The LaBonde Rule of Musical Theatre Choreography

Right now, I am in the midst of Godspell rehearsals. We open April 2nd! You should come! I’m very excited to be working on this show. However, the rehearsal process is always hard. Here are some of the things we are working with this time around:
  • We have just over 3 weeks to get the show up. Well, now we’re down to just over 2.
  • The cast ranges in age from 7 to adult.
  • The usual scheduling conflict issues.
  • Wait, did I mention, we’re down to a little more than 2 weeks before we open?
That’s a tight timeline, even by professional standards. A few elements are going to make this do-able however:
  • Godspell is an ensemble show. The weight of that timeline is really going to be felt by Jesus. The rest of us get to share the burden.
  • We have the right people in the right places. Our director, music director and lead actors are clearly the right people for their jobs.
  • The LaBonde Rule of Musical Theatre Choreography
What is that?, you ask. Why, it’s only the most important thing I ever learned about group choreography. And teaching.

The LaBonde Rule of Musical Theatre Choreography: Simple and Clean. Simple and Clean.

Rehearsal for Oliver! at Hedgerow Theatre, October 2010. Photo by Ashley E. Smiaht
The hardest thing for me to learn as a choreographer was that just because you could do super-cool tricks does NOT mean that you should. 20 people step-touching, in unison, in the same direction looks 5,000 times better to the audience than 20 people attempting grand jetes.

Also, when you have a quick schedule, simple choreography will give you that all important cleaning time. That’s what I, as a choreographer, never seem to have enough of. That polishing time is crucial! As an audience member, I would much rather watch a clean show. I would rather see precision and accuracy.

After all, the point of musical theatre choreography is NOT the dance steps. The goal of each dance is to build on the story that’s in the songs and script. If the dancers are feeling confused, overwhelmed or anything less than confident, the story can get lost in the focus on “steps”. Then I am doing a disservice to them, and to the audience.

My job is to help tell the story. Period. Not impress the dancers, not come up with the most intricate combinations I can. My job is to help tell the story. Simple and Clean.

Hey choreographers- what’s your “rule” or motto when creating group choreography? Stop by tomorrow for the 2 corollaries to the LaBonde Rule!