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Home > Spotlight > HSM3 Choreographer Bonnie Story

Choreography team helps movie dance to success

Bonnie Story takes us behind the scenes of High School Musical 3

By Ken Martinson,

Bonnie Story rehearses a scene with fellow High School Musical 3 choreographers Charles Klapow (left) and Kenny Ortega. Bonnie Story is no stranger to creating choreography for large groups. She was co-choreographer of the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. She has also worked on the halftime show for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Perhaps that's why she has been so successful in her latest assignment: taking a huge cast and making it look good on the movie screen.

Story is one of three choreographers—working with Kenny Ortega and Charles Klapow—responsible for the larger-than-life production numbers in High School Musical 3. If ticket sales are any indication, the choreography team has reason to celebrate: reports that HSM3 set a new record for musical motion pictures, earning $42 million its opening weekend and outperforming recent box office hits such as Hairspray, Hannah Montana and Mamma Mia.

Bonnie Story makes a cameo appearance in High School Musical 3. She is seen here as a seamstress with Chris Warren and Corbin Bleu in the tuxedo fitting room scene. During the production process, Story faced challenges similar to what marching band show designers have to solve: make various groups of performers look good together. In marching band, the groups are winds, percussion and color guard. In High School Musical 3, the groups are everything you could imagine in production numbers with as many as 2,000 extras.

"We worked with a lot of different groups for the opening scene," Story said. "We had the basketball teams, the cheerleaders on both sides, the drill team (Kitty Cats) that sat on the East side and did choreography to match some of the cheerleading moves. We had pep bands, we had kids with flags and more."

Bonnie Story works with dancers before filming a production number in HSM3. The huge cast of extras was necessary to bring the show to life on big movie screens. The first two installments of High School Musical were movies made for television. Translating the show to theatres meant everything would be bigger: cast, sets and budget.

"My main thing was to keep it real but also very big and exciting," Story explained. "The most important thing to me was that it was a full picture of movement, keeping it real, but at the same time all choreographed."

Story's past experience with large groups was valuable, but she says there is big difference about designing for live performance versus movies.

On the set of High School Musical 3: Bonnie Story, Lucas Grabeel, Kenny Ortega. "In a live performance, you look at the whole picture at all times. Whatever the audience sees needs to be completely performed," she explained. "When you film—the gym scene for example—we may be only seeing a quarter of the gym."

The segmentation of what is visible to the camera, and how each shot relates to the story, drives the choreography.

"When filming, everything is focused on the particular shot: Who is in the shot, what is it supposed to accomplish, what are the specific reactions. What happened before the shot, in the middle, and what is coming," Story explained. "All these questions dictate choreography, action and movement."

Although marching bands do not have a primary story line in High School Musical 3, they do have a role. Numerous sections of the soundtrack include catchy drum cadences. A pep band and snare line perform during the basketball game scenes. Band and orchestra instruments are on stage during the graduation scene. Flags and drill teams are involved in production numbers.

High School Musical 3 is filled with fun choreography that unifies many diverse elements. Perhaps equally appealing is the movie's positive display of students who break barriers between sports, music and drama to work together.

Photos courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Copyright 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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