What's That Dance
Photo by Mary Ellen Aquinio via Flickr (CC)
When people hear the term, ‘jazz hands’ or ‘spirit fingers’, Broadway musicals come to mind. On So You Think You Can Dance, contestants often perform routines in the 'Broadway' style.
But what exactly is 'Broadway' dance? More than just the shake of a hand, it is a sequence of dances done as part of a musical theatre performance. Musicals integrate songs, dances and the occasional dialogue to tell a story. The style of dancing can range from hip hop to modern to jazz and beyond, sometimes combining these styles.
Shaun Amyot, a teacher at Canada's National Ballet School, has performed in Broadway musicals. He says dancers performing 'Broadway' dance have to know jazz, hip hop, contemporary, some ballet and acrobatics. They must also be theatrical and use their faces and eyes to convey the story.
According to Amyot, today there are three main styles of Broadway dance:
Bob Fosse style
Bob Fosse was a dancer, director and choreographer who won an unprecedented eight Tony awards for choreography. Amongst his many works are the musicals Damn Yankees, Chicago and Sweet Charity and the films Cabaret and All That Jazz. His style was smooth, sexy and quite distinct featuring turned-in knees, sideways shuffling and the use of his trademark props, hats and gloves.
View Bob Fosse’s signature style from a performance by the cast of Chicago
Jerome Robbins style
Jerome Robbins was a ballet choreographer who also worked extensively on musicals. Winning five Tonys for choreography, he created such musicals as Gypsy, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story. Robbins'choreographic style integrated dance completely within the musical's plot advancing the storyline and revealing characters.
Watch as Robbins' choreography keeps the story moving in a scene from West Side Story
Michael Bennett style
Michael Bennett won seven Tonys for choreography during his career, choreographing such musicals as Promises, Promises, Follies, and A Chorus Line. While his style was in some ways less distinct than the other two, his choreography was always motivated by the characters and score of the musical he was working on. He also experimented with the use of props. A look at Bennett's creative use of mirrors in A Chorus Line
'Broadway' or 'Musical Theatre' classes are a great way to learn some of the most famous musical numbers and get a sense of the theatricality Broadway dancing requires. Check the Musical Theatre category in the dance registry for classes available in studios across Canada.