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ANNIE

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 do."

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," Gluck remembers.

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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