Music Theatre Dance History is a course that, with dance as the focal point, explores the most influential names that contributed to American musical theatre as we know it today. Despite it's relative youth, there is much to explore with regard to the growth of movement and choreography in the musical theatre industry. As students learn about each influencer they will experience the significance of dance in musical theatre as it progresses through it's three main evolutionary stages; from primarily decorative dance, to dance that is meaningful and often complements the narrative, and then to dance that is essential and integral to the piece as a whole. Designed as a compliment to the standard musical theatre history courses, this class offers primarily undergraduate students greater insight into choreographer's who's contributions are invaluable but often aren't part of the standard MT history curriculum.

  • Gain a working knowledge of the lives of the most important names in the history of dance in musical theatre.

  • Understand the role dance plays in decorating, complementing, and/or cultivating a narrative.

  • Achieve a theoretical understanding of the different styles explored by each choreographer, as well as how each influenced (and/or was influenced by the others).

  • Bolster their theoretical understanding  by watching videos of choreography while dissecting and discussing the themes, patterns, evolutions, and revolutions therein.

  • Using their own personal skills and experiences, students will create weekly expressions of the thematic elements explored; thereby turning a conceptual understanding into a practical and applicable knowledge base for future work both on stage and off.

About the course


Learning Outcomes

*Footlight Parade, Busby Berkeley, 1933

*Top Hat, Fred Astaire/Hermes Pan, 1935

*An American in Paris, Gene Kelly, 1951

*Balanchine, George Balanchine, American Masters, 2004

*Oklahoma! (Hollywood version), Agnes de Mille, 1955

*On the Riviera, Jack Cole, 1951

*A Chorus Line, Michael Bennett, 2006

*Hello, Dolly!, Gower Champion, 1994

*West Side Story, Jerome Robbins, 2008

*The Band Wagon, Michael Kidd, 1953

*All That Jazz, Bob Fosse, 1979

*Sweet Charity, Bob Fosse, 1969

*The Will Rogers Follies, Tommy Tune, 1991

*Contact (TV broadcast), Susan Stroman, 2002

*Stormy Weather, Katherine Dunham, 1943



[click here to access all videos]

*By clicking the above link you agree to use these videos ONLY for the assigned viewing purposes of this course.

Broadway, The Golden Years: Jerome Robbins and the Great Choreographer Directors 1940 to the Present

- Robert Emmet Long, 2003

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Hoofing on Broadway: A History of Show Dancing

- Richard Kislan, 1987

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Conversations with Choreographers

- Sventlana McLee Grody & Dorothy Daniels Lister, 1996

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contact info


a history of musical theatre dance

Zachary D. McConnell - Instructor


Policies, Assignments, and Grading

This course is graded on a point system and translated into letters at the end of the semester. The breakdown of points and grading are as follows.


Weekly Assignments/Final Exam - 120 Points

Attendance/Class Participation - 80 Points


190-200+ = A

180-189 = A-

170-179 = B+

160-169 = B

150-159 = B-

140-149 = C+

130-139 = C

120-129 = C-

110-119 = D

0-109 = F

Each week, starting with week 2, students will be tasked to create a thematic representation of that week's choreographer(s) to be turned in the following tuesday. Students are free to choose their medium of expression (visual art, music, oral report, game, dance, etc.). BE CREATIVE. There are only two requirements:


1. The assignment demonstrates an acute understanding of the themes discussed in class and their pertinence to the choreographer(s) in question.


2. The assignment exhibits something unique to the student and their connection to the material. In other words: I want to see YOU in how you cultivate and complete the assignment.


Addendum: These weekly assignments are OPTIONAL. Should students choose to complete them, each weekly assignment will award them points toward WAVING their final exam for the semester. Each completed assignment that meets the aforementioned requirements and is turned in ON-TIME, will award the student 10 points. Late assignments will receive only 5 points. Late assignments will be accepted no later than START OF CLASS ON FRIDAY. If only half of the assignments are completed, the student will need to earn 60 points on the final exam. If the student completes ALL 12 weekly assignments (120 points total) they will have the option to wave the final exam completely or take the final for extra credit.

Weekly assignments



Like the weekly assignments, attendance is OPTIONAL. Your grade will not be penalized for missing a class. However, if you miss a class, you will not have the option to complete that weeks assignment as being absent  will deprive you of the necessary information to do so. Therefore, missing EVEN ONE class, will obligate you to take the final exam, in order to achieve the necessary points to pass the course.

Appropriating someone else’s words or work without attribution is plagiarism, and a serious breach of academic integrity. If you are using the words of another person in your work, you must include a proper notation in your text, noting the source by author and publication date (e.g. “Boardman, 1976”). You must also include a full citation of that work in your bibliography. Failure to do so will result in a failing grade for the assignment, possibly for the course as well, and the incident will be reported to the Dean.

Zachary D. McConnell - Instructor

Class Times: Tuesday & Friday, 10:00am-11:50am

Phone: (616) 402-7016

Office Hours: By appointment