whenever I go to the skating rink on my field trip on Friday, I get my skates and skate to the music and beat.

    • Hey there, Carlos! We are so glad you enjoy music and skating to the beat! We like that you’re thinking about how you’re going to enjoy your skating field trip with the help of a little music! We’re so glad you’re back today, Carlos! :)

    • That sounds like a WONDERful production to have seen, Oliva! Cinderella is a great musical and we bet the dancing (or choreography) was just spectacular! Thanks for sharing your great comment with us today! :)

  3. Hey Wonderopolis, I love to dance every single day. There’s not one day I don’t dance! I feel that dance is a way to show who you are and how you’re feeling without having to say anything. So when you don’t feel like talking… Dance!

    • HOORAY, we’re so glad this Wonder surprised you, Sophia! We Wonder if you have ever choreographed a dance with your friends? We like to stay healthy and have fun by dancing! It’s a great way to keep your mind sharp and your feet happy! :)

    • WOW, we bet your aunt would be happy to hear that you’ve been WONDERing about her awesome profession today, Kimberly! We are glad to hear about your cool connection to today’s movin’ and shakin’ Wonder! Have a super day! :)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I have been going on wonderopolis. It is awesome thank you for making this website I went to dance for 1 year.

    From Kacey

    • We bet you are familiar with choreography from your year of dance, Kacey! HOW COOL! We’re so glad you’re here today and we look forward to WONDERing with you again soon! :)

  5. Hi wonderopolis! I haven’t sent a comment in a wile. In fact I was just watching Michael Jackson videos. I like to watch people dance. But I don’t plan things very good like a choreographer. Rylie from Mrs. Phillips’ class

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Rylie! We are so glad you’re back today! We think it’s lots of fun to take part in dance of all kinds, even if we are audience members! Thanks for looking up some choreography videos on your own, we are glad you’ve continued to Wonder! We Wonder if you have a favorite type of dance, like Wonder #114– What is Flamenco Dancing? :)

    • Thanks for telling us, Hunter K! We are so glad to hear it! We Wonder what you learned from today’s dancing Wonder? :)

    • Great question, Berkleigh! We are so lucky to have LOTS of Wonder Friends who share their comments with us, and sometimes it takes a little time to read, review and approve those comments. We are glad you asked, and we hope you see your comment posted for your review! We are so glad that you and your sisters enjoy Wonderopolis– we always look forward to your comments and cool stories! :)

    • Great question, Wonder Friend Laila! We learned that a choreographer is someone who puts dance moves together to create a performance. However, a photographer does sound very similar to a choreographer! A photographer captures moments with his or her camera by taking pictures– that might be what you’re thinking of! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a choreographer?
  • Who are some famous choreographers?
  • Can you choreograph your own unique dance?

Wonder Gallery

882Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to become a choreographer? You can do it! No matter what age you are right now, you can be a choreographer. Grab a friend or family member to help you explore one or more of the following activities.

  • Jump online to check out videos of dances by some famous choreographers. Go to your favorite video site and search for videos of dances choreographed by Fosse, Balanchine, Ailey, Graham, and others. Which dance routines catch your fancy? If you’re up for it, try to dance along to the routines. Are there moves that you can do? Which moves seem more advanced than you’re ready for? Do you think you’d like to be a dancer or a choreographer one day? Why or why not?
  • Get a close-up look at choreography in action. Ask a drama teacher or cheerleading coach from a local school to let you sit in on an upcoming practice. Watch them as they come up with dance routines and teach the moves to their students. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to give cheerleading, dance or drama a try in the future!
  • Up for a challenge? Choreograph your own dance routine. Pick out a favorite song and start coming up with ideas for dance moves to go along with it. Listen to the lyrics. Do they give you any clues to movements you could do? Make sure you’re getting the whole body involved. That means thinking about your arms, your legs and the rest of your body. If you get stumped, spend a few minutes watching some music videos online. Perhaps they will inspire you! When you’re finished, put on a performance of your dance at home. If you can, have a friend or family member videotape you. Upload your video to the Wonderopolis SchoolTube channel for all your Wonder Friends to see. We can’t wait to see your original dance moves!

Still Wondering

In 1943, Martha Graham collaborated with Aaron Copland and Isamu Noguchi to create one of America’s artistic treasures and a widely-respected work of modern dance. By using the An American Story in Dance and Music module from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, children and adults can enjoy exploring an important and exciting moment in America’s artistic history.

Wonder What’s Next?

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