Dance on Television Takes a Turn Toward Scripted Programming

by Kristyn Burtt | 9/25/2019 2:20 PM

Jenna Dewan in Netflix's 'Soundtrack,' coming later this year. Photo credit: Netflix.

With the new television season kicking off this week, it's important to look at the trends of dance on TV over the next year — the times are rapidly changing. The addition of the Outstanding Choreography in Scripted Programming category at the Emmys was the first indication that Hollywood is looking at dance through storytelling in a different way.


Since 2005, the dance landscape has focused heavily on the reality competition format. With ratings dropping on shows like Dancing With the Stars, scripted programming is becoming a core focus for networks and dance is a part of that conversation. We've already seen scripted programming take a big role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Step Up: High Water and Crazy Ex-Girlfriendand choreographers are ready to be a part of the golden age of television.


More: Understanding Choreography in Scripted Programming


If you've missed Mandy Moore's opening numbers on DWTS this season, it's because she took on a new NBC show. If you missed Jenna Dewan on World of Dance in Season 3, it's because she moved over to a music and dance drama at Netflix.


While reality competition shows won't completely disappear, networks are looking for something different in 2019. Choreography in a scripted series is a unique way to tell a story and it brings more challenges to choreographers, who have to service the script, the director and work within the limited rehearsal time. These fresh opportunities for movement are attracting some of the top choreographers in the industry.


Here are a few shows to look for over the next year.


High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Release date: Nov. 12

Grease: Live and Glee choreographer Zach Woodlee is headed to East High to bring the popular Disney franchise back to life. Alan Salazar also assisted Woodlee on this project, which shot in Utah earlier this year. TV dance fans will also recognize So You Think You Can Dance contestant Stephanie Sosa and World of Dance competitor Andrés Peñate as some of the Wildcat dancers.


More: What Are the West Coast 'Dancing With the Stars' Viewers Voting For?


Feel the Beat

Release date: 2020

Netflix is stepping into the music and dance genre big time in 2020, so get ready for this Mia Michaels-choreographed dance movie, Feel the Beat. Sofia Carson leads a pack of misfit dancers in her small town, who are training for a big competition. Fans of SYTYCD will also be happy to learn that Hailee Payne assisted Michaels on this project.



Release Date: Late 2019

Jenna Dewan left World of Dance to take this opportunity to star in the series, Soundtrack. The show focuses on how music connects the lives of people living in Los Angeles — and yes, dance is a big part of this show with Dewan in the ensemble. James Alsop, who has worked with major artists like Beyoncé and Janelle Monae, takes on the choreography for this series.


More: 'Fosse/Verdon' Proves That Without Gwen Verdon, There Is No Bob Fosse


Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

Release Date: Midseason 2020

If you are looking for Mandy Moore on DWTS, she's moved over to NBC to a new scripted series called Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. The show is about a woman who hears the thoughts of people around her through song. The original pilot, shot in the U.S., featured familiar faces like Robert Roldan, Morgan Larson and Britt Stewart. The show will now feature Canadian dancers since shooting has moved to Vancouver.


A Chorus Line

Release Date: TBD

This series is heaven for musical theatre fans because it's a 10-episode series about A Chorus Line, directed by Ryan Murphy. This project is a part of Murphy's $300 million deal with Netflix where he has 15 shows currently in development, so it might be a while before we see this on TV. However, expect original Broadway cast member Baayork Lee to jump in and help with the choreography because she has kept Michael Bennett's choreographic legacy alive over the decades.

Which series are you most excited to watch? 

Don’t miss Dance Network’s ‘To The Pointe’ interview with ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ choreographer, Marguerite Derricks:

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