About The Choreography
Noted choreographer Zach Woodlee, whose talents for creating naturalistic and
innovative dances with non-dancing actors were illustrated with his work on the
immensely popular television show Glee, also joined the Annie team.
Woodlee scouted potential filming locations with the filmmakers prior to
designing Annie's dance numbers. "It was Zach Woodlee, the choreographer, who
would find out where the song's going to take place, why the song is happening,
and choreograph it in a way that it felt real and organic to the situation,"
director Will Gluck says.
"This film is staged in a much more natural way than the 1982 film or the stage
play," adds Rose Byrne. "It's really contemporary, so my song and dance numbers
have been far more loose and playful."
Like much of the cast, Quvenzhane Wallis did not have experience as a
professional dancer. However, Woodlee credits the actress with a natural
ability. "She has musicality and rhythm," Woodlee explains. "As long as you have
those sorts of things, you tailor things to what works in her body."
Assistant choreographer Brittany Parks started working with Wallis a few months
before filming began. "I worked with her two hours every other day, and we just
did dance numbers," Parks says. "We danced to Beyonce and Michael Jackson, and
we just danced around and got to know each other. Fun stuff like that."
One of the film's most ambitious numbers is "It's the Hard-Knock Life," a song
sung by Annie and her foster girlfriends when Miss Hannigan wakes them early one
morning and orders them to clean the apartment. "They're forced to get up at
6:30 in the morning and clean the house, but because they're kind of soaking off
of Annie's optimism, they make a game of it," says Will Gluck. "They're not just
singing for singing's sake; they actually have fun as they clean, as kids all
Still, the sequence was not without its challenges. "'It's the Hard-Knock Life'
was tough to complete, because when you get a bunch of kids together to start
singing and throwing plates at each other, it's not pretty," Woodlee laughs.
Woodlee remembers the months of rehearsing "It's the Hard-Knock Life" with the
girls. "One day it's plates, one day it's Swiffers - it's great. I felt like I
was training some sort of circus group," he says. "If you went to our dance
studio, you'd see literally a wall of mops and brooms and plates and dishes and
forks and pots and pans."
Gluck's "It's the Hard-Knock Life," furthermore, is distinguished by its new
beat. "It's very 'Stomp'-esque, with the books and the buckets," says the
director, referring to the Off-Broadway percussion show. "It's a really fun
number that takes place inside and outside the apartment."
In fact, the foster girls were so enthusiastic about their work on the film that
they even rehearsed together during their free time. One night after work, the
group performed "It's the Hard-Knock Life" in their pajamas in their hotel
rooms. "No one asked them to do it, and they just rehearsed it and rehearsed it
by themselves, and sent a video to Zachary Woodlee, showing what they had done,"
During five months of rehearsals, the group of foster girls became a very
cohesive unit, becoming close friends, as well. "We had a lot of rehearsing, but
it was also fun because I love dancing," Wallis says. "It was one of my things
that I really, really loved to do with the girls and with the choreographers."
"It was really fun to be with Quvenzhane - she was totally elated while we were
singing and dancing," adds Byrne, who performs the number "I Think I'm Gonna
Like it Here" with Wallis. The sequence, during which Byrne's Grace Farrell
gives Annie a tour of her new home at Stacks' swank downtown apartment, was
filmed on location at 4 World Trade Center, both inside and outdoors, on the
building's stunning terrace in the sky.
Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale also got in on the act, with their pas de deux,
"Easy Street." "Guy finds out that Annie's been looking for her parents, and he
sees an opportunity there and enlists the help of Miss Hannigan," Cannavale
explains. "She starts flirting with him and he sees somebody who's easy to
manipulate, so he comes up with this idea that they should find a couple of
actors to pose as Annie's parents. But it takes some convincing, so he takes her
out to a nightclub and he starts to convince her through this song. They come
together in this dance, and boy, it's some dance."
Cannavale and Diaz rehearsed the dance for three months, on and off: immediately
prior to starring in Annie, Cameron Diaz was in Boston, working on another film,
so dance rehearsals were worked around her schedule. Cannavale, choreographer
Zachary Woodlee and assistant choreographer Brittany Parks traveled from New
York to rehearse with the actress. "She'd finished a 12-hour day on another
film, and then we hit it," says Cannavale.
Cannavale enjoyed working with Woodlee. "Zach's got a lot of experience teaching
actors who haven't danced before, and he utilizes what you have, what you bring
naturally," Cannavale says. "I don't know what it is that I bring. Enthusiasm?"
"Zach and Brittany were amazing, and I can't honestly believe that this was the
first time Bobby's ever danced with a partner," says Cameron Diaz. "He's such a
great lead. It's a very physical dance and he has to throw me around a lot - and
since he's throwing me, he has to catch me as well. And I had total faith that
he would catch me every time. He was phenomenal."
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