(From left) Carla Jeffrey, Milo Manheim, Kylee Russell, and Meg Donnelly in Zombies 2 (John Medland, courtesy Disney Channel)

Choreographer Jennifer Weber Shares What It Was Like on Set for "ZOMBIES 2"

I know it might be crazy, but did you hear—that ZOMBIES 2 comes out this week? It's been almost two years since the first ZOMBIES installment was released on Disney Channel, and we've had a Zed-shaped hole in our hearts ever since. Luckily, we get even more zombie-cheerleader magic this Friday, February 14.

Dance Spirit had the chance to speak with choreographer Jennifer Weber about what it was like to create all of the amazing dancing for ZOMBIES 2. Read on—because it's going to be extraordinary!

Dance Spirit: What drew you to ZOMBIES 2 initially? What made you excited about this project?

Jennifer Weber: I instantly fell in love with the first ZOMBIES movie from the brilliant opening number. The film has such a great vibe—and an important message about acceptance and holding on to your beliefs, even when others challenge what you think. ZOMBIES is filled with great music and lots of excellent choreography, so I knew working on the sequel would be an amazing opportunity to tell a great story on a very big scale, which was super exciting to me. I could also tell from the first film how brilliant the cast was. I knew they would bring so much style to the dance numbers.

DS: This was your choreographic debut in film. What's different about choreographing for a movie?

JW: Recently, I've been working a lot in musical theater, which I think is great preparation for film since, in both mediums, choreography is directly linked to storytelling. Whereas concert dance is often abstract, in film and theater, you have to make sure your audience can follow the narrative. And in film, I loved having the ability to change the visual perspective of the audience and being able to bring them much closer or much further away from the choreography. The camera functions a lot like lighting on stage.

DS: What did your choreographic process look like on ZOMBIES 2?

JW: Just like in musical theater, I started with the script to get a clear sense of the overall arc of the plot. When I read the script, I thought about the different characters and how dance impacts each individual storyline. Then I spent a lot of time brainstorming with the director, Paul Hoen, about specific moments in the film, and how we might use choreography to translate emotional or narrative ideas into danced visuals. I also sent Paul lots of dance videos so that if I was talking about, say, a b-boy section, in his head, he would have an accurate idea of what I meant and that it was different than house or locking or popping-inspired choreography. I wanted to make sure we were speaking the same language.

Since I didn't know any dancers in Toronto where we were filming, we held big auditions to cast dancers for the film and to build a skeleton crew to start to develop the choreography in a studio. We had about three weeks to draft the nine dance numbers. After that, the cast had about four weeks of rehearsal before we started filming.

Weber at the world premiere of ZOMBIES 2 (courtesy LSG Public Relations)

DS: How would you describe your choreography in the movie?

JW: There are so many different types of choreography in the film. I'd say overall, my choreography is explosive, energized, stylized, and fun!

DS: How did you create stylistic differences between the groups groups, like the zombies, the cheerleaders, and especially the werewolves, who are new to this movie?

JW: It was really important to me that the choreography for each of these groups was distinctive. Since I was never a cheerleader, I collaborated with professional cheer coaches so that the cheer movement would be as authentic as possible.

I wanted the zombies to feel like a dance crew, whose power came from their unity. For them, I fused old-school locking with new-school swag, and created a unique hip-hop vocabulary that felt right for the group.

In contrast, the werewolves live in the woods and have a grounded, earthy vibe so their moves were inspired by a lot of house footwork and floor combos. The werewolves felt to me more like a family that would celebrate their individuality.

DS: Was there one group you enjoyed working with in particular?

JW: It's really hard to pick a favorite since I had so much fun making all the choreography, but the werewolves didn't really exist before me, so I felt a special love for their style.

DS: What was it like working with such a young cast?

JW: The cast had such positive, fun energy. Everyday, everyone brought so much love to the project. They worked so hard that it was easy to forget how young everyone was!

DS: We at Dance Spirit are huge fans of ZOMBIES star Milo Manheim—he was amazing on "Dancing with the Stars"! What was it like working with him?

JW: Milo is amazing to work with. He is such a positive person and works super hard. He also knows how to make movement look good. Since he is so much taller than I am, it was always fun to see how steps translate on to his body—he can make everything so big which is great on camera.

DS: Do you have any favorite memories from working on the film?

JW: So, so many! In particular, I really loved making the big werewolf scene in the wolf den. I'd seen photos of what it would look like, but nothing prepared me for the absolute awesomeness of walking on that set for the first time. It was the first really big number we shot, and seeing all the dancers in costume and hair and makeup absolutely smashing the choreo in this gorgeous environment blew my mind. It felt like I was living in a dream.

Latest Posts

All photos by Joe Toreno. Grooming throughout by Lisa Chamberlain for The Rex Agency.

How Mark Kanemura—Artist, Activist, and All-Around Icon—Became Our Internet Dance Mascot

Twelve years ago, a baby-faced Mark Kanemura appeared on "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 4. The Hawaiian-born dancer—whose winningly quirky style found a perfect vehicle in Sonya Tayeh's creepy-cool "The Garden" routine—quickly became a fan favorite. Kanemura made it to the Top 6 (Joshua Allen took the title that season), and a star was born.

But the world didn't know how bright that star was going to shine.

Fresh off "SYTYCD," Kanemura started booking jobs with Lady Gaga: first the MTV Video Music Awards, then the Jingle Bell Ball. Soon, he was a staple on Gaga's stages and in her videos, and he began to develop a dedicated fan base of his own.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy MSG Photos

#SocialDisDancing: A Look at Rockette Taylor Shimko's At-Home Dance Life

From the most famous choreographers to the newest of dance newbies, we're all going through the same pandemic-related struggles right now. So, how are the pros coping with it all? To find out, we've started a new interview series, #SocialDisDancing. Over the next few weeks, we'll be catching up with some of your favorite dancers to see how they're step-ball-changing their way through this unprecedented moment in dance history. We had the chance to speak with Taylor Shimko, who's been a Radio City Rockette for more than 10 seasons. (Be sure to check out Taylor's takeover of our Instagram for an inside peek at her day in the #SocialDisDancing life.)

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Taylor Goldberg, Jordan Goldberg, and JT Church attending REVEL's virtual convention (courtesy Leslie Church)

What It's Like to Attend a Virtual Dance Convention

During this new era of social distancing, the dance world has gotten pretty creative. Tons of teachers, studios, competitions, and conventions have stepped up to the plate to help fill our living rooms with virtual dance content. But what's it really like to attend a dance convention online?

Dance Spirit followed JT Church, "Dancing With The Stars: Juniors" pro and "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" runner-up, as he spent the weekend attending REVEL's "Rev-Virtual" online convention experience.

Hey guys! I have been a special guest faculty assistant for REVEL Dance Convention for the last four years. So I was excited to find out they'd be hosting a series of online convention weekends. With everything that's going on, I've been missing conventions so much. I knew it'd be great to be able to keep up my training.

Two of my best friends, Jordan and Taylor Goldberg—I dance with them at Club Dance—asked me to come over to their home studio so we could take REVEL's online classes together. Here's how it all went.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Enter the Cover Model Search