What does a musical theater choreographer do?

Would you make a good musical theater choreographer? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Musical Theater Choreographer?

Musical theater choreographers are creative professionals who design, direct, and stage the dance and movement sequences in musical productions. Their overriding objective is to develop choreography that enhances the storytelling; complements the music, costumes, and set design; and fits the overall vision of the production. In essence, musical theater choreographers bring the musical to life through movement, energy, spectacle, and emotion.

What does a Musical Theater Choreographer do?

A musical theatre choreographer teaching a dance to performers.

Duties and Responsibilities
The role of the musical theater choreographer involves several key tasks:

  • Conceptualizing Choreography – Musical theater choreographers conceptualize the movement style and dance numbers based on the themes, characters, and emotions of the musical.
  • Creating Dance Routines – They develop original dance routines and sequences that fit the music, lyrics, and overall tone of the production. This involves choreographing movements that convey storytelling elements and character development.
  • Teaching Choreography – Musical theater choreographers teach the dance routines to the cast, ensuring that performers understand and can execute the movements safely and effectively. They might work one-on-one with performers to address specific challenges or provide additional guidance on technique or characterization.
  • Auditioning Dancers – In some cases, musical theater choreographers are involved in auditioning and selecting dancers for the production. They assess dancers' skills, versatility, and suitability for specific roles or dance styles.
  • Collaborating with the Creative Team – Musical theater choreographers collaborate with the director, music director, costume designers, and set designers to ensure that the choreography aligns with the overall vision of the production. They may provide input on costume choices, set elements, and lighting design to enhance the visual impact of the dance numbers.
  • Managing Rehearsals – They oversee dance rehearsals, providing guidance and feedback to performers to ensure that the choreography is executed with precision and expression. They may also coordinate with stage managers to schedule rehearsals and track progress.
  • Adapting Choreography – Throughout the rehearsal process, musical theater choreographers may make adjustments to the choreography based on feedback from the creative team, technical limitations, or the abilities of the performers.

Types of Musical Theater Choreographers
Now that we have a sense of the potential scope of the musical theater choreographer’s work, let’s look at some different types of musical theater choreographers, each with their own artistic approaches, styles, and areas of expertise:

  • Tap Choreographers – These choreographers specialize in creating tap dance sequences for musical theater productions. They have expertise in rhythm, timing, and intricate footwork, and they work closely with tap dancers to develop technically challenging and visually engaging routines.
  • Jazz Choreographers – Jazz choreographers specialize in jazz dance styles, which often feature dynamic movements, syncopated rhythms, and expressive storytelling. They create jazz-influenced dance numbers for musical theater productions, incorporating elements of Broadway jazz, lyrical jazz, or contemporary jazz dance.
  • Hip-Hop Choreographers – Hip-hop choreographers bring urban dance styles, such as breaking, locking, popping, and hip-hop freestyle, to musical theater productions. They create high-energy, dynamic dance sequences that showcase the athleticism, rhythm, and creativity of hip-hop dance culture.
  • Ballet Choreographers – Ballet choreographers have expertise in classical ballet technique and repertoire. While ballet may not be as prevalent in contemporary musical theater, choreographers with a ballet background may incorporate balletic movements or choreograph ballet-inspired sequences for certain productions.
  • Fosse-Style Choreographers – Inspired by the iconic choreography of Bob Fosse, these choreographers specialize in the distinctive Fosse style, characterized by sharp, stylized movements, isolations, and sensual gestures. They may recreate Fosse's classic choreography or create original pieces inspired by his work.
  • Contemporary Choreographers – Contemporary choreographers bring modern dance techniques and styles to musical theater productions. They may incorporate elements of contemporary dance, hip-hop, or other non-traditional movement forms into their choreography, creating fresh and innovative dance sequences.

These specializations reflect the diverse range of dance styles and techniques used in musical theater. Choreographers may choose to focus on one or more areas or blend elements of different styles in their work.

Musical theater choreographers have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if musical theater choreographer is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Musical Theater Choreographer like?

Musical theater choreographers work for various entities involved in the production of musical theater performances. Their most common employers include:

  • Theater Companies – Professional theater companies, both regional and national / international, often employ choreographers. These companies produce a wide range of musicals, from classic Broadway shows to contemporary works.
  • Broadway and Off-Broadway Productions – Choreographers are regularly hired for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, which are staged in theaters located in New York City. These productions often feature high-profile talent and large-scale dance numbers, making choreographers essential to the creative process.
  • Touring Productions – Touring productions of musicals, which travel to different cities and venues, frequently hire choreographers to restage the choreography for each location and maintain the artistic integrity of the show.
  • Educational Institutions – Colleges, universities, and performing arts schools employ choreographers to teach dance classes, direct student productions, and choreograph musical theater performances as part of their theater or dance programs.
  • Community Theaters – Community theaters and amateur theater groups often hire choreographers for their productions to elevate the quality of the performances and provide opportunities for local dancers and performers to showcase their talents.
  • Special Events and Productions – Choreographers may also be hired for special events, such as corporate galas, awards ceremonies, theme park shows, cruise ship entertainment, and other live entertainment productions that incorporate musical theater elements.

Based on the nature of their work and focus, musical theater choreographers may find themselves transitioning between different settings. They may spend time in dance studios and rehearsal spaces equipped with dance floors, mirrors, and sounds systems; theaters and performance venues; or production offices and shared coworking spaces. Musical theater choreographers involved in touring productions, international residencies, or site-specific projects may be required to work in multiple locations around the world, traveling to different cities, countries, or cultural institutions.

Depending on their role, musical theater choreographers may also engage in administrative tasks, such as scheduling rehearsals, communicating with cast and crew, coordinating costume fittings, and managing budgets and contracts.

In recent years, choreographers have increasingly utilized virtual platforms and digital tools for choreographic exploration, collaboration, and presentation. Musical theater choreographers may conduct virtual rehearsals, share choreographic ideas online, or participate in virtual residencies and workshops.

Frequently Asked Questions

Musical Theater Choreographers are also known as:
Theatrical Choreographer