(Perhaps Unexpected) Career Paths for Dance Artists in Hollywood

While the Los Angeles dance scene already offers its own choreographic aesthetic and performance opportunities for dancers looking to head West, there are also a number of trade-specific ways for movers to put their training to work. in dancing profitably – and perhaps in unexpected ways. Movement coaching is a growing field in Hollywood, and certain subsets, like movement direction and movement choreography, seem tailor-made for dancers looking to make a living in Tinseltown.

The job description

As Motion Director, Ryan Walker Page helps clients, including the likes of Dua Lipa, Lil Nas X, Saweetie, and Renée Zellweger, develop motion for photography sessions, video work, and live performance. Usually his time on set with a client is limited and relies heavily on improvisation. “If it’s for the print, you’re with the photographer, sort of shouting out ideas,” he explains. “You’re trying to complement a body, give it a unique shape that’s memorable and puts that person in an interesting light and helps contribute to that person’s mythology.” Despite his natural aptitude, Page accidentally fell into the direction of motion, when a photographer friend wanted to spark new possibilities with motion on set. “The photographer reached out and said, ‘I know you know how bodies conspire with light and movement, can you come help me?’ says Page.

Terry Notary, meanwhile, refers to his role on film sets as a movement choreographer – “It’s a non-threatening title”, he jokes, “where I can sit next to the director and learn from amazing people” – which means it offers movement vocabularies. for the characters. In 2000, for example, Notary created a movement vocabulary for Ron Howard’s Whos How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Although he was first hired as an ensemble cast member, he naturally found himself coaching the rest of the Who cast. “I’m great into it,” he says. “I was like, ‘We should find a common denominator for the movement.’ Howard took notice and asked Notary to take the cast through Who School, where they would collaboratively design and solidify how these characters would move throughout the film. A year later, Notary did the same. for monkey characters in 2001 Planet of the Apes to restart.

Notary describes much of his work with actors as dismantling any sense of control: “When you create an identity for yourself, you fall into natural, repetitive patterns,” he explains. “When I work with actors, I can see their plans – their reactionary patterns – and then I bring them up and we talk about them.”

Creating a Resume

Notary and Page recommend practicing with friends first to gain experience with movement direction and choreography. “Practice translating the movement concepts you know into layman’s language,” Page says. “People can be embarrassed in their body. If your communication and language is not designed in a way that the customer can truly hear, understand and embody it, this is a risky place. Notary encourages anyone interested in movement choreography to first find their own choreographic voice. “Don’t try to imitate someone else,” he says. “And do it, if you want to be a choreographer or a movement coach or a stunt coordinator, make friends and go film stuff.”

Ryan Walker’s page. Photo by Owen Scarlett, courtesy of Page.

For photography, video and live motion direction, Page suggests networking with producers and agents, rather than reaching out to other motion directors or cold-blooded celebrities. “Motion direction is usually a profession that’s ready to be filled on set,” he emphasizes, and it’s a producer’s job to fulfill that role. Page also encourages those interested in this career to align themselves with other artists – photographers, actors, musicians – who are also at an emerging stage in their careers. “It can be unsatisfying to jump on a well-oiled machine,” he admits, “where there’s not a lot of malleability.”

Hiring a notary also largely depends on word of mouth from producers, he says, which is why it’s important to establish yourself early on as someone who is willing to work hard. “When you’re working on something,” he says, “do amazing work. Go beyond the call of duty. And do your own thing, do it yours.

Use Your Dance Chops Wisely

His first time on set as a motion director, Page was surprised at how well his dance training had prepared him for the role. “What I find really handy is being able to constantly translate with language movement concepts,” says Page. “If someone’s an actor, then it’s about building a world of images: ‘Lean over like someone just told you an incredible story.’ Models, on the other hand, tend to like a little more perceptual education: “Hey, if you lengthen that line and bring that shoulder forward, that lengthens the whole thing.” You see how easily equipped you are to be of service in a situation like this.

A former gymnast and Cirque du Soleil performer, Notary relies on his artistry when he embarks on a new movement choreography project. “Gymnastics gives you a foundation of technique, but it’s very regimented, almost military-style – you’re judged for your mistakes,” he says. “When I went to Cirque, I learned to play to show what I could do, rather than trying not to make mistakes. It was a completely different state of mind, another way of approaching art.

Colleen D. Ervin