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Who Tells the Story?: Andy Blankenbuehler’s Choreography and the Ensemble Body on Broadway

Olmstead, Amanda Jane (2021) Who Tells the Story?: Andy Blankenbuehler’s Choreography and the Ensemble Body on Broadway. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Scholarship in the field of musical theatre has primarily focused on historical contexts of productions as well as biographies of composers, lyricists, directors, choreographers, and performers. Although some choreographer biographies point to concepts of dance style, there is much left to be said on how dance functions within a musical, moreover how the chorus/ensemble functions within a musical. In my project, I investigate the work of choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and how his methodology has arguably augmented the potential of the ensemble in a production. Following a historiographical analysis of the chorus’s development in concert with the changes in dance aesthetics and musical theatre, my piece specifically looks at Blankenbuehler’s work on the productions In the Heights (Off-Broadway, 2007; Broadway, 2008), Bring it On: the Musical (Broadway, 2012), and Hamilton (The Public, 2015; Broadway, 2016). I analyze Blankenbuehler’s specific choreographic scores for numbers within these productions in order to assess how he uniquely positions the ensemble as the lens by which an audience is to understand a musical show. Additionally, I consider how his Blankenbuehlerized-dance style frames the individual bodies within the ensemble to reveal a principal character’s psychology, tell a piece of the story, express an unspoken aspect of the libretto, transition to another scene, allow character’s to express themselves, present ideas metaphorically or abstractly, perform spectacle, connect the audience to an identifiable human experience, and activate a show’s sociological metanarrative. Ultimately, I argue for a new methodology that identifies the individual ensemble body as being a vital component for an audience’s comprehension of these productions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Olmstead, Amanda Janeajo21@pitt.eduajo210000-0001-7795-8266
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGranshaw, Michellemkg31@pitt.edumkg31
Committee MemberCroot, Cynthiaccroot@pitt.educcroot
Committee MemberGeorge, Kathleengeorgeke@pitt.edugeorgeke
Committee MemberGarcía,
Date: 3 May 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2021
Approval Date: 3 May 2021
Submission Date: 8 April 2021
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 329
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Musical Theatre, Dance, Choreography, Theatre, Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton, Bring it On the Musical, In the Heights, Ensemble Body, Dramaturgy, Dramaturgical Body, Ensemble, Chorus
Date Deposited: 03 May 2021 15:31
Last Modified: 03 May 2021 15:31


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