Friday, May 27, 2022

‘Ghostbusters’ Choreographer Dondraico Johnson ‘Blown Away’ By Melissa McCarthy’s Dance Skills [EUR Exclusive]

Dondraico Johnson

*Dance choreographer Dondraico Johnson has performed with most of the entertainment industry’s influential artists, including Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Ricki Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, and even the late legend, Michael Jackson.

The South Carolina native has also choreographed for every major awards show on television, and has dabbled in acting. Look for him in “American Crime Story: The people vs OJ Simpson,” HBO’s “The Wire, and “Step Up Revolution.”

Dondraico has been tapped to conceptualize and choreograph for feature films and television works including: “Dirty Grandpa,” “Mike and Dave need Wedding Dates,” “Footloose,” “Step Up 3D,” “Step up Revolution,” “Step up All In,” “Underground,” and Michael Jackson’s “THIS IS IT.”

His latest project is the reboot of the 80’s supernatural comedy “Ghostbusters,” directed by Paul Feig. EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught-up with Dondraico to get the scoop about his involvement with the project, which stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

“I did the choreography for the girls when the girls were doing their little dance with Chris, but there’s also a big dance number that you’re probably gonna see later when it comes to DVD. It was a big dance number with Chris Hemsworth when he gets possessed by this ghost and he freezes all these people, and when he freezes them, a big dance number happens, but you won’t see it until the extended version,” he explained.

READ RELATED STORY: ‘Ghostbusters’ Director Paul Feig On His Leading Ladies: ‘Money In The Bank’ [EUR Exclusive]

Feig’s all-female reboot raked in $46m opening weekend, against a $144m budget. Analysts suggest that it will need to make around $300m globally to break even. Dondraico said fans of the franchise, and newcomers, will have something extra to look forward to with the DVD release, as the cast took his direction and impressed with how they made his routines “their own.”

Which of the ‘Ghostbusters’ leading ladies impressed you the most with her physicality and how well she adapted to your choreography?

Dondraico: Definitely Melissa McCarthy. I didn’t know that she could dance at all. As a choreographer, sometimes on these films —and even with music artists — everybody wants their female artist to look like Beyonce. But everybody don’t have those skills. But when I went in with the girls, and me and Melissa started dancing, I was like, “Oh, Melissa, we can go and hang out! You be partying for real.” She was really that great. She even freestyled and did some B-girl spins on the floor. I was like, “Oh, she’s really good.” She shocked me. I was completely blown away.

ghostbusters_2016_image_003
Melissa McCarthy

How much rehearsal time did you have with the cast?

Dondraico: With the girls it was literally a couple hours with me, but when it came to Chris Hemsworth, and his bigger dance scene, I had more time with him cause his routines took more time and had more elements to it. But with the girls, I would go on set, give them a couple counts and they can improve the rest, or I put something together right in between scenes, and they would literally go from shooting a scene to come to the side of the scene, we rehearse, then go back to shooting another scene. I would feed it to them in pieces.

Creating a dance routine for a supernatural film, does that require the use of any unique elements?

Dondraico: It all depends on what the script says needs to happen. Each project is going to be different. If you’re working with something that has a theme, like zombies, then of course the moves are going to be a little bit more abstract. [Ghostbusters] is comedy and they’re having a good time, it doesn’t require much different movement. It’s supposed to be fun.

Does your experience in a man’s body impact the way you make routines? In other words, do you have to change your process when working with a man or working with a woman?

Dondraico: I would say yes because men, we move different than women move. If I’m doing an artist, someone like Beyonce or Janet, of course there’s a different type of movement. I would bring a female assistant and I’ll put it on her body cause her body is going to move a little bit different than mine. But for this particular movie, since it was so open to do whatever, and it’s comedy, I didn’t even have to go there. I could go in there and choreograph something and put it on them and have a good time and make it their own. Cause these women are so comedic and their improve game is so strong, that I didn’t need nobody. I’d go in there and put it on them and they just make it their own.

ghostbusters_2016_image_009

How challenging is it to come up with variations of a routine? How do you keep it current and trendy?

Dondraico: You always have to make sure you always know what’s going on with the generation that we’re in. The new generation always got some new stuff going on, [so] make sure you stay current and make sure you stay in there. You always have to keep your ears open to what’s going on in the streets, when it comes to the style. It’s like fashion. You have to stay up on the dance steps and the movement and what the generations are doing now. And especially when you’re doing a movie cause you can shoot the movie and it comes out a year later, nine times out of ten, the dance is still going to be relevant. So as long as I’m inspired, it’s going to be easy for me. If it’s something I’m doing and I’m not quite inspired, then it’s a little bit more difficult. That’s why I’m very picky on the projects that I choose. I have to be inspired.

In what ways did working with Michael Jackson and his dancers on “THIS IS IT” impact you both professionally and personally?

Dondraico: He was someone that knew exactly what he wanted. Like what I said earlier with style, sometimes you work with an artist, and you get these people, and you go in there and try to teach them something, and they have no idea of like, how to make it their own. I’m such a Michael Jackson fanatic, so when I was there and I was teaching them this little routine, literally he would do it and make little small tweaks and make it his own. So by the time he got finished making it his own, it looked like his already, cause he had his own little style with it.

Dondraico added that Michael’s “Worth ethic, and the musicality of everything, how he heard the music, how he listened to the music — all that was so inspiring and amazing to me.

That someone who’s been in the game for so long, a living legend — an icon — still to this day has the same effect on people that he did many years ago.”

“Ghostbusters” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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