What does a dance company artistic director do?

Would you make a good dance company artistic director? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Dance Company Artistic Director?

Dance company artistic directors are responsible for shaping the artistic direction and creative output of a dance company. Typically highly experienced dancers or choreographers themselves, these visionary leaders curate the company’s repertoire, select choreographers, and mentor dancers to foster artistic growth and achieve excellence in performance.

What does a Dance Company Artistic Director do?

Duties and Responsibilities
The role of the dance company artistic director is a multifaceted one, encompassing the following responsibilities:

  • Artistic Vision – develop and articulate the artistic vision and goals of the company, which may involve establishing thematic concepts, defining performance styles, and setting long-term artistic objectives
  • Repertoire Selection – curate the repertoire by selecting choreographers, dance pieces, and themes that align with the company's artistic mission and resonate with its audience
  • Choreography – depending on their background and skills, create original choreography for the company's repertoire, contributing to the creative output of the ensemble
  • Casting and Rehearsals – direct casting decisions and lead rehearsals to ensure that dancers understand and execute choreography effectively, while also fostering artistic expression and interpretation
  • Collaboration – collaborate with composers, musicians, costume designers, set designers, and other artists to bring productions to life and create cohesive artistic experiences; participate in interdisciplinary projects that blur the boundaries between different art forms and disciplines
  • Artistic Development – mentor and coach dancers to help them grow technically, artistically, and professionally, while also fostering a supportive and inclusive environment within the company
  • Audience and Community Engagement – engage with audiences through outreach programs, educational initiatives, pre-performance talks, and partnerships with local organizations to enhance appreciation for dance and cultivate a broader audience base; this could involve visiting schools, community centers, and other venues to teach workshops, give lectures, or participate in community events

Types of Dance Company Artistic Directors
Now that we have a sense of the scope of the dance company artistic director’s work, let’s look at some different types of these directors, each with their own unique backgrounds, styles, and approaches to leading a dance company:

  • Choreographer-Directors – These directors are often established choreographers who have transitioned into leadership roles within a dance company. They bring their own choreographic style and creative vision to the company's productions, often choreographing original works for the ensemble.
  • Dancer-Directors – Dancer-directors are individuals who have had successful careers as dancers and have risen to leadership positions within a dance company. They may have an in-depth understanding of dance technique and performance quality, and they often focus on nurturing the artistic development of the dancers under their direction. Their expertise may be in a particular dance style, such as contemporary dance or classical ballet.
  • Artistic Visionaries / Experimental Directors – Some artistic directors are known for their innovative artistic vision and experimental approach to dance. They may prioritize pushing boundaries, exploring new artistic territories, and challenging conventional norms within the dance world.
  • Educator-Directors – These directors have backgrounds in dance education and may prioritize mentorship, training, and the development of young dancers within the company. They may also have a strong focus on community engagement and outreach through dance education programs.
  • Curator-Directors – Curator-directors have a knack for selecting repertoire, collaborating with choreographers and artists, and curating thematic or conceptual seasons for the dance company. They typically have a keen eye for trends in contemporary dance and a talent for programming works that resonate with audiences.
  • Cultural Ambassadors – Some dance company artistic directors are known for their efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the dance community. They may prioritize showcasing works by underrepresented choreographers, celebrating diverse dance styles and cultures, and fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment within the company.

These specializations are not mutually exclusive, and artistic directors may incorporate elements from multiple areas into their work, or have unique characteristics that defy categorization. Additionally, the focus of artistic directors may evolve over time as they gain experience, encounter new influences, and respond to changing artistic trends and priorities within the dance community.

Dance company artistic directors have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if dance company artistic director is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Dance Company Artistic Director like?

Dance company artistic directors are most commonly employed by dance companies, which can vary widely in size, structure, and funding sources. Entities that employ them include:

  • Professional Dance Companies – These are established dance companies that present performances on a regular basis, often with a resident ensemble of dancers. Examples include ballet companies, contemporary dance companies, modern dance companies, and cultural dance companies.
  • Regional or Municipal Arts Organizations – Some dance companies are affiliated with regional or municipal arts organizations, which provide support and resources for the company's operations. These organizations may employ artistic directors to oversee multiple performing arts groups or to manage programming at a particular venue.
  • Educational Institutions – Dance companies affiliated with colleges, universities, or conservatories may have artistic directors who are also faculty members or administrators within the institution's dance department. These companies often serve as training grounds for emerging dancers and choreographers.
  • Non-profit Arts Organizations – Some dance companies operate as non-profit organizations, relying on grants, donations, and ticket sales to fund their activities. These organizations may employ artistic directors to lead the company's artistic vision and manage its day-to-day operations.
  • Commercial Dance Companies – In some cases, dance companies may operate as commercial entities, producing performances for entertainment venues, corporate events, or commercial productions such as film, television, or advertising. Artistic directors of commercial dance companies may work closely with producers, directors, and other stakeholders to create commercially viable productions.

Overall, the workplace of a dance company artistic director is dynamic and multifaceted, encompassing a range of environments and activities that reflect the diverse responsibilities inherent in their role. From the creative energy of the dance studio to the administrative tasks of the office and the excitement of performance venues, artistic directors navigate a variety of spaces as they lead their dance companies and bring their artistic visions to life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dance Company Artistic Directors are also known as:
Dance Company Creative Director Dance Company Director