Why is dance so important to you?
AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO I was a dancer. There was one point where I was never out of tights. I think that everything I do is filtered through that lens. So I write with a dance rhythmic view of a scene in mind. And I think that my characters tend to have an energy that even when they walk down the street there’s sort of an internal beat to them. Then when directing came into play, I really realized, oh yeah, I can finally tell my mother that the dance lessons paid off. It’s been channeled through an unusual way, but I definitely direct like a dancer.
And you work with dancers. Why?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO Dance is an art form that unless you’re Mikhail Baryshnikov, you ain’t getting rich. There’s the rare Misty Copeland out there who’s going to grab attention enough to get a book deal and meet Prince. Most dancers are putting in their entire lives and all of their time and all of their physicality, because when you’re a dancer, it’s not just when you’re in class or when you’re in rehearsal or when you’re in performance; when you’re home, your body is your instrument.
So there’s no taking a break from your job, because it is you.
In many scenes, there’s a choreography of walking through and taking up space. You use dancers in walking scenes, right?
SHERMAN-PALLADINO We stage things that people don’t think are staged. In the season finale, we’ve got our girl Bailey [De Young, who plays Imogene] just walking down the street in slow motion to Nina Simone. Those are dancers. Those aren’t extras because we needed physicality, we needed crosses, we needed people, we needed presence. I don’t even like to call them extras because they’re so integral to our process.
DERRICKS The most fun for me is that I get there and Amy tells me where the pas de deux of the camera’s going to happen. She says, “OK, this is where the camera is going to move,” and she kind of dances around and shows me. Then I get to fill in the background dancers musically and choreograph them — even if it’s just them spinning over their shoulder and walking across, it becomes this beautiful “Swan Lake” on the floor. With Amy, it’s always like she and I are dancing together.