11 Broadway Legends and What They're Known For
It's important to know about the artists who paved the way for us—especially in the musical theater world, which has been driven from the beginning by charismatic dancers and choreographers whose work continues to inspire Broadway babies. If you're a Great White Way fan, you should get to know these legendary artists, some of whom are still making moves.
1. Jack Cole
Jack Cole is number one on this list for a reason: He's known as the father of theatrical jazz dance. His style was heavily influenced by movements from East India, Africa, and the Caribbean, but he also incorporated everything from ballet technique to the Lindy hop. "In theatre," he said, "you want to see real people doing real things." Cole's probably best known for Marilyn Monroe's "Diamond's Are a Girl's Best Friend" number from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but he also has numerous Broadway credits to his name, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kismet, and Man of La Mancha.
2. Agnes de Mille
Agnes de Mille started out in the ballet world, choreographing for American Ballet Theatre and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. But she won the hearts of musical theater lovers when she created dances for Oklahoma! on Broadway in 1943, including the famous "dream ballet." She went on to choreograph more than a dozen other musicals, including Carousel and Brigadoon.
3. Michael Kidd
You've probably seen Michael Kidd's athletic dance numbers for the films Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and The Band Wagon. Kidd first made a name for himself on Broadway, though, becoming the first choreographer to win five Tony Awards. Over the course of his 50-year career, he came to be known for the "integral musical", in which dance movements are essential to the plot.
4. Gwen Verdon
Gwen Verdon started as an assistant to Jack Cole and a dancer in the chorus line of Broadway plays. A uniquely gifted artist, she went on to become a muse to Bob Fosse. The two eventually married, and collaborated on several projects, including Sweet Charity and Chicago. In 1981, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, and in 1998, she was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.
5. Bob Fosse
We hope you know who Bob Fosse is! At a young age, Fosse performed in vaudeville and burlesque nightclubs, a sleazy, darkly humorous scene that would have a big influence on his choreography. He earned small dance parts on Broadway and in variety shows, and in 1954 choreographed his first big musical, The Pajama Game, which earned him a Tony Award—the first of eight. His absurdly impressive list of credits includes the musicals Sweet Charity, Damn Yankees, and Pippin, as well as the films All That Jazz and Cabaret.
6. Jerome Robbins
Another name we hope is very familiar! Jerome Robbins is known for his iconic work as a choreographer and director in On The Town, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, andThe King and I, to name just a few. He also choreographed more than 60 ballets, bringing the playful spirit of musical theater to works such as The Concert and N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz. (Both remain staples in the ballet world.) Among the countless awards he's received are four Tony Awards and two Academy Awards.
7. Susan Stroman
Fun fact: Susan Stroman toured in the original production of Chicago! Later she shifted career paths, winning her first Tony Award for Best Choreography for Crazy For You in 1992. She also became an accomplished director, beginning in 2000, when she helmed both the groundbreaking Contact and a revival of The Music Man. Since then, she's directed and/or choreographed 14 shows on- and off-Broadway. Stroman is also the first woman to choreograph a full-length ballet, Double Feature, for New York City Ballet.
8. Kathleen Marshall
Director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall definitely has a show "type": Her Tonys for the revivals of The Pajama Game, Anything Goes, and Wonderful Town prove she's got an eye for classic American musical comedies. In an interview with the Washington Post, she says, "I love theater that challenges and provokes, but I also think there's a place in the world for theater that entertains and transports." (Her brother, Rob Marshall—director/choreographer of the film version of Chicago, among many other things—is no slouch, either.)
9. Sutton Foster
You may know Sutton Foster from ABC Family's "Bunheads," but she started out onstage, not onscreen. Originally the understudy for the lead in the 2002 Broadway revival of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Foster ended up not only taking over the role, but also winning a Tony for it. She later won a second Tony for playing Reno Sweeney in 2011's Anything Goes revival, where she showed off her impressive tap skills. Foster is currently exploring her acting career as Liza Miller in TVLand's Younger.
10. Jerry Mitchell
Jerry Mitchell is known for his upbeat, high-energy choreography. I mean, just look at this list of shows: His first major production as a director/choreographer was 2007's Legally Blonde: The Musical; in 2013, he won a Tony for Best Choreography for Kinky Boots; and most recently, he directed On Your Feet!
11. Casey Nicholaw
Casey Nicholaw started out as a dancer in the choruses of Crazy For You, Steel Pier, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. But since choreographing Spamalot in 2005, he hasn't looked back. Just last year, the director/choreographer had four shows running on Broadway simultaneously: Tuck Everlasting, The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, and Something Rotten!
Some might say Charlize Glass' fame kicked off with a single three-letter word. In 2014, Beyoncé shared a video of the then–12-year-old dancer performing to "Yoncé" on Instagram, along with a simple caption: "WOW!"
