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.

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Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

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