Did you catch a showing of Little Women at the movie theater? This past fall famous faces like Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson were spotted in the Boston area. In fact, a soundstage for the film was set up in Franklin, MA! Since many of the scenes were shot locally, Assistant Professor of Dance Studies Stephen Ursprung (look for him at the 1:02 mark in the trailer) was cast as a principal dancer in the film! We caught up with Stephen to discuss his experience.
How did you learn about the opportunity to participate as a dancer in the film?
Stephen: Since the entire film was shot in and around Boston, the production was looking to hire local dancers. A friend posted the casting call in a Facebook group for area dancers and choreographers. I reached out to him and found out he had been hired to assist the choreographer, Monica Bill Barnes. I had previously worked with Monica in graduate school and was really excited to audition for her again.
What styles of dance did you need to know in order to be cast in the performance?
Stephen: The actual dance steps were adapted waltz and polka steps and weren’t particularly hard. The choreographer hired all modern dancers, however, because she knew that she needed people who could learn instantly and who could collaborate in problem solving on set. Flexibility and mental agility were critically important. While we were very well prepared coming to set, we had to rechoreograph most of the dance because of space limitations and in order to complement the production design. Monica knew that the success of the dance scenes relied on having seasoned performers who could handle the unexpected.
Did you get to interact with any of the celebrities?
Stephen: My scene featured three stars of the film: Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan. We knew that we’d be dancing in the Gardner Ball, so we were all prepared for those actors to be there. Emma Watson and Hadley Robinson (who played Sallie Gardiner Moffat) both danced in the scene with us and attended our rehearsal. They both worked incredibly hard to master the dance steps and made the dancers feel welcome — it was a lot of fun.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
Stephen: I loved being able to take in the enormity of the scale of production. Our scene lasts about five minutes in the film, but it took two days to shoot on top of a full day of rehearsal. Our second day of filming didn’t end until after 4 a.m. and stretched so late that it technically counted as a third day of work. Not only did we work with a large film crew, but we also had a team of wardrobe and makeup artists making sure we were always camera ready. We also had a huge catering tent, making sure that the entire production was well fed. I don’t think people realize just how much work goes into each second you see in the final version.
Bravo! Stephen. The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance faculty and staff go above and beyond — both in and out of the classroom. Learn more about the Dance program at Dean College.