Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Patti D'Beck


American Musical Theatre is one of the unique American methods of storytelling that exists in performance. In a musical, text, song, movement, and dance tell a story. In Music Theatre, when a character can no longer express what they desire in words, they sing. If singing cannot satisfy the need, the element of dance comes into play. Richard Kislan states, "What sets dance apart is the universality in movement and gesture which is not bound like language to nationality or culture. Dance transcends geography in a way that language cannot. Dance humanizes expression in a way that music cannot."(237) In American Musical Theatre History, dance was, at first, purely used for dance sake. The spectacle of dance was the interest of the public. Choreographers George Balanchine and Agnes De Mille helped to change dance in music theatre, by using dance numbers to further the plot of the story. They believed a musical number should enhance the tone, energy, and rhythm of the entire piece. Influenced by my mentors at VCU, I have discovered the important lesson of "telling a story." A musical number needs to take the audience on a truthful and emotional journey and aid in the flow of the play. Through the many projects that I have worked on with Patti D'Beck, I have learned a way to choreograph that is efficient and, to me, the best way to go about revealing a story to the audience. Using the musical Cabaret, I will highlight these important steps. I was the associate choreographer for the VCU Mainstage production of Cabaret. I assisted in all pre- production work and aided in the creation of all musical numbers. As part of my thesis, I was also in charge of teaching the choreography to all who were involved in the musical. Spacing and polishing the musical numbers once we arrived in the space was also a part of my job as the associate choreographer.The first part of this thesis is a guide for those who have an interest in the world of musical theatre choreography. It outlines a step by step process on how to go about choreographing a dance within a musical. Whether one has choreographed many dances or never choreographed at all, this guide will aid in their creative process as a choreographer. The second part of this thesis is a case study on Cabaret.. All the steps that are outlined in the first part of this thesis are reiterated within the analysis of VCU's Main Stage production.


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Date of Submission

June 2008