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The Dance Styles of So You Think You Can Dance

Broadway dance developed alongside jazz dance. When jazz found its way from New Orleans to New York in the 1920s…

Broadway dance developed alongside jazz dance. When jazz found its way from New Orleans to New York in the 1920s, stage directors began to incorporate it into their shows as momentary bits of spectacle scattered throughout loosely-framed narratives. However, once directors and choreographers started using dance to advance their plotlines instead, the choreography became more intricate and the dancers more trained. There are examples of this type of dance throughout the 1930s — Anything Goes, for instance — but it wasn’t until the 40s that it really took off.

In 1943, a jazz dancer named Jack Cole choreographed the Broadway musical Something for the Boys. Cole was trained in East Indian dance, and would often blend some of those elements into American jazz. His unique fusion of jazz, ballet, and ethnic movement was revolutionary, and it earned him the title “Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance.”

Some recent and contemporary Broadway Dance choreographers are Gower Champion, Michael Kidd, Randy Skinner, and Chet Walker. Noted SYTYCD Broadway choreographers include Andy Blankenbueler (also a choreographer for Broadway shows) and Tyce Diorio.

Some identifying features include:

  • story-focused and character-driven movement
  • exaggeration
  • quirkiness
  • athleticism

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