How I Got My Job: Choreographer James Berkery

"Be open to all sorts of experiences and jobs while also remaining focused on what you need to learn and grow."

 

When you’re in school, it’s super hard to decide on your future career. There’s already hours of homework and study, now you’ll soon add decisions about college courses and jobs to your list. Here at KISS, we’re chatting to people in different industries about how they’ve landed their dream role, what they actually do, and their advice to you. This week, we’re chatting to James Berkery, a choreographer from Tipperary. 

Highlights of his career to date include his work featuring on BBC, ITV, MTV, Universal Music, VICE, Paper Mag, VOGUE Italia amongst others. He is currently a member of One Dance UK and an ambassador for Dancer’s Career Development.

 

What is your current role?

I’m a choreographer and movement director specialising in film, tv, commercials and theatre.

Can you describe what your role as a choreographer looks like?

My role varies greatly on each project which is one of things I find most exciting! I always start with the music or the script to get a sense of what is trying to be communicated to the audience. From there, I start improvising dance at home or in studio with some dancers as a starting point of how I want to interpret the brief. I work very closely collaborating with the director/production/artist as I follow the project through to rehearsals and finally to the performance or shoot

How did you decide on this type of career?

My family have always been so musical and I grew up in local shows and society musicals. In my early teens I joined a local ballet class as I needed to be able to do ballet for an upcoming audition and I fell in love with it and that started me on my path to being a professional dancer. My passion for choreography began to blossom on a job with a group of dancers and I haven’t looked back. It’s a combination of all the different elements of performance and storytelling that I love.

What helped you get to your current position?

Early on I reached out to some choreographers and movement directors that were inspirations to me which led to so much brilliant advice and a mentorship which was invaluable.

It’s important to be open to all sorts of experiences and jobs while also remaining focused on what you need to learn and grow. In between dance projects I did a lot of jobs that weren’t choreography such as assisting casting directors, agents and producers which actually it made me understand the bigger picture more and ultimately made me a better choreographer!

What are the ups and downs of the career?

This type of work is unpredictable which can be exciting or it can be tricky as you don’t know what is around the corner!.

Being self-employed and freelance means that it’s always your energy that you have to depend to keep going and to push through any challenges that come your way.

In the quieter moments in between jobs it’s important to keep reminding yourself of why you love it and why are doing what you are doing, that way it doesn’t really feel like ‘work’.

What advice would you give to a student looking to get into your line of work?

Say yes! Don’t limit yourself to doing a particular style or form of choreography in the beginning. We are so quick to define ourselves and to categorise what we do. I feel with this line of work it’s better to follow your instincts and to be open to opportunities.

Make sure when you starting out that you bring your best to every situation as people will notice and it will prepare you for the bigger and more challenging jobs

The learning doesn’t stop in school or college, the industry is constantly changing and evolving based on trends. It’s important to be adaptable so and to embrace new trends, just look at what’s happening right now with tik tok and instagram.

For more job advice and career chats, check out our past interviews here.


More