See these Broadway musicals featuring show-stopping dances
We’ve all walked out of a musical awed at the actors’ powerhouse singing, humming the show’s catchy tunes, and running to add the complete score to our playlists. They’re called musicals for a reason! But also…can we make “danceicals” a thing? While the music is (obviously) key to the greatness of a musical, you’ve probably also found yourself marveling at a gravity-defying leap or intricate, fast-footed steps on stage. In plenty of Broadway musicals, dance is king. (Or queen, in the case of musicals like Six.)
You can’t experience Broadway dance routines with a cast album. You have to be there — and in many cases, dance is a major part of the storytelling that takes the Broadway show to a whole new level. There are so many dance styles you can see: classic musical theatre, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and the unique choreography pioneered by pop icons like Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. Sure, you can see Broadway dance tutorials online, too, but not a whole show’s worth! Nothing beats the fun of seeing award-winning choreography live.
So, what are you waiting for? Shuffle off to the Theatre District and see these Broadway shows with dancing galore. Get ready to groove along in your seat!
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Plenty of YouTube tutorials will teach you how to do Tina Turner’s iconic, fast-footed dance moves, but there’s nothing like seeing the dance routines live. Since Turner herself is retired from performing, go to Tina: The Tina Turner Musical to get the same effect. (And then go home and learn how to dance like her.) This musical retelling of the Queen of Rock and Roll’s life is like a rollicking Tina Turner concert — she, her music, and her moves are the stars of every moment.
Anthony Van Laast, the choreographer behind feel-good shows like Mamma Mia! and Sister Act, choreographed Tina, but he wasn’t alone. Turner herself was involved throughout the entire creative process — she was on hand to show Van Laast and the performers exactly how to do her signature steps, like the pony. So it really is like you’re watching the icon live on stage — and you know “Proud Mary” and every other number is making Turner proud.
The Music Man
The Music Man is a classic Golden Age delight, which means plenty of old-fashioned Broadway choreography. And what could be better than watching Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster do it all? They lead the Winter Garden Theatre’s big parade as Harold Hill, a con man who tries to swindle the residents of River City, Iowa; and Marian Paroo, the local librarian that sees through his scheme but falls for him anyway.
Choreographer Warren Carlyle knows how to craft a big Broadway dance number — he, along with director Jerry Zaks, was behind the lavish Bette Midler-led revival of Hello, Dolly! back in 2017. Iconic songs like “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Marian the Librarian,” and “Shipoopi” are just a few of the Music Man songs that include explosive dance breaks, and it’s a joy to watch everyone — from Jackman and Foster to the young children — as they leap, twirl, and cartwheel around the stage. With seventy-six trombones playing, how can you not dance?
Six reimagines the six wives of Henry VIII as a pop group, each of whom sings an infectiously catchy song about Henry’s mistreatment of them to determine who will lead the group. The five not singing their solo at any given time support with background vocals and movement — even if they’re not very supportive of each other. (Or are they?) It’s impressive to watch the Queens move almost as a unit, with every head nod, step, and hip perfectly synchronized, thanks to Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography.
In a nutshell, watching Six is like watching a pop star and their backup dancers at a high-energy concert. And you know when you’re at a concert, you want to stand up and groove, too! Unfortunately, you can’t dance along during the show, but the best part of the Six choreography is that it’s simple and clean. With a quick few YouTube tutorials (and a trip to see the show live), you can learn the dances move-for-move and pretend you’re a Broadway queen at home.
Chicago is almost synonymous with one of the most iconic Broadway choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse. Sharp, angular arm movements (like the above); hip rolls; snaps; and small, specific movements define his signature, sultry style of jazz. It’s all on display in every moment of Chicago, a thrilling story of a wannabe vaudeville star-turned-murderess whose crime gets her on the front page of every newspaper in the city.
