Who Are Broadway Dance Captains and What Do They Do?

What does it mean to be a dance captain?

By: Jan. 11, 2020
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Some of the hardest working people on Broadway don't get enough credit. Their names aren't above the title- in fact, you've probably never heard their names at all. They don't win Tony Awards for their diligence, nor do fans storm the stage door for their autographs. And yet, the upkeep of an entire Broadway production often sits in their capable hands.

We're talking about the Dance Captains, who use their keen eyes, multi-tasking brains, and impeccable talent to keep Broadway running in more ways than one. Let's break it down...

What does a Dance Captain do?

The primary duty of the Dance Captain is to maintain the integrity of the choreographer's vision throughout the duration of a show's run. This means keeping a constant watch on the show's choreography and blocking to ensure that the movement is crisp, clean, and is being performed as the show's creators intended.

Additionally, Dance Captains are often responsible for preparing new members of the cast to be ready to hit the stage. This includes regularly working with understudies, swings and replacement company members. When cast members are out of a show, due to illness or vacation, the Dance Captain is responsible for readying their understudy/swings to fill in the gaps.

Dance Captains can also assist in auditioning new members of the cast, and can be responsible for coordinating alterations to movement/spacing/etc. for special events, such as television appearances and other performances outside the theatre.

Who selects the Dance Captain?

The choreographer. Often (but not always), the choreographer will look to a reliable and responsible dancer with whom he/she already has an established working relationship. Sometimes a choreographer will select two 'co' Dance Captains to do the job. It's also not uncommon for a member of the cast to take on an 'Assistant Dance Captain' role.

Who Are Broadway Dance Captains and What Do They Do?
Scene from Moulin Rouge!

Is the Dance Captain always a member of the cast?

Yes. Oftentimes, the Dance Captain is a swing- meaning he/she is responsible for understudying most (if not all) of the ensemble tracks in a show. This means that while a Dance Captain might not perform in the show every night, he/she must be ready to go on for any member of the cast at any given time.

This is not always the case though- occasionally the Dance Captain will be a member of the show's ensemble.

Who does the Dance Captain work with?

Especially as a show is being created, the Dance Captain works closely with the choreographer and his/her associates. Following opening night, the Dance Captain becomes his/her eyes and takes charge in upholding their intended placement, style, spacing, and energy onstage. This involves regularly giving notes to fellow cast members and holding brush-up and put-in rehearsals when needed.

The Dance Captain also works in tandem with the Stage Manager in coordinating rehearsals, and preparing for absences/changes in cast on a day-to-day basis.

Who Are Broadway Dance Captains and What Do They Do?
Scene from Frozen

How does the Dance Captain keep track of everything?

How can one person possibly know at all times what every person in the cast should be doing? It takes an extra-special kind of performer to be able to manage all of the duties of a Dance Captain, but they get a little bit of help from the Show Bible (or Dance Notebook). Here, the Dance Captain keeps detailed notes on individual tracks, movement patterns, stage diagrams, etc.

Want to learn more?

In BroadwayWorld's exclusive series Dance Captain Dance Attack, Ben Cameron goes into the studio to learn original Broadway choreography from the folks who know it best. Viewers are encouraged to learn the choreography along with Ben and the dance captains in this fast-paced, often hysterical, look into the world of some of Broadway's hardest working players. Click below to watch previous episodes with the Dance Captains from Beetlejuice, Hadestown, Frozen, Ain't Too Proud and so many more!

Want to learn even more about Broadway? We've got info on all 41 Broadway theatres, the longest-running shows of all time, which shows are best for high schools, plus tips on how to win a Broadway ticket lottery, when to buy tickets to a Broadway show, how to visit the stage door, how to get there, what to wear, what you can bring, where to eat, where to drink, and how to know if a show is age appropriate!