Teaching Musical Theatre and Theatre Jazz is an animal in itself and there are many components to teaching it effectively; technically, stylistically, historically and conceptually. This genre is a real love of mine and where my heart is at, so I take great passion in providing my students with complete knowledge in the truest sense. The difference between a good musical theatre curriculum and a great one, is providing your dancers not only with the understanding of extracted musical numbers from shows or movies, but having them understand the whole show; music, book and lyrics from beginning to end! Teaching them the details of who the composer and lyricist was, who the choreographer was, what the style is, who wrote the script and when and where these musicals were produced will elevate their knowledge to a whole new level; not to mention continue the legacy of passing these musical gems onto future generations!
I’d like to share some helpful hints to teaching the musical theatre genre which have helped me over the years and provided great results for my own dancers! The main thing I believe is to remember to always set works which your students will become engaged with, challenge them and make them knowledgeable about musical theatre history!
- Always think about what is age & content appropriate & what you know your students can grasp conceptually, musically & physically! Choose music which will best showcase your students technically and performance wise and bring them to life on stage!
- Consider work-shopping musicals throughout the year and take time to explore each piece or musical you are looking at! Investing more than one class will definitely provide students with a better and more thorough understanding of what they are learning!
- Explain back-story/history of show to your students so they understand song context! This is key to grasping the nuances of the musical theatre genre.
- Opt for an alternative song version/different arrangement/contemporary or original version. This is a great way to use music which is not often overused at completion and will offer audiences a fresh eye on a variation of a classic favorite!
- Look at movie soundtracks with era specific genres or international productions that may not have hit the Broadway stage here in the states! Many West End productions have great scores which may be unfamiliar to some and will definitely tap into the originality factor for your dancers and audiences!
- Use well known musicals but opt for the lesser well known songs.
- Consider using overtures, entr’actes & reprises. This is a great way to use a medley of great songs from a show without having to music edit! It also takes the audience on a quick journey of the musical; creating space for many dynamic, transition and choreographic changes within one piece!
- Go to the composers themselves, Cole Porter, Gershwin, etc. Many of the composers have music composed which were never used for actual full-length shows but will provide wonderful pieces which are all of different time periods and styles!
Below are some of my favorite musical choices for preteen musical theatre students! Remember to always think outside of the box and take chances! And most of all have fun! The best musical theatre dancers will always be those who have full knowledge of the whole show, history and technique!
Preteen Musical Theatre Song Ideas:
“Why we Tell the Story” from Once on this Island
“ Soul Bossa Nova” from Austin Powers
“Bushel and a Peck,” “Havana” from Guys & Dolls
Boogie Shoes, “You Should be Dancing,” “Jive Talking” from Saturday Night Fever
“Hair,” “Aquarius,” “Manchester England” from Hair
“13” from Thirteen the Musical
“We Got Annie” from Annie
“Bon Jour Paris,” “Think Pink” from Funny Face
“Oh the Things you Can do” from Seussical the Musical
“Chaiyya Chaiyya” from Bombay Dreams
“C’Mon Everybody” from All Shook Up
“Get me to the Church on Time” from Mary Poppins
“Chicago Strut” From Jelly’s Last Jam
“Think” From Blues Brothers the Musical
“Hot Lunch Jam” from Fame the Muscial
“Uptown Girl” from Movin’ Out
“Rock n Roll is Here to Stay” from Grease
“Now you Has Jazz” from High Society
“Everything Old is New Again” from The Boy from Oz
“Overture” from Snoopy the Musical
“When Pigs Fly” from When Pigs Fly
“Grease is the Word,” “Raining on Prom Night into Shakin at the High School Hop” from Grease
“Wash that Man Right out of My Hair” from South Pacific
“New York, New York” from On the Town
“Rhythm of Life” from Sweet Charity
“It’s Your Wedding Day” from The Wedding Singer
Notable IPOD searches: MGM Hollywood Soundtracks, That’s Entertainment Series, Best of the Musicals Series, Judy Garland, Kay Thompson, Jamie Cullum, Songs of West Side Story, Gene Kelly at MGM, Pink Martini, etc.
Good luck...and all that jazz!
See you in the dance studio,