SMT-V: The Society for Music Theory Videocast Journal

SMT-V is the open-access, peer-reviewed video journal of the Society for Music Theory. Founded in 2014, SMT-V publishes video essays that showcase research in music theory in a dynamic, audiovisual format, presented so as to have the potential to engage both specialists within the field as well as interested viewers outside the music theory community. The journal features a supportive and collaborative production process, and publishes several videos each year. Read more about SMT-V here.

Latest Issue: 9.3 (May 2023)

“Interactions Between Music and Dance in Two Musical Theatre Tap Breaks”

Rachel Short (Shenandoah University)


Link to bibliography

How do sounds made by dancers interact with rhythmic sounds in the music? When does the relationship between them change? Like music, dance has patterns, or “groupings,” that we can hear and see, particularly in tap dance, where the dancer’s feet intentionally create rhythmic sounds. Typically, choreography involves rhythmic groups that directly correspond to musical rhythms. But sometimes, movement patterns are at odds with musical patterns—non-alignments caused through metric displacement, groups with conflicting sizes, or asymmetrical patterns. The rhythmic complexity of these conflicts between music and dance can increase energy, and changing relationships between music and dance patterns can mark distinct sections. This video explores examples from two Broadway-style tap dance breaks (“I’ve Got Rhythm,” from Crazy for You, and the finale of Billy Elliot Live) to show how dancers’ on-stage movements and rhythmic tap sounds combine with musical rhythms and phrases to generate momentum and delineate formal structure.

Keywords: rhythm, choreography, metric dissonance, Broadway, tap dance


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