×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

To Top Themselves, TV Choreographers Turn to High Tech

Ziplines and graphics and paso dobles! Oh my!

Choreographers on today’s reality and scripted TV shows are always on the lookout for new methods to reach their audience and top the numbers they staged last season. They’re also often tasked with appeasing pro judges while staying in touch with a general viewership.

Many have turned to the latest innovations in camera design, equipment and rigging as well as 3D projection, which have opened up the dance floor for them in some remarkable ways.

“I used to dream of being able to do things like what we did in this performance,” says Paula Abdul, who also danced in an interactive routine she choreographed for last season’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

“We were able to go places in terms of the visuals and the dance that weren’t possible in the past,” she says.

Abdul has won two choreography Emmys, for “The Tracey Ullman Show” and “The 17th Annual American Music Awards.”

Sometimes you don’t need technology. You need a partner with guts and gusto.

“I just thought Andy Dick dressed as a matador and ziplining into a routine would be TV gold,” laughs Sharna Burgess, Dick’s pro dance partner and choreographer. “We really didn’t have that much time to rehearse or even know it would work until the Friday before the show because we were waiting on the zipline to arrive.”

Burgess also knew that the judges on “Dancing With the Stars” might not be as impressed with the move but decided it was worth the risk — and it was. That week Dick was spared elimination, although he was voted off before the show’s finale.

Even with all the possibilities, some truisms hold fast. Dancing for the camera is different than hoofing for a live audience and requires a different kind of technique.

“You find out that simple movements are best and evoke the most emotion because of the way the TV screen reads movement,” says Mia Michaels, a choreographer with “So You Think You Can Dance.” “And the dancing is almost secondary because you’re trying to find a way to embody an emotion.”

Joshua Bergasse, choreographer for “Smash,” agrees.

“We’re doing a lot of routines that are inspired by Old Hollywood and that sensibility,” he says, “but you find you need carefully chosen movements.

“Bigger isn’t always better. You want to be sure you’re evoking a feeling with anything that you do.”

And there are now many ways for choreographers to figure out if their work touched the audience.

“I’m doing what I do for YouTube,” says Derek Hough, a pro dancer and choreographer on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I’m trying to go that much further, make it that much more special so that people will feel like they have to see it again after the show and go look up the routine on online.”

More TV

  • Germany's Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4

    German Indie Studio Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4 Blocks' Producer W&B TV

    Leonine has acquired “Dark” producer W&B TV from Endemol Shine. Fledgling German studio Leonine had already bought Wiedemann & Berg Film and established itself as a Munich-based movies, TV, and digital production and distribution group. It has now added the W&B TV unit to its roster. The production company is behind several big German dramas [...]

  • PBS Masterpiece Boards British Political Thriller

    PBS Masterpiece Boards Hugh Laurie, Helen McCrory Political Thriller 'Roadkill'

    Britain is getting a new prime minister – on TV, at least, after “Peaky Blinders” star Helen McCrory signed on to play the part in the BBC political thriller “Roadkill.” PBS Masterpiece has boarded the series and will co-produce and launch it in the U.S. Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton will exec produce the project. McCrory joins [...]

  • U.K. Producer Barcroft Studios Sold to

    U.K.-Based Producer Barcroft Studios Sold to Future in $30 Million Deal

    Barcroft Studios has been bought by Future in a £23.5 million ($30.1 million) deal. The U.K.-based production outfit specializes in factual fare for channels and platforms, and its own branded channels on the likes of YouTube. Future is a U.K.-listed print and online publishing and events business. Sam Barcroft will stay on as CEO at [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Agencies' Antitrust Suit Against Writers Guild Set for January Hearing

    The antitrust suit filed by Hollywood’s major agencies against the Writers Guild of America has been set for a Jan. 17 hearing. U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte issued the calendar update this week on the litigation, filed on Sept. 27 by CAA, UTA and WME after the agencies consolidated their individual agency suits. The [...]

  • Gabrielle Carteris SAG Awards

    Gabrielle Carteris Preps for 26th Annual SAG Awards

    SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris is already looking forward to the 26th SAG Awards on Jan. 19, held in its usual location at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. “One of the best things about the SAG Awards is that it’s a peer-to-peer recognition,” she says. “It’s the highest honor for performers to be recognized by [...]

  • GoliathSeason 3CR: Greg Lewis/Amazon Studios

    'Goliath’ Renewed for Fourth and Final Season at Amazon

    Amazon has renewed gritty legal drama “Goliath” for a fourth and final season. The series centers on washed-up lawyer Billy McBride, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who seeks redemption after a client he successfully defended from a murder charge went on to slaughter a family. Thornton won a Golden Globe for his performance in 2017. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content