Broadway Research Finally Has Breakthrough

My research got off to a slow start this summer, so I avoided posting because I had nothing to share. In the last few weeks, however, my endless efforts of contacting people have paid off, and I finally have data to analyze and information to share.

It took 7 weeks of endless emails, phone calls, and in person visits to dance studios to finally break through and manage to interview a choreographer, but once I interviewed JoAnn Hunter, choreographer of School of Rock, the other choreographers started rolling in. This Thursday is my last scheduled interview, and it will be my 8th choreographer.

My research is focused on determining similarities and differences in the processes of successful broadway choreographers and how those differences in process contribute to the differing levels of success of their shows. Interestingly, for the questions in process, most people begin the same way with reading the script, and the defining difference appears to be the way they talk about collaboration. It appears that people who talk positively about collaborating and focus their speech on the goal of it all have more successful shows than those who focus on the challenges.

Additionally, one of the more interesting differences has been that while each choreographer looks for very similar things in a dancer, the dancers I’ve interviewed seem to have conflicting advice and no real idea what a choreographer is looking for. I’ve been intrigued by this disconnect. Nearly every choreographer has mentioned authenticity and the ability to take on a character in their own words. One dancer has touched on the ability to take on a character, but for the most part, dancers focus their answers on technique, work ethic, and training. Choreographers admit that these are important and do matter, but what sets one hard working, well trained performer apart from another is genuinely bringing their personality to the audition.

I am still in the process of transcribing each interview, but these are two of the more interesting trends I’ve noticed in the interviews so far.


  1. michaelsparrow says:

    Hey Kelsey, congrats on getting so many interviews in such a short span of time! I’m really intrigued by the disconnect you mentioned between what dancers look for in choreographers vs. what choreographers look for in dancers – I wonder if that communication breakdown exists in any other fields, or even in other areas of musical theatre. One thing I think would be interesting, but much more challenging, to research is the effect that traditional ballet choreographies had on the success or reception of those musical works. The example that comes to mind is Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – its inaugural performance was one of the most legendarily scandalous concerts in recent history, and the ballet choreography, with its graphic depictions of occult ceremonies and human sacrifice, must have played a role in causing those riots alongside the gratingly dissonant music. I think that may be worth looking into, either as an extension of this project or a side project all on its own!

  2. Kelsey Creech says:

    Hey Michael, thank you for your congratulations. It was a stressful few weeks beforehand. You bring up a really interesting point. The specific question I asked had more to do with perception; what choreographers look for in dancers v. what performers perceive that choreographers are looking for in dancers. I am sure, however, that it probably exists in multiple areas of the industry. You bring up a really interesting point, however, with regard to Ballet and its effect on the reception of broadway performances.I can’t speak to it since my research has not really addressed that topic. Broadway was birthed just as much if not more so out of the Vaudeville shows, so it would interesting to analyze the effects of not only ballet, but also Vaudeville, traditional plays, and Opera on the modern broadway show. I agree, that could be an excellent new project to research.

  3. Hey Kelsey – that is very exciting progress! Failure to produce significant progress in the early stages of research can be a huge deterrent to continue your efforts, so it is exciting to see how you pushed through until you found success. I do have a question for you – how did you choose which choreographers you interviewed? Are they all involved in a specific genre, or maybe just a general time frame for their productions (i.e. started producing in the 90s or 2000s)? I’d be interested to see if maybe choreographers of different styles have different answers to your research question. Thanks!

  4. Kelsey Creech says:

    Thank you! There were definitely days where I didn’t think it was worth it, but i’m glad i found a way to make it happen. All the choreographers I interviewed have shows that are currently on Broadway and who are working on additional works right now. Each choreographer is in the business right now and has a perspective on what modern audiences are looking for and how to choreograph to those. The duration of their broadway careers thus far varies, but they are all still in progress. Additionally, to some degree, i interviewed simply whichever current choreographers responded to my email and were willing to be interviewed by a college student. Because of this, I’m missing a few key players of the current Broadway Scene, Casey Nicholaw, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Sergio Trujillo. There was a clear gender slant in this self-selected sample, given that a much larger percentage of women i reached out to agreed to interview than did men, but that is just the nature of the beast with this research to a certain degree. And interestingly enough, the bigger variances come less from style and more from gender and experience level. Thank you!

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