Broadway and TV Choreographer Kelly Devine on What Inspires Her Work

May 25, 2020

If there’s one word to describe Kelly Devine’s career, it’s “busy.” Devine is the choreographer for the new hit musical series on the CW, “Katy Keene” (a spin-off of a little show called “Riverdale”—maybe you’ve heard of it?), as well the choreographer for the much-anticipated Broadway musical Diana. Of course, Devine is used to being busy: She’s an Olivier Award winner, a Tony Award nominee, and a general Broadway icon for her work on shows like Come From Away, Escape to Margaritaville, Rocky, Rock of Ages, and Jersey Boys. Dance Spirit spoke with Devine about what inspires her dazzling work. —Cadence Neenan

“I find inspiration for choreography in all the things I’m drawn to. Music, art, architecture, even in textiles—the way they feel, the way fabric moves. But I’m always looking for things I haven’t seen. Being a seeker of new things helps me stay creative.”

“I get inspired by everybody I work with. Especially working here in New York—the talent out here, and what the dancers can do. They all work so hard. They’re all athletes. But, honestly, every single artist I’ve worked with has inspired me in some way. The people I work with make me better.”

“What’s so interesting about working on Broadway, as opposed to film or television, is that it’s such a collaboration. I’m responsible for coming up with the steps for a number, but there’s also a lyricist, a composer, a dramaturge, a director. You just have to start throwing out ideas, and that’s when it turns into something.”

“I love creating movement for strong, athletic, beautiful, sensual women onstage. I appreciate that aesthetic—it’s empowering.”

“On Broadway, you’re responsible for every single step in the show—and making sure people are looking where they’re supposed to be looking. On film and television, a camera can focus you right in. But with an audience in a theater, how do you tell that story? It’s a challenge. And I, apparently, like a challenge.”

“Right at this moment, I’m inspired by Harry Styles. I think he’s fantastic. He’s got something soulful and original—and he’s just so cool.”

Devine reading up on Princess Diana with Bon Jovi member and Diana lyricist David Bryan (courtesy LSG Public Relations)

“The first time I go into the studio with the dancers, I feel like I’m trying to break concrete. I have no idea what I’m going to do, and the music is playing, and I’m looking for that movement that breaks the dance open.”

“The biggest advice I can give is to do everything. Say yes to everything. All you need is a platform to create work. I’ve said yes to a lot of things that were totally wacky or all over the place, but each gig I did set me up for the next one. I’d learn something. I’d acquire a new skill. It’s on-the-job training. And that’s really important.”