Feature: Book review - Look Before You Leap

Thursday 20 December 2012

Look Before You Leap: an advice and rights guide for choreographers
Written by Ann Whitley; updated and edited by Sally Brooker and Caroline Miller, 2012. Published by Dance UK

Look before you tell someone else to leap might be a better title for Dance UK’s latest publication as it’s a book for choreographers, not dancers – but the way in which it provides vital information for choreographers, from contracts to copyright, make it a real eye-opener for anyone.

With chapters geared to the working practices of particular settings, such as musical theatre shows, cruise ships and even motion-capture video games, the reader is guided through every conceivable aspect of planning and negotiating work as a choreographer. That is, except how to choreograph. Look Before You Leap assumes you have that creative capacity and advises instead on the less well-known business, safety and legal facets of the profession.

The book is divided into five segments, with Part 1 considering contracts, finances, agents and the role of performers’ trade union, Equity. Part 2 then describes the process of choreographing, from production meetings and casting to programme credits, with a chapter devoted to working abroad. Later parts explore a diverse range of other material including notation, music, costume design, lighting, insurance, child performance regulations and creating a video archive. The book was originally written in 1995 but has been recently updated with new chapters, including most interestingly, a selection of interviews with the Rayne Fellows for Choreography. The Rayne Foundation funded nine choreographers to work in projects that would benefit greater society and participants’ Adam Benjamin, Jeanefer Jean-Charles, Laila Diallo, Tamsin Fitzgerald, Rosie Kay, Kate Flatt, Darren Pritchard, Luca Silvestrini and Sue Smith provide useful insights on the challenges of choreographing in unusual places.

What I wish Look Before You Leap included is guidelines on what to expect in the profession. For example, how much is generally paid to choreograph a play? Or how many hours rehearsal time should be demanded to create and rehearse a new ballet? These types of questions remain unanswered but such information is highly variable and typically kept behind closed doors. You’ll find virtually everything else you could wonder about explained here, making this book an invaluable resource for anyone working, or seeking to work, as a choreographer.

Buy online at www.danceuk.org/shop or www.lbyl.co.uk
£20.99 (£13.99 Dance UK members); eBook £18.99 (£11.99 Dance UK members)

Laura Dodge writes for a number of publications and websites including londondance.com, Dancing Times, Londonist and English National Ballet’s Dance is the Word. She also teaches dance across London and has an MA in Ballet Studies.

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