Meet the Motion Capture Star Who Brings Hollywood's Creatures to Life
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.
He recently spoke with Dance Magazine about his process of bringing all kinds of creatures to life on screen.
How He Shapes Each Character's Movement
"I've played apes, birds, dogs, the Hulk, goblins, aliens and all types of abominations, but the process for every role is kind of alike. I try not to picture what I'm going to do—I start from a place of freedom and just play, like a child.
"Finding the details of the movement is kind of like writing—you take a road and explore it. I usually start moving, thinking about the character's past, what shapes them, and how it would affect how they behave and move. I think, If the character were an object, what would it be? Maybe it's crumpled tinfoil or a feather.
"I eventually find a cadence for the character's walk. A really solid, heroic character might be in a four-count, but something evil or off-kilter is in a one-, three- or five-count. What drives the character might also drive their movement. What's it like to be propelled by their guts, their back or their head? Are they pulled and resisting, or being pushed?
"A lot of creature performers will put on an outside tension, like 'Grrr,' to become a monster, so anger is right on the surface. I prefer to start from something internal, like how this monster thinks it is right in the bad thing it's doing. Maybe there's a sickness that created that idea. It's more than one-dimensional."
What His Research Process is Like
"For the Planet of the Apes films, I discovered that I had to watch real apes as if they were humans in ape suits. Viewing them through that lens helped me find what would work for these sentient apes.
"For Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, I studied wolves—not just their movement but the social structure of the pack. Their constant awareness of where they stand in the group informed the movement. The alpha is the only one who is semi-relaxed, but he's always watching his back a little bit, too."
Why He's Always Studying Movement
"People go to their phones like pacifiers now, but I use those moments to study others. You can see a person's history in the way that they walk. You notice the difference between someone who owns every step and someone who is apologetic in their movement. It's our job to let people live through our performance, so we have to be vehicles—and students—of expression."
What do Percy Jackson, Princess Diana and Tina Turner have in common? They're all characters on Broadway this season. Throw in Michelle Dorrance's choreographic debut, Henry VIII's six diva-licious wives and the 1990s angst of Alanis Morissette, and the 2019–20 season is shaping up to be an exciting mix of past-meets-pop-culture-present.
Here's a look at the musicals hitting Broadway in the coming months. We're biding our time until opening night!
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
Ah, stretching. It seems so simple, and is yet so complicated.
For example: You don't want to overstretch, but you're not going to see results if you don't stretch enough. You want to focus on areas where you're tight, but you also can't neglect other areas or else you'll be imbalanced. You were taught to hold static stretches growing up, but now everyone is telling you never to hold a stretch longer than a few seconds?
Considering how important stretching correctly is for dancers, it's easy to get confused or overwhelmed. So we came up with 10 common stretching scenarios, and gave you the expert low-down.