Meet Marguerite Derricks

Here at DS, we're counting down the days (15!) until the 2009 release of FAME! If you’re like us and you just can’t wait that long for the movie, check out the one-day workshop, A Day of Fame. You’ll be able to take class from FAME choreographer Marguerite Derricks and see a sneak peek of the new film! We caught up with Marguerite to ask her about choreographing FAME and her upcoming workshop.   

Q: What was it like to be asked to be the choreographer for FAME
A:
It was really special for me because the director, Kevin Tancharoen, is one of my former students. I began training him as a dancer when he was 6 years old. When he called and asked if I would stand beside him on his first movie, I was very proud. It was great to see a student of mine doing so well, and for him to ask me to choreograph was really special.  
 

Q: Did you feel a lot of pressure in choreographing the re-make of such a well-known dance film? 
A:
No, not at all. It’s something I’ve been expecting, in a very odd way, to do my whole life. I was a dancer on the TV show Fame, and 10 years later became the choreographer of the TV show Fame L.A. I’ve always had this weird feeling that the movie was going to come around and I’d be asked to do it. When it happened, it just felt natural. As a choreographer that does so many styles, it was the perfect film for me. It allowed me to show all the training and dance styles I’m able to do.
 

Q: What was your favorite scene to choreograph? 
A:
Each scene became just as important as the other, but I have two that were my favorite: a number for Kherington to Black and Gold, which is a big number she does toward the end of the film, and the graduation scene. It’s a huge number that begins with a ballet pas de deux, goes into African and then into modern jazz. It’s an epic ending.
 

Q: In the casting process, what types of dancers were you looking for? 
A:
I was looking for dancers who could do absolutely everything and every style, but they also had to look young, around 14-17 years old. We had about 575 young dancers audition, and I was blown away by how many did ballet, jazz, hip hop and tap—each style just as well as the other. They were outstanding. It’s a really exciting time to be a choreographer because the talent pool is just stunning. These young kids are the real deal!  We literally got down to 50 dancers and didn’t know whom to cut anymore. They were all that good! I was really excited by the choices I had for the movie and tried to use as many as I could because they were all so deserving.
 

Q: Who was your favorite dancer to work with? 
A:
I loved working with my core 16 dancers, and they did a bulk of the movie with me. Of those 16 dancers, seven just flew with me to NYC to do VH1 Divas Live. I’m also doing a Broadway show and have five of them coming with me.  
 

Q: How has the choreography evolved from the 1980 FAME to the 2009 FAME?
A:
I tried to tell people that you can liken it to sports and gymnastics. You will see the gymnasts doing four flips instead of two, and figure skaters that used to do two tours now do four tours in the air. The same thing has happened in dance, and it has escalated to a place of athleticism that I’ve never seen before. When I was an original fame dancer, triple pirouettes were a lot. Now they’re doing nine and 10! I was able to do absolutely anything that came to my head with these dancers.
 

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring dance film choreographers? 
A:
I would give them the same advice I give to dancers. Do everything! Choreographers who only do one thing will limit themselves to certain projects. You’ve got to know everything. You can’t limit yourself to trying to create some crazy style. There’s going to be a signature to the choreography that you create and people will recognize it. I work a lot because it doesn’t matter if it’s country western, musical comedy or ballet, I can do it. That’s my best advice. Also, know the camera!
 

Q: Tell us about the workshop this weekend!
A:
I’m really excited! I love teaching! I’ve been trying to do it a lot before I start my new Broadway show because teaching grounds me and brings me back to who I am. I will always be a teacher first. When I got the call to do A Day of Fame I was so excited to come to NYC and meet some of the young dancers here. It means a lot to me. It’s who I am. I’m a teacher. At the workshop they should expect to be challenged and learn some of the choreography from the movie!

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search