Choreographer Ashley Wallen Pivots From ‘The Greatest Showman’ To ‘Finding Your Feet”
Choreographer Ashley Wallen has made a big splash on the film scene with two movies that couldn’t be any more different from each other. The end of 2017 delivered his artistic touch on The Greatest Showman with Hugh Jackman. In 2018, Wallen’s work is framed by the idea that dance is for everybody and every body in Finding Your Feet. More: Season 26 of ‘Dancing With The Stars’: 6 Questions for Alan Bersten The film, starring Imelda Staunton and Celia Imrie, focuses on two estranged sisters who find common ground through a community dance class. The touching story reveals their ongoing struggles with health, romance and life that are washed away by the beauty of movement. Dance Dish spoke to Ashley recently about his diverse work, his year of success and what lessons he learned on Finding Your Feet. Dance Dish: Were you involved in the casting of Finding Your Feet? I imagine knowing your actors have some movement training was important for this film. Ashley Wallen: I wasn’t involved with casting the main actors, but I was able to cast some of the supporting cast. The best thing was the people involved in the flash mob and the dance classes were from West End shows back in the day. It was great to have ex-West End actors, singers and dancers in the film. It was amazing — I hope that I am like that when I am older. DD: Did your main cast have any dance training? Ashley: We wanted them to look good, so they weren’t doing dumbed-down moves. We did lessons before we started filming to see where they were when it came to movement. We did an hour with Imelda, Joanna [Lumley], David [Hayman] and Timothy [Spall] and evaluated their dancing. David hadn’t danced before, but he put everything into it. They committed to it.
DD: What did you learn from working on Finding Your Feet? Ashley: I had just come off of The Greatest Showman, which was all about being who you are and the different characters in life. With Finding Your Feet, I walked away so inspired by older people being involved in dance. I don’t want to sit at home; I want to be the one dancing. It made me look at old age differently; it was great to see. DD: What has this year been like for you as a choreographer with two big back-to-back projects — The Greatest Showman and Finding Your Feet? Ashley: When I was younger, I loved the MGM musical films. So my dream was to choreograph an original musical film and I thought that day would never come. To do two of these projects, one after the other still shocks me. I went to the movies and the two posters were up on the wall. I had to take a photo. It was crazy and surreal. It’s such a big gamble to do new musicals; they don’t come around very often.
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