Paul Becker is best known as a protégé to the genius Kenny Ortega but he has evolved far beyond his dance roots to become one of the world’s busiest and best choreographer/directors; frequently appearing as a Judge on hit television shows like So You Think You Can Dance (CAN).
Paul was born in Victoria, Canada and began his dance career as a twelve-year-old street dancer, training in virtually all styles. Following his dreams, Paul packed his bags and moved to Las Vegas to take his training to the next level. There, he was hand-picked by director Rob Marshall to dance in the Academy Award-winning film Chicago. Key roles as a dancer and actor in Scary Movie 3, The Music Man, A Wrinkle In Time, Once Upon a Mattress, Scooby Doo 2 and Dark Angel with Jessica Alba, soon followed.
Paul’s choreography skills have been utilized in over 100 film and television projects, including: Mirror Mirror, Twilight, Sucker Punch, Cabin in the Woods, Nightengale, Once Upon a Time, Hot Rod, RV, Are We There Yet, The Muppets Christmas, Talk To Me, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, just to name a few.
Paul was kind enough to share some of his vast experience with us in this exclusive interview.
KF: Tell us about your dance background.
PB: Well I was first inspired to dance after watching films like Beat Street and Disney’s Breakin. I would watch those movies over and over and teach myself how to break dance – then out came the cardboard. Then I was invited to a hip-hop dance class and I fell in love with dance. The teacher at the school, Kim Breiland, scooped me up and got me in ballet, jazz, tap, acro and whatever I could manage. So, I have a background of virtually all styles thanks to her.
KF: What inspired you to become a choreographer? Was it something you always aimed for or did opportunity present itself and you took it?
PB: I have always been a creator. At school as a young boy, I would take the reigns and stage mini shows for the talent show. So when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it. My first break as a choreographer was when I was dancing as Kate Bekensale’s dance partner for a commercial and the choreographer did not show up. I quickly volunteered.
KF: Do you usually get to work with dancers versus actors? How do you work differently with the two groups?
PB: I work with both all the time. Both groups are virtually the same. Once you break down the barrier of nervousness that actors bring, there is usually a quite capable dancer under there.
KF: How often are you involved in the casting process?
PB: I cast all of my films and projects. I am essentially the dance casting director for all of my projects. I like to choose the dancers so we can find the right movement for each project. It is essential.
KF: What are some of the unexpected responsibilities you have to take on when choreographing for a movie, sitcom, or television show? Does this vary when you work in the States versus Canada?
PB: Canada and USA are the same in many ways. As a choreographer for film and TV, you are in charge of an entire department. There are budgets to create, dancers to cast, numerous logistic meetings from consulting to the set and safety, to the wardrobe and most importantly working with the composer on the music arrangement. There is much more to do then just create steps.
KF: What’s your best advise for dancers looking to work in the industry?
PB: Stay persistent and always be ready with your talent and promotional reel.
KF: What’s your best advise for aspiring choreographers?
The same. Plus always learn new media, film, projection, animation, etcetera. Stay current.
KF: What are you working on now? Any undertakings about to start or just wrapping? What’s the best way we can stay posted on your projects?
Still want more of Paul? Here’s the link to his demo reel.