Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Gershwin, Choreography, Analysis, Kelly, Wheeldon

Major Advisor

Dr. Constance Rock

Co-Major Advisor

Dr. Peter Kaminsky

Associate Advisor

Dr. Alain Frogley

Field of Study



Doctor of Musical Arts

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation explores the relationship between the theoretic interpretation of music (through analysis of a score) and the kinesthetic interpretation of it (through dance). While compelling choreography often evokes the same expressive qualities as a score, music and dance each have expressive and structural components. This study examines how formal elements of a musical score are embodied in choreographic interpretation.

Gershwin’s symphonic poem An American in Paris, conceived as concert music, was almost immediately interpreted in dance. It also inspired larger narrative works, including a film choreographed by Gene Kelly and a musical helmed by Christopher Wheeldon.

Gershwin’s life and musical style are examined, including his synthesis of popular and Western art music. A brief survey of existing theoretic literature is presented, followed by an original analysis of the score. Focus is given to the six thematic pillars, which elucidate the piece’s large-scale form and programmatic implications.

The art of choreography is built on the creative union of music and dance unfolding together in real time. This dissertation briefly surveys the relationship of dance and narrative on the American stage, and identifies important music and dance terms for the benefit of general readers.

The final portion of the study examines key musical structures in Paris and considers how choreography clarifies, enhances, or even diverges from them. The thematic pillars are analyzed as important structural highpoints in the musical-kinetic structure. The choreographies of Kelly and Wheeldon are compared to draw generalizations about the relationship between Gershwin’s music and its interpretation onstage.