Dance History Quiz | A dance arranger’s job

Fun facts for teachers & students

What does a dance arranger do?

a. Choreographs crowd scenes in opera, plays, and musicals
b. Writes out dance notation on musical scores
c. Creates a musical “dance break” within a score
d. Ensures that dancers are in their proper places backstage before curtain and during a show

c. Creates a musical “dance break” within a score

Dance arrangers are composers, but instead of writing a song’s melody, they write the expansion of that melody to accommodate musical theater choreography. “Composers might write a minute-and-a-half song and it’s my job to make it into, say, a three-minute dance number or a seven-minute big production number,” dance arranger David Dabbon told Dance arrangers write the music for dance breaks and collaborate with both composers and choreographers. “I’ll tweak a little bar to match the choreography or vice versa,” Dabbon said. “Like, ‘I really like this music. What do you think of making the hit on count 8 instead of 7?’ and then through that the choreographer might say, ‘That actually gives me more time to stretch something.’ So it’s a give-and-take.”

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