Fosse choreographed the original Chicago Broadway production in 1975, but he died before the 1996 revival was in the works. So Ann Reinking, who originated the role of Roxie, choreographed the new production in his style and won the Best Choreography Tony Award (Fosse only got nominated!). That revival is still running 25 years later, so Chicago is just as much Reinking’s show as Fosse’s — but he’ll always be known for all that jazz.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical
You can-can-can expect to see plenty of energetic choreography at Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and the 36 kicks each can-can dancer has to do in succession in the opening number are just at the start of this mind-blowing dance musical. Choreographer Sonya Tayeh incorporates multiple different styles into this story of love and showbiz in bohemian, 20th-century Paris. Oh, and did we mention Tayeh won a 2020 Best Choreography Tony Award for doing so?
You’ll see plenty of jazz and musical theatre choreography, but there are also elements of ballroom dance, as in the iconic number “El Tango de Roxanne,” and even classical ballet-inspired moves. Like the award-winning film it’s based on, Moulin Rouge! The Musical features dozens of pop songs from various decades mashed up into medleys. It’s fitting, then, that the choreography is just as diverse and eclectic as the music and the show itself.
The heart of Paradise Square‘s storytelling is in its dancing. The musical is chiefly set at a lower Manhattan tavern where free Blacks and Irish immigrants mingle in harmony, and dance is one of the main languages they share. Irish step and African dance came together to create modern tap dance, after all, and Paradise Square contains all three. As the show progresses — particularly during one dance competition sequence — the Black and Irish characters begin to borrow from each other’s styles and create a new fusion.
The Paradise Square dances are conceived by the award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones. He’s the founder of an eponymous dance company and has choreographed Broadway shows, Off-Broadway shows, operas, ballets, and a wide range of projects in between. You’ve seen his recent work if you saw Black No More off Broadway earlier this season!
for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls challenges traditional forms of theatre. The genre she coined for her work is called a “choreopoem,” and with a name like that, movement is bound to play a major role. A choreopoem fuses music, movement, poetry, and dialogue to convey a lived experience rather than a traditional plot. In the case of for colored girls, the seven-member cast’s individual poems and dances collectively explore the diversity of what a Black woman is and can be.
There aren’t specific dance numbers in for colored girls, per se; movement is woven throughout. Sometimes one character dances while she speaks, or while another character speaks, or in the absence of words entirely to convey an emotion or a story just with her body. The show takes a nontraditional approach to movement in the vein of a show like American Utopia — and for colored girls happens to feature one of Utopia‘s dancers, Tendayi Kuumba.
The Book of Mormon
Casey Nicholaw is the master of modern musical comedy choreography. His work is bouncy, fun, and often infused with physical humor and/or at least one instance of tap dancing. If you’ve seen Aladdin, Something Rotten!, or Mean Girls, you’re familiar with his Tony-nominated work, which he often also directs. Another case in point is The Book of Mormon, the irreverent comedy about Mormon missionaries that’s been on Broadway for 11 divine years.
Take the song “Two By Two,” for example — Elders Price and Cunningham are hoping to get sent on mission to Disney World, so Nicholaw invented “cheesy theme-park choreography,” as he himself describes it. And in “All-American Prophet,” the Book of Mormon ensemble dances their way through the true story of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, truthfully yet comically. As David Schmader of The Stranger puts it, “If you want to economically underscore the ridiculousness of someone’s argument, have them make it while doing an aggressively energetic “funky strut” dance.”
MJ The Musical
There’s a reason Michael Jackson is the only musical artist in the Dance Hall of Fame: He was a dancing machine. His dancing versatility was almost as expansive as his catalogue of hit songs: He popularized dances from the sharp, rigid robot to the totally opposite, smooth moonwalk. These signature moves and plenty more are all on display in MJ The Musical, which takes audiences through Jackson’s life and career as he rehearses for his 1992 Dangerous World Tour.
Though Jackson’s hit music is obviously a key part of MJ The Musical, it’s really a dance show. Many of the rehearsal scenes and flashbacks alike feature Jackson and his backup dancers performing on stage, and dance numbers let the actors move smoothly through scene transitions. Plus, director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon teamed up with “movement consultants” Rich and Tone Talauega, brothers who actually danced with Jackson, to make the movement as authentic to Jackson’s style as possible. If you come out of MJ The Musical feeling energized, blame it on the boogie! (Not that that’s a “Bad” thing — you can’t help it.)