The Role of Choreography in Bridging Broadway and Hollywood

January 10, 2024

The Role of Choreography in Bridging Broadway and Hollywood

When it comes to grand gestures and dramatic performances, there's no denying the significant role played by choreography in both Broadway and Hollywood. The art of choreography goes back a long way, with its roots firmly planted in the golden era of Broadway and the flashy age of Hollywood. With the evolution of dance styles and storytelling techniques, choreography has become a vital part of both these worlds, creating a visual treat that's as mesmerizing as it is memorable.

While Broadway and Hollywood might seem worlds apart, their deep-seated connection becomes evident when we delve a bit deeper into the history of choreography. It was Broadway that gifted Hollywood its initial pool of talent, with many choreographers moving from the Great White Way to the glamour and glitter of Hollywood. These choreographers brought with them a unique blend of artistry and creativity, which was instrumental in shaping the course of Hollywood musicals.

Origins of Choreography in Broadway and Hollywood

The journey of choreography in Broadway dates back to the early 20th century, when the concept of dance started to evolve beyond its traditional forms. It was during this era that Broadway gave birth to a new breed of choreographers who dared to push the boundaries and experiment with dance as a powerful storytelling tool. This was a time when the toe-tapping tunes and the rhythmic razzle-dazzle of Broadway started making waves in the world of entertainment.

Meanwhile, Hollywood was quick to pick up on this trend. The growing popularity of musicals in the 1920s and 1930s paved the way for the introduction of choreography in Hollywood. A slew of Broadway choreographers migrated to the West Coast, bringing with them the quintessential Broadway touch. The result was a series of Hollywood musicals that combined the spectacle of Broadway with the magic of cinema. Broadway Hollywood, as we know it today, was born.

Influence of Broadway Choreography on Hollywood Musicals

The influence of Broadway choreography on Hollywood musicals is unmistakable. From the intricate dance routines to the expressive movements, Broadway's imprint can be seen in many Hollywood musicals. These films not only adopted the unique style and techniques of Broadway choreography but also incorporated its narrative approach. The choreography in these musicals went beyond being just a visual spectacle and became an integral part of the storytelling process.

In the captivating world of Hollywood musicals, choreography has often been used to convey emotions, build character arcs, and even drive the narrative forward. The songs and dances are not just added frills but hold significant meaning in the plot's context. This narrative-driven approach to choreography is a gift from Broadway and continues to shape the way dance is perceived and used in Hollywood musicals.

Methods and Techniques: Choreography in Broadway vs. Hollywood

The techniques used in choreography for Broadway and Hollywood share common roots but have evolved in unique ways due to the demands and constraints of each medium.

In Broadway, choreography is traditionally focused on live performance. This means that the entire dance sequence must be executed flawlessly in one continuous take. As a result, Broadway choreography often emphasizes group formations and the ability of the dancers to perform synchronized movements with precision.

Unlike Broadway, Hollywood choreography has more flexibility with camera angles, special effects, and editing. It allows choreographers to create intricate and complex routines that would be impossible to perform on a live stage. Hollywood choreographers often use the camera as a dance partner, choreographing not just the performers, but also the movement of the camera.

However, both mediums require a deep understanding of storytelling through movement. The choreography must always serve the narrative and emotions of the piece.

Notable Choreographers: Driving the Connection between Broadway and Hollywood

There have been many notable choreographers who have bridged the gap between Broadway and Hollywood, bringing a unique blend of techniques to both fields.

Bob Fosse is one such figure. Fosse began his career in Broadway and later transitioned to Hollywood. He is known for his distinctive style characterized by turned-in knees, rolled shoulders, and complex, isolating movements. Fosse's work, including Cabaret and All That Jazz, has had a lasting influence on both Broadway and Hollywood choreography.

Jerome Robbins is another pivotal figure. Robbins was a choreographer for both Broadway and Hollywood, best known for West Side Story. He used dance as a storytelling tool, creating complex characters and narratives through movement.

Many contemporary choreographers, like Andy Blankenbuehler and Christopher Gattelli, continue to work in both Broadway and Hollywood, blending techniques from both fields to create innovative and engaging choreography. They have added a new layer of sophistication to choreography by incorporating elements of hip hop and other modern dance styles.

The influence of these choreographers and others has resulted in a rich, evolving dialogue between Broadway and Hollywood choreography, with each medium pushing the other to new heights of creativity and innovation.

Origins of Choreography in Broadway and Hollywood

The art of choreography in both Broadway and Hollywood has a rich history, beginning in the early 20th century. Initially, dance numbers in Hollywood films were largely inspired by Broadway productions. Broadway, known for its vibrant live performances, pioneered the inclusion of dance as an integral part of storytelling in theatre. This creative concept was soon adopted by Hollywood, with choreographers creating elaborate dance sequences to enhance the visual appeal of films.

Influence of Broadway Choreography on Hollywood Musicals

Hollywood has long been influenced by the artistic vision of Broadway choreographers. The integration of dance into musical storytelling became a signature feature of Hollywood musicals. The choreography in these films was no longer merely about showcasing dance but became an effective tool in advancing the narrative. This narrative dance style was directly borrowed from Broadway, where choreography is fundamental to the telling of the story.

Methods and Techniques: Choreography in Broadway vs. Hollywood

Choreography on Broadway and Hollywood may seem similar at first glance, but there are subtle differences in methods and techniques. Broadway choreography is designed for a large, three-dimensional stage with live audiences, requiring dancers to project to the back of the theatre. On the other hand, Hollywood choreography is tailored for the camera, allowing for more intimate, intricate movements and the use of cinematic techniques such as close-ups and different camera angles.

Notable Choreographers: Driving the Connection between Broadway and Hollywood

Several notable choreographers have made significant contributions to both Broadway and Hollywood, strengthening the bond between the two. Some pivotal figures include Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, and Agnes de Mille. Their innovative choreography transformed musical storytelling, with their works still influencing contemporary Broadway and Hollywood productions.

Jerome Robbins

Robbins, known for his work on West Side Story, revolutionized choreography with his seamless incorporation of dance into the narrative.

Bob Fosse

Fosse, with his signature jazz hands and hat, brought a new style to Broadway and Hollywood, emphasizing character-driven movements in shows like Cabaret and Pippin.

Agnes de Mille

Agnes de Mille, a pioneer in her own right, redefined choreography in musicals, focusing on character development and story progression through dance in productions like Oklahoma! and Carousel.

The Impact of Technology on Choreography in Hollywood and Broadway

Technology has greatly impacted choreography in both Broadway and Hollywood. Advancements, such as digital editing tools and motion capture technology, have allowed for more visually stunning and intricate dance sequences. However, the essence of choreography remains true to its roots, with a continued emphasis on storytelling and character development.