"To Get a Job in a Broadway Chorus, Go Into Your Dance:" Education for Careers in Musical Theatre Dance

Lauren Stanis


The purpose of this study was to identify necessary education and experiences for dancers who wish to pursue a career in musical theatre dance and identify the content dancers who want to pursue careers in musical theatre dance should be studying. In this project, two groups of individuals were surveyed about their education and experiences. These individuals were those with dance degrees, and those working professionally in musical theatre as dancers or choreographers. A total of 174 subjects participated in the study. Of these participants, ninety-two were dance degree holders and eighty-two were musical theatre dance professionals. Two surveys were designed and used to answer the questions of this research study. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to analyze data in this study. An analysis of the data suggested there was a great variety in musical theatre dance content currently being offered in undergraduate dance programs. Some programs offered higher level course work in tap, jazz, and Broadway styles while other programs did not offer those genres at all. In addition to the dance technique offerings, dance history and composition and choreography courses included a wide range of content throughout different undergraduate programs. Even when Broadway dance styles were included in these courses, there was little consistency in content offered across different collegiate programs. Based on answers to the survey questions, some but not all participants experienced high levels of career readiness for musical theatre dance professions after participation in undergraduate degree programs in dance, musical theatre programs, or with no degree at all. Thus, it seemed there was no clear educational path for musical theatre dancers. The great majority of participants in the study sought outside training and experiences to supplement their undergraduate education. The wide variety in educational programming and the different amounts of outside experience and training of participants led to the conclusion that the degree programs could not be credited for career success in musical theatre dance. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the survey and a fairly high rate of completion. The number who completed the survey might have been higher if there had been a greater personal reason or benefit for participating. Limitations to the study included unintentional bias towards musical theatre dance professionals who participated in college programs. No data was collected about years active in professional careers or years in undergraduate programs. Participants placed themselves in either category of the survey—as dance degree holders or musical theatre dance professionals. The researcher did not require proof that responders had a degree in dance, or the level at which they worked professionally.