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."
Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.
At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.
When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.
"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."
Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.
While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.
When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.
The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.
Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.