By Marc Snetiker
If your favorite part of NBC’s dearly departed Smash was the dynamite dancing in the Broadway-style musical numbers, you can thank Joshua Bergasse, the award-winning choreographer behind them.
Bergasse, who’s also choreographed for So You Think You Can Dance, is now the dancemaster behind the new Broadway revival of On the Town, the ballet-tinged musical that opened to rave reviews in New York this October. While choreography for live theater has its differences than the dances you see on film, Bergasse grew up watching the same movie-musicals that are beloved among fans of the genre—films which have even helped inspire him in his stage work.
EW invited Bergasse into the office for a good old-fashioned YouTube spiral, wherein the Emmy winner shared ten of his all-time favorite onscreen movie-musical dance sequences. Some picks are iconic and familiar—who doesn’t love Singin’ in the Rain?—while others could very well send you scrambling to find a copy of your new favorite musical film.
West Side Story (1961)
Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
“One of the things I love most about the West Side Story film is the Prologue because it’s such great storytelling. It spans a period of months, an entire summer building up to this gang owning the street and these moves that say this turf is ours. You really see the story unfold purely through dance. But then there’s also ‘Cool,’ the ‘Dance at the Gym,’ ‘America.’ For me, it’s ‘Cool.’ The choreography from the film is very similar to the stage version, except on stage, Riff sings it. In the film, they felt like it was weird for Action to take control of the gang once Riff died because Action seemed like too much of a hothead, so this character is called Ice.
The dance is so fantastic, and there’s a great solo here. Plus, the girls. I heard it was really hot in this garage from the car lights and the movie lights, so hot that they had to run outside after they were done with each take. I do think this is going to live on forever. I use a lot of this type of dancing in On the Town, just the feel of it and the athleticism. And that iconic move [with the snaps] is called The Sixes, because you count in 12 counts of two sixes. Any choreographer will know that. I did this show onstage a lot, but I would never try to do original choreography to West Side Story. The only time I’ve ever choreographed it, I’ve done the Robbins choreography. I would never attempt. It’s just so iconic. I can’t get the Robbins stuff out of my body.”
BONUS TV SHOW!
Caesar’s Hour (1956)
Choreographer: Jack Cole
“Here’s Chita Rivera and Jack Cole on Sid Caesar’s show. There’s Jack, actually dancing in a number, and it’s classic Cole—a great musical theater piece. Chita tells a really funny story about it, where at one point he forgets the step and just leaves. Jack Cole is really one of the innovators of jazz dance, and he did a lot of movie-musical choreography. He was even Marilyn Monroe’s choreographer. With Chita, this was right before West Side Story. Her kicks, her extensions…they’re unbelievable. And nobody can work a skirt like Chita, too.”
See Bergasse’s choreography in On the Town, playing Broadway’s Lyric Theatre on 42nd Street.