All the Scoop on the Super-Dancey New Movie 'The Greatest Showman'
The latest original musical to grace the big screen, The Greatest Showman follows the life and times of P.T. Barnum, and the events that inspired him to create the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus—often dubbed "The Greatest Show on Earth"—in the mid-1800s. Hugh Jackman stars as the entertainer, joined by celebs like Zendaya (who plays a graceful trapeze artist) and Zac Efron (who plays a circus performer and love interest to Zendaya's character). As Barnum assembles a dazzling spectacle of performers, the cast gets to participate in some epic dance numbers, choreographed by Ashley Wallen. Here, Wallen gives us the behind-the-scenes scoop on the film's moves.
What's the choreography in the film like?
It's a mixture of classic musical theater, old MGM movies, and commercial and pop dancing. I love all the old-style films, and it's a period film, but we still wanted to keep it relevant with the choreography and the music.
Tell us a little bit about the filming process.
This film has been a long time in the making. We've been working on it for seven years. Once the film got green-lit, we did eight weeks of rehearsal in a studio. We didn't have that much time to rehearse on set beforehand, so choreography got changed day-of quite a lot, which is typical for working on film.
As a choreographer, do you find having to change your work on the spot nerve-racking or exciting?
I quite like it. I'm so used to that kind of environment, and to working with Michael Gracey, the director. If I knew it was coming beforehand, I would probably feel sick, but when it just happens on the spot I'm good.
What type of dancers did you cast for this project?
This film is great because the dancers are all individual characters. It was an awesome opportunity to get so many different people of so many different styles. Some were more hip-hop–proficient and some were more contemporary- and jazz-focused.
Did you find it hard to work with stars who had less formal dance training?
Yeah, but we trained them a lot, so we could get them to a great level. And I built the numbers around them. We'd rehearse with the dancers, and then I'd rehearse with the actor in the scene. Hugh was killing me because he just wanted to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse—he's such a hard worker. He was keeping up with all of them.
DS: What are you most excited for people to see in the film?
It's such a compelling story. The film inspires people to say, 'Take me for what I am.' I hope kids walk away feeling empowered.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Circus Comes to Town."
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
Contemporary phenom Christina Ricucci has super-flexible hips, which means she can stretch her legs to unbelievable heights. But when she noticed herself making contorted positions in class, Ricucci realized she was approaching her extensions all wrong. "I went back to the basics in class, squaring my hips and using my turnout," Ricucci says. "I learned to create proper positions, rather than whacked-out versions of them."
Some dancers are so wonky they have a hard time supporting their high legs, while others struggle with limited flexibility. But no matter your facility, you can find a balance of stretch and strength to achieve your fullest range of extension. It's not about how high (or not) your legs can go: It's the quality of the movement, and how you get those legs up, that counts.
Yesterday, the dance community was heartbroken to learn that Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran, both 14-year-old dancers, were among the 17 people killed on Valentine's Day in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.
There are plenty of current Olympic figure skaters who'd make beautiful dancers (first among them Adam Rippon, whose gorgeously choreographed long program won the internet, if not the gold). But today, as we wait for the women's figure skating competition to crown its new champions, we wanted to throw it back to one of the most beautifully balletic skaters of all time: Sasha Cohen.
The high-flying leaps of grand allegro are meant to be incredibly exciting. But at the end of an intense ballet class, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to give them the attention they deserve. Want to pump up your big jumps? Follow these 10 vital tips from Jennifer Hart, curriculum director and instructor at Ballet Austin.
"Whole, low-fat, or skim?" The question of which milk to drink has gotten a little more complicated lately, with a wide variety of nondairy milks popping up in grocery stores. To find out which ones are worth your milk money, we had registered dietitian Monika Saigal answer some FAQs.