But by that point, the hip-hop mini had already performed at the MTV Video Music Awards and on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and won first runner-up with her crew, 8 Flavahz, on "America's Best Dance Crew." And her Queen Bey Insta shout-out wasn't even the pinnacle of her tween career: She earned a spot on The PULSE On Tour as an Elite Protégé for the 2014–2015 season, and performed with Missy Elliott at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show in 2015.
These days, the 16-year-old spends her time touring the country as Brian Friedman's assistant at Radix Dance Convention and blowing up YouTube and Instagram with her class-video cameos. And while the Char Char we fell in love with was a hip-hop cutie pie, the more mature artist we see today is sure to rock the dance world for years to come.
For some it's a holiday tradition, for others its an iconic spectacle, but no matter the reason, more than 1 million people will watch the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular each year. And though the production has been around since 1933, much of what goes on behind those velvety curtains and intricate sets remains a mystery. To curb our curiosity and find out what ensues when these leggy ladies aren't doling out their sky-high kicks, we got a backstage tour from the legends themselves.
From hair and makeup, to warm-up exercises, and costume quick changes (the fastest quick change in the show is a #mindblowing 75 seconds, by the way) we got a glimpse into the glamorous (and sometimes not so glamorous) world of the Rockettes.
If you follow ballet darling Juliet Doherty on Instagram—which you probably do—you already know that the two-time Youth America Grand Prix gold medalist is a self-proclaimed "plant-powered ballerina." Doherty has followed a vegan diet for four years now, and though she never forces her lifestyle on her followers or IRL friends, she does love sharing her daily eats and the plant-based meals and snacks that help her perform at her best. Curious as to what that entails? Here's a day in the life of Juliet's meat-and-dairy-free diet.
In the summer of 2006, Heidi Groskreutz and Travis Wall performed a showstopping Mia Michaels routine on “So You Think You Can Dance" Season 2, a piece now remembered simply as “The Bench Dance." It was arguably the first time this particular dance style had been shown on live TV—a style both graceful and quirky, driven by storytelling and deeply felt emotion.
It was, in other words, the mainstream world's introduction to contemporary. And it earned “SYTYCD" one of its first Outstanding Choreography Emmy Awards.
Contemporary dance has come a long way (baby). While the style has been around for decades, as of late it seems to be everywhere. Today you can see contemporary choreography on concert stages (Shaping Sound's tour has been a massive hit), on TV (it's the favored style on “SYT" and pops up regularly on “Dancing with the Stars"), in films (remember Kathryn McCormick's character in Step Up Revolution?), in music videos (including Sia's viral films starring Maddie Ziegler) and even on Broadway (Michaels took her talents to the Great White Way for Finding Neverland).
The possibilities for contemporary dance seem to be endless. But how should the style keep evolving, and what has it outgrown? To find out, we talked to some of the contemporary world's most influential names.
As a tap dancer, you're a student of history—whether you know it or not. Tap technique today is intimately connected to the great hoofers of the past. "Tap is incredibly personal, because all of these individuals have added to the public domain, the pool of steps you draw from," says Brian Seibert, dance critic for The New York Times and author of What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing. "You're constantly giving shout-outs to dancers who came before you."
It's also important to recognize tap's pioneers because they repeatedly broke down barriers, making tap accessible to everyone. "You don't have to overcome something to be here," says Tony Waag, artistic executive director of the American Tap Dance Foundation. "You're not the first black person or woman, you don't have to carry a certain card or have a particular lineage to succeed at tap. Gregory Hines used to say, 'If you have the shoes, you're in.' "
Come meet the artists who've shaped tap history. Because if you're a tap dancer, they're your family, too.
What's better than a good dance joke? They're corny, they're punny, and they're exactly what you need to get you through long Nutcracker days. These 10 jokes are guaranteed to put a smile on your face—no matter how much your feet are hurting.
"So you Think You Can Dance" Season 14 finalists Lex Ishimoto and Taylor Sieve shocked fans at home (at least the ones who hadn't thoroughly scoured their respective Instagrams) during Episode 14, when choreographer Mia Michaels asked if either of them had ever experienced "the kind of love that takes your breath away." They confessed that, yup, they had—with each other. The two met at The Dance Awards in the summer of 2016, where they were each named Senior Best Dancer, and went on to tour with the convention as assistants. Before long—and long before their "SYTYCD" journey—they became a couple.
Take a look at Dance Spirit's exclusive interview where they dish on everything from their favorite dates to the dance moves that give them all the feels.
There's a surprising twist to Regina Willoughby's last season with Columbia City Ballet: It's also her 18-year-old daughter Melina's first season with the company. Regina, 40, will retire from the stage in March, just as her daughter starts her own career as a trainee. But for this one season, they're sharing the stage together.
Yes, we all know dancers are strong. But sometimes it takes a truly epic workout video to remind us JUST HOW INSANELY STRONG they actually are.
Behold, National Ballet of Canada principal Svetlana Lunkina's oh-so-casual pre-class exercise: