5 Classic Dance Musicals You Need to See Live (At Least Once)

Maybe they'll be revived (yet again) on Broadway in your lifetime. Or maybe your local community theater is putting on a production. It doesn't matter how you see these classic dance-happy musicals—you just need to.

CATS (1981, London’s West End) Choreography: Gillian Lynne Even if you can’t tell what, exactly, is happening in this musical—inspired by, of all things, T.S. Eliot’s poetry—you won’t be able to resist the tap-dancing cockroaches in “Gumbie Cat” or the sultry “Macavity” number. Get yourself to the Jellicle Ball.


West Side Story (1957, Broadway) Choreography: Jerome Robbins Robbins had a reputation as a formidable taskmaster, and legend has it he insisted that the Sharks and the Jets not socialize outside of the theater. But his method-madness worked: The “Dance at the Gym” scene—which includes a mambo, cha-cha and dreamy waltz—has just the tension and drama to be believable.


42nd Street (1980, Broadway) Choreography: Gower Champion 42nd Street was legendary Broadway choreographer Champion’s final show; he died hours before the curtain rose on opening night. But he left one of the most famous tap dance shows of all time as his parting gift.



A Chorus Line (1975, Broadway) Choreography: Michael Bennett Bennett’s love letter to theater chorus dancers might be the truest, cruelest representation of what it’s like to attend a Broadway cattle-call audition. But his realism means you get to see hard-hitting, fast-paced, dynamic dancing.



Fosse (1999, Broadway) Choreography: Bob Fosse We could tell you to see The Pajama Game for the “Steam Heat” bowler hat ditty, or Sweet Charity to see the dance hall ladies belt “Hey Big Spender,” or even Chicago for the lickety-split “Hot Honey Rag,” but why not see all three—plus dozens more—in this revue? Two of Fosse’s most well-known interpreters, Ann Reinking and Chet Walker, created the show as an homage.

Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Courtesy Lovely Leaps

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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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