1. Check their references. Most choreographers get new jobs by word of mouth or by someone seeing examples of their work. If you hear about a certain choreographer from someone that has worked with them, be sure to ask questions about what it was like working with them. If it’s the later, be sure to ask for references. There are many very talented people that work as choreographers in this business. There are far fewer that are completely responsible and work as true professionals. Be sure to do your homework and check a choreographer’s references.
2. Check their credentials. Up until a few years ago, it was almost impossible to be credentialed as a cheer professional. Now, it is not so rare. Certification by the USASF and ACCAA are easily attainable for anyone professional enough to want them and responsible enough to get them. Be sure to ask what credentials, if any, a person has.
3. Check their familiarity with the style in which you are looking. Success at one competition and style does not guarantee success at all competitions. Make sure that your person is familiar with a certain competition.
4. Make sure that they can work with your age group/skill level. Really good choreographers are versatile, but some have preferences for the age groups or skill levels with which they work. There are many different kinds of coaches/choreographers, and some just don’t have the patience and temperament to work with younger cheerleaders or those with little to no experience. It is not difficult to find many people willing to choreograph Level 5 all stars or an extremely talented high school team. It is a little harder to find someone willing to work with a Level 1 Mini team or a brand new middle school squad.
5. Be clear about your expectations. Make sure that you get a clear explanation of what you are getting with the money that you are paying someone. Is music included? How many hours of instruction are included? Contracts are uncommon in this industry, but make sure that you get details of your arrangement in writing. Also, be sure to detail everything that you expect from your choreographer with regards to your routine. Make sure that they are aware of any rules or emphases that are specific to the competitions at which you will be competing. Be clear up front about how many 8-counts of dance that you want ahead. If they are doing your music while they are there, give them music suggestions the first day so that they will have time to incorporate them into your routine.
6. Handle as many of the responsibilities as possible. The more details that you can handle for a choreographer will make their job easier. Make sure that everything is ready – hotel, rental car, etc. - for them once they arrive. Most choreographers work many camps during the summer and live out of a suitcase. Anything that you can do to make their time with you easier will allow them to focus more on your squad and routine.
7. Keep a reasonable schedule. Have realistic expectations for your choreographer and your cheerleaders. No one does their best work after 9 hours of instruction. No cheerleader can focus effectively all day long. 6 hours in a single day is a long day for a choreographer or a high school cheerleader of any age. Consider the age and experience of your cheerleaders and schedule your camp hours accordingly. Schedule appropriate breaks between sessions. Remember, that your choreographer will be at their best if they are well rested and have had time to decompress between practices.
8. Communicate while they are there. If you are not happy with something in your routine, communicate your concerns. Most choreographers will gladly change something or inform you of why they disagree. Remember, you are paying them for their expertise, but you have a say. Ask them to change something that you are not comfortable with or do not like. If they are professional, they will not have a problem with your occasional input. And most professionals will want you to be fully satisfied with all aspects of your routine. However, remember why they are there and let them use their expertise. If you start influencing them too much then you will not allow them to fully work their “magic”.
9. Have their money ready. Getting paid for something that one loves and would do for free if they could is never easy. Take the pressure off of a choreographer asking for their money by giving it to them as soon as they show up for camp. If you have done your homework during the “selection process”, then you should feel comfortable that the person that you have hired will deliver up to or beyond your expectations. Plus, paying someone up front just takes one more worry from their mind and allows them to, again, focus on your routine.
10. Keep in touch. Be sure to keep in touch with your choreographer throughout the year. Most will be interested in your team’s progress and will want to hear how you are doing. And if you were pleased with them and plan on using them the next year, it is never too early to start looking at dates for the next summer. If they did a great job for you, chances are other people will take notice and be interested in hiring them. The best choreographers have summers that are booked solid, and if you find a good one you will want to schedule them as far in advance as possible to make sure that you can use them again.