TV Series

How do you choreograph a Doctor Who episode?

'Bridgerton' choreographer Jack Murphy discusses bringing the waltz and the twist to the Whoniverse...

From the colourful Twist in The Devil's Chord to the sweeping ballrooms of Rogue, long-time fans of Doctor Who may have noticed more opportunities for the Doctor and Ruby to cut a rug in the latest season. But how do you bring dance to Doctor Who?

We spoke to choreographer Jack Murphy, known most recently for his work on Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte, about how to make the Doctor dance...

Watch ROGUE on BBC iPlayer from Saturday 8th June and on Disney+ from Friday 7th June where available.

Jack Murphy Q&A

Can you explain how you came to be involved in Doctor Who? 

Phil Collinson, one of our Executive Producers, said, ‘let’s see if we can get the Bridgerton choreographer!’. I’ve filmed lots of ball sequences, so I was asked if I would be interested in working on the Regency episode. I was sent two scripts, Rogue and The Devil’s Chord, and I said ‘Yes, I would love to, so long as you let me do the twist as well because I’m never allowed out of the 19th Century!’ (laughs!)

Describe what scenes you choreographed for 'Rogue' and the style of the dance.

I choreographed the ball sequence, which is set at a lavish party organised by Indira Varma’s character, the Duchess. I gave the Regency dancing a sense of the ‘then and now' – I do that by combining Regency configurations, with modernity and some ballroom and Latin American dance. Of course, Regency dances are very sociable as it is where you went to meet people, many people say it was how they did speed dating!

Explain your process when coming up with a dance, what inspires you?

My process for developing any dance, especially for drama, is first and foremost reading the script. I get the inspiration from the writing, and I am like a detective in the sense that I have to see a continuum of the narrative of the characters before, during, and after a dance.  The music that is chosen inspires me, along with the music length and the structure, which helps inform the rhythm and tempo. 

How does it compare choreographing Regency in 'Rogue' to the twist in 'The Devil’s Chord'?

There is a big difference. The style in Regency is elegance – everything needs to look like it is happening very gently and isn’t causing any discomfort. Whereas the twist uses the hips and arm movements, and it’s very jerky and punchy. The contrast you get is a sudden quality in the twist, and a sustained quality in the Regency.

Jack Murphy Q&A

What is it like being on set?

Being on set is a celebration of the work. You get to be with a huge crew, when normally I am just in a dance studio working with a few actors. I love the collaboration and comradery – we’re a group of people who are all passionate about what we do, so it feels like a family. 

What other elements play a part in pulling off a dance sequence? 

The most important element is having collaboration. Where a camera is positioned can have a huge impact on a dance, so I walked the locations with our amazing director Ben Chessell. I gave an example of what the dances are, and what it would look like to say, have over fifty people doing the twist!

How is it choreographing for actors who may not have had any dance experience?

I always look to see if the actor has ever done any sports before because I use a lot of analogies when I teach. There are two reasons to dance – to have or to give pleasure. They’re not in Strictly Come Dancing where they are dancing to get a score. When you are dancing in a television drama, you are dancing so that the story can continue, it’s not about how well you dance. I encourage them to enter into the dance using an actor's language and because I trained as an actor, everything I use language-wise is available to them. My job is to find a way to make them feel comfortable to undertake that task.

Watch ROGUE on BBC iPlayer from Saturday 8th June and on Disney+ from Friday 7th June where available.

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