The Dance Behind the Story
Final Research Paper
6 January 2012
“As you dance, you tell stories with just your eyes and your gestures. We all express emotions through our bodies, we just don’t realize it. So we are using it as an art form, but it’s something that people do every day of their lives,” (Cotal, 2011)
The origins of dance date back to the dawn of every civilization. As cultures developed, music, instruments and dancing evolved, creating for each an organized aspect. For example, ballroom dancing evolved from European influence whilst the salsa and the cha-cha evolved from Spanish and Latin American cultures ...view middle of the document...
Choreographer Michael Kidd worked diligently In Guys and Dolls for example, to maintain the pace and flow of the plot. Kidd’s style, typically upbeat, was known for being able to communicate crucial information about the setting and plot.
In 1951, The King and I premiered, introducing respected choreographer, Jerome Robbins who exerted a profound impact on the art of musical theater. With a plethora of work through five decades it is hard to label which of Robbins’ pieces are the most famous, groundbreaking or important to dance history (The NYC Ballet, 2004). His most enduring contribution was his choreography for the landmark show, West Side Story (1957). The Broadway show is incredibly important to dance history because the dances in West Side Story were not only used to advance the plot, but also to create the atmosphere of excitement and tension that are essential to the piece. The dances contain so much information that the spoken content of the show is exceptionally short when compared with other musicals. The expressive dancing in West Side Story merges ballet as well as contemporary dance. The continued popularity of West Side Story is a testament to the genius of Robbins’ choreography. (Gold, 2007)
Robbins also contributed largely to classical ballet by incorporating the American style of jazz, ballroom dancing, and boggie into the movement vocabulary of traditional ballet (The NYC Ballet, 2004).
Even though choreographers like Robbins clearly placed dance at the forefront of the musical, it is still difficult to define the role of dance in musical theater since different writers, composers, and choreographers develop each musical with varying intentions. Yet, it is safe to say that choreography is closely related to the musical aspect of musical theater and that in the majority of musicals characters are able to express their emotions and convey their actions though dance. Unlike in traditional plays where characters strictly communicate to the audience through the use of dialogue, in musical theater the actors must express themselves with songs and the physical movements of dance. For example, in the world famous Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, Gillian Lynne’s choreography effectively reveals elements of each cat’s personality and the movement is simply an extension of the unique characters. From the acrobatic and smooth jazz moves of Macavity the mystery cat to the confident swagger Lynne gives the Rum Tum Tugger, the choreography brings the audience closer to understanding the cats’ personalities (Sternberg, 2008).
One of the most obvious ways that choreography enhances the musical is the visual spectacle that it adds to what might otherwise be a traditional theatrical production. The tap dance extravaganzas...