Meet the Hilarious Choreographer Behind "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"
Rebecca Bunch is taking a yoga class from her crush's flawless girlfriend, and things are going horribly wrong. The students and the instructor taunt her, launching into "I'm So Good at Yoga," a snarky song that mashes up moves from yoga and Bollywood. Though it sounds like a strange dream, it's just another hilarious scene choreographed by Kathryn Burns for the sitcom "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."
Each episode of the CW comedy plays out zany scenarios with two or more lavish musical numbers. Every song is a different genre, ranging from ballet to Broadway to hip hop, all with a comic flair. It's the perfect fit for Burns, who's become Hollywood's resident comedy dancemaker.
Growing up, the Texas native took a variety of studio classes before diving into musical theater. Then came her high school's drill team, her college's dance team and choreographing intricate skits for sorority events. After graduating with a communications degree (with a film emphasis) and theater minor, Burns moved to Los Angeles. "Choreographing for TV and film was my dream job, but I just didn't know how to make it happen," she says. "It's not a clear path."
While booking gigs as a commercial dancer, she started working in post-production. Editing footage familiarized her with camera angles and how certain movement read on screen. "That really helped me understand the camera in a way that most choreographers don't," she says. She added improv comedy to her arsenal, studying and performing at Upright Citizens Brigade.
Her first big credit was choreographing Freak Dance, a movie that grew out of a UCB musical she made with comedians like Amy Poehler and Matt Besser. The dance-flick spoof was "a crash course in choreographing," says Burns. "It was a crazy, super-low-budget movie that we shot in 13 days." From there, she began choreographing scenes for "Children's Hospital," "Key & Peele," Funny or Die and Netflix's prequel to Wet Hot American Summer. She even picked up a choreography credit for the Grammy-winning video for Pharrell Williams' "Happy."
But the gigs were sporadic. Five seasons of "Key & Peele" only amounted to about nine sketches, or 10 days of work. "You really have to say no to 'real' jobs so you can be available for these jobs when they come up," says Burns, admitting it was a struggle to stay afloat financially.
Things changed when her connections from "Key & Peele" and UCB asked her to choreograph a brand-new series, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." For the first time, she would be employed for every episode of a show. Now, she's done more than 60 numbers, three of which won her a 2016 Emmy for outstanding choreography.
Her dances are undoubtedly funny. In "Settle for Me," a ballroom/tap number, she nodded to the elegant carriage of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. "I thought it would be funny if when they sang the words 'sugar jugs,' Rebecca is doing running flaps," says Burns.
In "A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes," she turned to *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys as inspiration. When that song mentioned suicide, Burns coached the character Josh through body rolls with a hand motion around his neck, like a noose. "There are certain dance moves that are really dark, but if you put it with a funny lyric, it becomes comedic."
Burns admits that the industry has its challenges. If she thinks a scene needs 10 dancers, for example, she may be asked to do it with 8 or 6 to stay within budget. "It's half conversations and negotiations. There's a lot of business-type work that goes into it."
Though she's lucky that most of the cast of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" has previous dance experience, she also relishes working with actors who have two left feet. "Their movement quality is so much more authentic," she says. "And that's something I can't choreograph."
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.