Kelly Devine Interview: ‘Modern Love’ choreographer
“It’s all about the tone,” reveals choreographer Kelly Devine of her dance creations. Devine brought her varied dance background to Amazon’s “Modern Love” to craft a memorable musical moment in the episode “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
This episode of “Modern Love” stars Anne Hathaway as Lexi, a single woman living with bipolar disorder. She meets Jeff (Gary Carr) in a grocery store on a day when her mood is exceptionally happy and the flirtatious pair agree to a first date. The euphoria of Lexi’s emotional upswing causes the world around her to break into song and dance with a musical number.
While the majority of the dancing occurs in the store’s parking lot, dance starts to creep in while Lexi shops and flirts inside. Devine notes that at first she “didn’t actually even know what grocery store we were going to be in, so I didn’t have a roadmap.” With no blueprint or layout of the playing space for her choreography, she began thinking about movement inspired by shopping: reaching for a piece of fruit, moving past shoppers in an aisle, or placing items on a conveyor belt. When they got into the space to shoot, Devine would string together these moves to fit the layout of the store.
At one point, director John Carney asked for more “spontaneous dance moments.” So, dancers received ear pieces and took live direction from Devine as she called out choreography into a microphone. “We were flying by the seat of our pants,” she exclaims.
Beyond the pressure of creating in-the-moment dance numbers, Devine was able to craft a sequence anchored with a sense of character. Much of that work came from focusing on Anne Hathaway, who she refers to as “such a pro.” “I’m only as good as the people who are doing my choreography,” she suggests, so she gave Hathaway steps that would translate well to her body and training. “I wanted her to feel like a professional dancer.”
Devine has an extensive theater resume, with Tony Award nominations for her work on “Rocky” and “Come From Away.” The latter won her an Olivier Award for its London transfer. The naturalistic movement of those stage productions lies in stark contrast to the more boisterous choreography of “Modern Love,” or the classic musical theater style she employs on “Riverdale” spin-off “Katy Keene.” She believes that she must “take every show case by case” to find the right tone for the project. Not every project needs pirouettes or a kickline. “They each have their own vocabulary,” she states.