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The 10 Best Tony Awards Dance Numbers of All Time

Category Broadway

|by Christopher Caggiano |


Shall we dance?

Ah, the Tony Awards. For theater nerds, the annual Tony Awards broadcast is like the Super Bowl. For people who don’t live near New York City, it’s a welcome slice of the previous Broadway season, and a taste of what they’ll be able to see someday on tour. The dance numbers, in particular, are always a highlight of the broadcast. And, for some of these shows, these numbers represent the only accessible historical record we have of the excitement of the original productions.

With dance-centric shows, from the classic ballet of Best Choreography Tony Winner Carousel to the disco jams of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, currently ruling Broadway – and the recording of the stage adaptation of An American in Paris soon to be invading movie theaters near you – here’s our list of the best dance numbers that have appeared on the Tonys since the broadcast first started featuring show numbers in 1967.

Best Choreography Tony Winner ‘An American in Paris’ will screen in U.S. cinemas this month (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Best Choreography Tony Winner ‘An American in Paris’ will screen in U.S. cinemas this month (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

10. Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993)

Co-choreographed by Rob Marshall and Vince Paterson, “Where You Are” features the incomparable Chita Rivera at the height of her powers. She may be 60 years old in this clip, but that doesn’t stop her from kicking her face off, and just being generally fabulous.


9. Black and Blue (1989)

In terms of sheer tap-dance exuberance, it’s really hard to beat “That Rhythm Man” from Black and Blue. The show featured choreography by a slate of legendary dancers: Henry LeTang, Cholly Atkins, Frankie Manning and the magnificent Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers. Look for a fifteen-year-old Savion Glover featured prominently late in the number.

8. Guys and Dolls (1992 Revival)
One of the unquestionable highlights of the brilliant 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls was the rousing “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” with staging by Christopher Chadman. This number proves that you don’t need fancy steps and classically trained dancers to produce a genuine show-stopping number.

7. The Producers (2001):
Susan Stroman is one of the undisputed modern masters of theatrical dance. In “Along Came Bialy,” Stroman showcases her trademark wit, and her irresistible penchant for props, in the buoyant act one finale to the smash hit, The Producers.


6. Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002):
The best dance numbers usually serve a dramatic purpose in the shows that they are featured in. Here, in “Forget About the Boy,” Sutton Foster and the female cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie tap out their frustrations regarding the opposite sex to Rob Ashford’s Tony-winning choreography.


5. 42nd Street (1981):
The opening night of 42nd Street is the stuff of theatrical legend. Legendary director/choreographer Gower Champion, making a triumphant return to form with one of his biggest successes, tragically died on the day of the show’s Broadway premier. His staging for “Lullaby of Broadway” is pure Champion: simple steps, great visual appeal, and a terrific sense of build.

4. Jelly’s Last Jam (1992):
The magnificent Gregory Hines spawned a new appreciation of tap dance, partly with his Tony-winning turn in Jelly’s Last Jam. Playing jazz pioneer “Jelly Roll” Morton, Hines uses tap dance as a metaphor for the proliferation of jazz music in the thrilling number, “That’s How You Jazz.”


3. Grand Hotel (1990):
One of the most life-affirming dance numbers in Broadway history, “We’ll Take a Glass Together” is Tommy Tune at his finest. Tony winner Michael Jeter, playing a dying accountant, goes on a joyful spree with a newfound friend.


2. Big Deal (1986):
The incomparable Bob Fosse had certainly created stronger shows than the unfortunate Big Deal. But the act one finale of that show, “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” genuinely encapsulates the best of Fosse: the angular moves, the slinky sensuality, the magnificent sense of showmanship.


1. Promises Promises (1969)

Is there any dance number, in any show, that can compare to the sheer sense of joyful abandon in Michael Bennett’s jubilant “Turkey Lurkey Time”? Sure, the song itself is pretty darned silly. And, in truth, the number does very little to advance the plot or reveal character. But as a stand-alone number, “Turkey Lurkey Time” is a non-stop thrill.


For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in September 2018.

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