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PITCH PERFECT

Choreography on the Set
The filmmakers hired Aakomon "AJ" Jones, famous for choreographing dance moves for Justin Bieber and Usher, to choreograph Pitch Perfect. Though he was new to choreographing for a cappella groups, Jones' hip-hop and mainstream dance background was the style the filmmakers felt would blend perfectly with the group performances. "Aakomon is an amazing choreographer who came to our project with some mandates," says Banks. "He had to make a cappella seem cool, but he also had to make it realistic. If you watch the actual ICCA finals on YouTube, the kids do amazing choreography. We wanted to make sure that we took people and brought them to the next level. He created choreography that everyone was able to learn. We had a lot of confidence that AJ would know how to break it down for our actors."

Moore wanted to make sure that the dancing in the movie was not dated. "The songs the guys are singing in the movie are Flo Rida and Rihanna, so we needed something that matched the music that they were singing and not just a lot of snapping and step touching. AJ and his incredible assistant, KYNDRA 'BINKIE' REEVEY, were able to come in and take the ideas of a cappella, which is old-school, and make it feel new. Sometimes singing and dancing at the same time is hard, and the actors were each singing a different part while they were dancing. It was a Rubik's Cube puzzle for them to make everyone look like they could dance together effortlessly while still making the sound with their mouths."

Jones, Moore, Sharon and Boyer discussed specific points in each scene where dancing would take place and where each character would be staged. Knowing what was happening during the story line and collaborating with the music directors were of the upmost importance. Says Jones: "What's great about Ed and Deke is that they said that if we felt a certain way about the arrangements, we should give them feedback. On this film, we were able to go directly to the music directors and ask them to make tweaks to some of the sound. They made a first pass of the arrangement and then went back and forth with Jason about the sounds and how it felt. Then they got it to us, and we'd work on it together."

Jokes Wilson of the choreography: "I felt like they could have used some of my signature moves because I had a lot of moves. I suggested the sprinkler to AJ and Binkie. 'What about the cancan girl? What about the pancake shake?' Which is a move I invented. And then they said, 'We've choreographed for Usher so we know what to do.' I said, 'Okay, I'm putting my faith in your hands.' One time they gave us a lesson in how to dance like a stripper. It was traumatic."

Jones' background is hip-hop, a genre of dance he felt was perfect for the film's audience. "That's the reference that I pulled from, as far as material and vocabulary," says the choreographer. "Whether it's a dance that everyone's doing right now that just hit the streets, or a nod to a cleaner line that would be impressive to the eye on stage, there's a vast array of styles in the film. There's hip-hop, a bit of locking, a bit of jazz and some ballet."

Knapp explains the dance rehearsal process: "After we warmed up, we'd knock right into it. We learned the choreography step-by-step, and it was amazing to see AJ creating it in his head as we went along. The guy's talented."

Though none of them were trained professional dancers, Knapp's fellow actors echo their praises for their choreographer. "AJ is incredible," sums Camp. "He listened to us and worked with each girl individually as to what her level of dance was. He's a very patient man."

Admits DeVine: "I was kind of worried about doing all the dancing because I'm not a dancer at all. But AJ had a lot of confidence in me. He didn't give me a lot of moves because that would be a lot to remember, but he was encouraging and told me to make some of it up as I went along."

Brooks was blown away the first time he saw the cast's performances. "They gave me goose bumps. I found myself singing along and tapping my feet. I'm an Englishman and we're acutely shy, so for me to even go halfway there is a big thing."

****

Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Films present a Gold Circle Films/Brownstone production: Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks. The comedy's music supervisor is Sarah Webster, and the executive music producers are Julianne Jordan, Julia Michels. The music is by Christophe Beck, Mark Kilian. The film's costume designer is Salvador Perez, and the editor is Lisa Zeno Churgin, ACE. Pitch Perfect's production designer is Barry Robison, and the director of photography is Julio Macat, ASC. The film's executive producer is Scott Niemeyer, and the producers are Paul Brooks, Max Handelman, Elizabeth Banks. The comedy is based on the book by Mickey Rapkin, and the screenplay is by Kay Cannon. Pitch Perfect is directed by Jason Moore. © 2012 Universal Studios. www.pitchperfectmovie.com

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