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Choreographers of Broadway

- Prior 1920s musicals relied on the music or plot to drive the
- Added to the commercialisation of the musical adding another
factor to get bums on seats.
- Used in ways like dream ballets or fight inspired choreography
- Most common forms were ballet, jazz and tap.
Agnes De Mille
- First time dance helped drive the plot or reveal something new
about the character
- Famous for her work in both the contemporary world aswell as
- Early example of the incorporation of ballet in the world of
musical theatre
o The Dream Ballet of Oklahoma: used the extension of
gestures with balletic technique to display Laureys
psychological state and feelings for Curly.
- Used traditional folk dance within her choreography that
displayed a understanding of context and further set up the
o Brigadoon: traditional Scottish sword dancing
o Oklahoma: male dancing within dream ballet imitated
the bowed leg American wild west cowboy.
- Rogers and Hammerstein with De Mille used dance and songs
to further the musical plot line as a tool not just as a
Jerome Robbins
- Similarly as Agnes De mille came from a classical ballet
- First major ballet work was Fancy Free (1944), with music by
Leonard Bernstein.
o Used ballet in a masculine manner to help create the
story of the three sailors
o Choreography was memorable for its frenetic energy
and constant motion.
o Later became On the Town with Comden and Green as
music/lyric writing partners.
o Began the role of director/choreographer with director
George Abbott giving full directorial licence to Robbins
within his mini ballets within the show.
- Robbins continued the role of director/choreographer in Bells
are Ringing and co-director The Pajama Game with Fosse and
Hal Prince


West Side Story (1957) was the mark of full integration of

dance into a Broadway musical and arrival of
o Believed in the full integration of all elements to help
the plot
Latin inspired music in songs like America
Fight choreography in the opening.
Used dance to provide motion in action sequences
(The Rumble), release tension (Cool), or serve
as a expressive device when inarticulate
characters (Dance at the Gym).
o Robbins believed in method acting and forbade the cast
to socialise during rehearsals to show the divide within
the gang.
o West Side Story also marked the start of performers not
only having to sing but also dance roles.
Other notable Robbins show.
o Gypsy- incorporating vaudeville and burlesque.
o Fiddler on the Roof- traditional Jewish culture, the bottle
Originally from a vaudeville and burlesque background.
Renown for creating a star and his obsession with women
Gwen Verdon, was his frequent collaborator and third wife.
Often-used tongue and check ways to make an audience react
through dance.
o Usually through gestural movement, honing in on the
simplicity of what dance can be.
o Or sensual movement with hip and pelvis isolations to
shock the audiences and make them feel uncomfortable
at their own enjoyment.
Used untraditional jazz dance style that for the day was seen
as modern and new. Still can be seen as the Broadway style
and is implemented within shows.
Signatures moves
o Use of top hats as props
o Turned in knees
o Jazz hands
o Sideway shuffle
o Backwards lean.
All his choreography is an adaptation of Fosse himself as he
was not the traditional ballet dancer so created his own style
to mask some of his own shortcomings.
Fosse is often about a feeling
o Big Spender is simple but it is the portrayal of the selfloathing women that burns through. The original

choreography came across grotesque not to sell sex but

to mask the horrible lives these women lead.
Michael Bennett
- Famous for being another director/choreographer
- Most notable for his seemless dance to scene work, plus
stylized crossovers using dance.
- Work on Company helped further Sondheims concept
- A Chorus Line was the first time that the Broadway dancer
was featured and appreciated.
- Unusual workshop process using direct interviews to create
the storyline, verbatim styled theatre.
- The first musical to adopt the workshop process that had
previously been used in straight plays.
- A dance concept musical as the main theme that drove the
show was being on the line. Universal theme of a minor
community that all want and dance for the same reason.
- Each character had a chance through dance or song to reveal
their character, why they dance, past the original faade
(headshot presented).
- The show was a success as a dance musical as the audience
in the opening number enjoy and accept the individuals
personality through dance. So when characters come forward
to present their piece there is always a reoccurring dance
element that reinforces the theme. Mike tap dances in I Can
Do that, ballet montage takes places as the three girls sing
At The Ballet.
Future of Dance Musicals
- The use of old ballet or Michael Bennett style jazz is now
scene as a reflection on what was not what is driving us
- New dance shows arent necessarily been made. The
choreography is changing to a more modern commercial jazz
styled choreography.
o Many shows are actually fading back to the old style of
dance as a interlude or to suit the mega musical ideas of
the spectacle.
- Only musicals like An American in Paris or Bring in da funk,
bring in the noise use a old dance style and bring it to a
o Tap was always a black form of dance. Can be argued as
segregation is less it has become less of a popularised
art form.
o Agnes De Mille style dream ballets are hard to keep
modern audiences as the themes in modern shows do
not necessarily accommodate for new dance styles.
Requires to many dancers and this is a cost.