History of the Chorus Girl

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According to literature, it is hard to exactly define the starting point of the common “chorus girl” dancer. It may have been traced back to the Ballet Russes, or perhaps it goes back further to the late 1800s days of the cancan dancers. Some even date them back to any ladies who acted as backup actors/dancers on stage during the great opera performances of the Baroque era. Whatever, their origins, one asks how you define, a “chorus girl”? For the purposes of vintage vernacular jazz dance, when we hear the term “chorus girl”, we often associate it with such imagery of the Ziegfeld Follies, and later the Goldwyn Girls. Many a famous female icon started out as a backup dancing chorus girls, either in film or on stage in vaudeville, including Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford, and many more.

Chorus Girl routines tend to focus more on synchronization of movement and footwork, and often exaggerate this by having all of the ladies dance in long lines or complicated formations. Classic clips also often featured elaborate sets and costumes. The Ziegfeld Follies were famous for these types of routines.

Classic chorus girl dance clips also often feature elaborate overhead film shots, where the girls create dynamic shapes and formations from an above view. A classic example of this style of chorus girl choreography is by Busby Berkeley, which appeared in MANY of his films.

For more information on the history of the chorus girl, check out this blog.