Historical events and biography both lend themselves to dances that have strong narrative component. Almost any event in history in which human actions played significant roles can lend itself to dance.
Two contrasting examples from modern American dance, with works created during different eras and focusing on different time periods, could be consulted to see how choreographers have handled themes drawn from real life.
Appalachian Spring is a dance by pioneering dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. From the vantage point of the 1940s, she looked at the era of 19th-century American Westward expansion. Composer Aaron Copland drew on the ethnic background of many of the settlers. Although the historical events she depicted were real, she narrowed the scope and created fictional characters on whom to focus: a young bride and groom and a preacher and his congregation. By narrowing the story to showcase the impact of the era on specific individuals, she encouraged the audience’s identification with the events depicted.
In contrast, a recent dance that focuses on the life events of a single person is Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s Analogy/Dora Tramontane. The 2015 dance expands on interviews that Jones conducted with his mother-in-law Dora Amelan, a World War Two Holocaust survivor and nurse. He incorporates nine dancers into expressing different phases of her experience in the French resistance and Vichy internment camps.