Ask the Experts: Handling a Guest Choreographer's Changes

How do you handle changing choreography after a guest choreographer is gone? We have a parent who is upset that a teacher tweaked her daughter’s piece. But we thought the work needed to be adjusted, based on judges’ critiques.

Your teacher and choreographer know it’s normal to make small tweaks until the flow and artistry of a piece gels, but this parent may not. To her, any changes made without permission probably seem unnecessary, since she paid for her daughter’s choreography with the expectation that it would be successful. Use this as an opportunity to educate the parent on the choreographic process and clarify for the future what your staff can change after a guest choreographer leaves.

If you haven’t already done so, share the judges’ feedback with the dancer and parent in a meeting with you and your faculty member. Show them specific examples of where changes needed to be made, and have your teacher point out where she has now reworked the choreography. Explain how these adjustments allow the dancer to best execute the steps at her current level of technique and potential. This will show the parent that your teacher’s changes were only implemented with the success of the dancer in mind.

Moving forward, it is in everyone’s best interest to have agreements or a contract in place with guest choreographers if the piece is to be rehearsed and cleaned during their absence. Define what your staff is allowed to clean and improve, if needed.

There are easy ways to keep guest choreographers involved after their departure. You can send video via e-mail, YouTube or Facebook. You’ll need to establish any fees for video conferences or critiques in advance, but this is a great way for dancers to get coaching throughout the season from the original choreographer.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of

Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

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