Rehearsals are one of the most important aspects of the running of a professional dance company and take up a great deal of the yearly schedule. In the lead up to a performance or tour dancers will generally do a dance class in the morning and then rehearse for the rest of the day. In each day they may rehearse for more than one role within more than one dance piece and so the rehearsals need to be structured and organized to make the best use of the dancers’ time and energy. Rehearsals can be in place for a choreographer to create new work on the company and also to practice existing work or recreate work that was choreographed many years previously. The different purposes of a rehearsal can depend on who leads that rehearsal and who is present.
It might appear obvious that the rehearsal director is responsible for the rehearsals within a company but what exactly does their role involve? How do they work alongside a choreographer within a dance company and how does their work contribute to the success of a performance?
The rehearsal director is generally responsible for co-ordinating and supervising the rehearsals within a company. They may be known as the choreographer’s ‘right hand man’ and it is usually their responsibility to ensure that the dancers know and are able to interpret the work as set by the choreographer.
In larger companies there may also be a repetiteur and in this instance the rehearsal director would not necessarily teach or rehearse a work in the absence of the choreographer as they are not generally considered to be experts on the work. A repetiteur on the other hand would assume this role within a company, however, in smaller companies the role of rehearsal director may encompass these responsibilities.
Where the choreographer is a guest to the company, it is usual that they will lead their own rehearsals, however, the rehearsal director may be present to oversee and should the choreographer be absent for any reason the rehearsal director will have enough knowledge of the work to step in and lead a rehearsal.
In smaller dance companies it may be that the rehearsal director is also a dancer in the company and that they are able to lead certain rehearsals as well as perform with the company. In this instance the role of rehearsal director is often given as a company member who is second in command to the choreographer or the artistic director, in case of unexpected absence.
The rehearsal director acts as an outside viewpoint on a work, offering feedback from a new perspective which helps to prepare the work for public viewing. The choreographer works very closely with the work and the dancers and sometimes an external eye can provide valuable feedback. Their job is not to change the execution of the choreography in any way but simply to ensure it fulfills the intentions of the choreographer.
The role of rehearsal director is often taken on by a former dancer with the company or sometimes the choreographer.