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Stepping out of line: (Re)claiming the diva for the dancers of Broadway

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Working from the terms and examples set in musical theatre, opera and ballet, this article expands the definition of Broadway’s diva to include the powerful performances of Broadway’s dancing divas Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Donna McKechnie. Drawing on gender and queer studies in performance, musical theatre studies and dance studies, this article reframes the musical theatre diva in a way that acknowledges the virtuosity of the body as tantamount to that of the voice. By highlighting the dancing diva, I make a case for her as collaborator, translator and artist of her own instead of simply as a muse for male directors, choreographers and composers. Finally, by featuring Verdon, Rivera and McKechnie, I point to the dancing diva’s essential impact on the evolving artistry of musical theatre in the twentieth century by highlighting their contributions to the narrative power of dance and their roles in establishing unique expectations for the triple-threat performer.
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Keywords: Chita Rivera; Donna McKechnie; Gwen Verdon; dance; diva; musical theatre

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bucknell University

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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