“Maisel” Choreographer Marguerite Derricks on Season 4
After much anticipation, Season 4 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has hit Amazon Prime just in time to fill the hole left in our streaming hearts after finishing Season 2 of “Cheer”…and watching Encanto for the 10th time. As usual for such a dance-influenced spectacle of a show, this season has been incredibly fun to watch. You won’t go long before spotting a familiar dancer face. We see you, Alex Wong, Kathleen Laituri, Dee Tomasetta, Amanda Lamotte, Dayne Board, and more!
Ahead of the release of the final few Season 4 episodes, Dance Spirit caught up with series choreographer Marguerite Derricks to hear how this season’s best moments came together.
On This Season’s Dancing
While Derricks is called on to orchestrate way more than just dances on the show, most of the season’s choreographed routines take place inside an Upper West Side burlesque club called the Wolford. Having choreographed the movies Showgirls and Striptease early on in her career, Derricks was excited for this new setting. “I was able to hire a core group of women that worked throughout the season, and couldn’t wait for viewers to meet them,” she says. “With ‘Maisel,’ nothing’s out of the ordinary, so I was able to create these outrageous burlesque numbers.”
On Creating Camera-Ready Choreo
Typically, Derricks gets briefed on a new scene’s camera work by “Maisel” executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino before she choreographs, but neither she nor the dancers know exactly what filming will be like until they’re on set. For the opening scene of Episode 8, however, Derricks got to spend two days with the entire camera crew before adding in choreography. “Because the scene was so intricate, Amy let me rehearse with all of our major grips and crew,” Derricks shares. “It was thrilling to go in and get the timing of the cameras first and then fill in the moves before we filmed.”
Derricks considers that scene one of the show’s biggest accomplishments for dancing on camera. As the camera moves between four giant apartment windows, you’ll see different scenarios and dancers performing burlesque-inspired choreography. “It was one of the biggest challenges on the show so far, but anything that Amy thinks of, we always make happen,” Derricks says. “The window set and costumes are beautiful, but the most special part is the pas de deux between the camera and the dancers, weaving in and out of the windows to catch so many special moments and then pulling out at the end to see all of the window scenes together.”
On Getting to Know New York’s Dancers
Although Derricks’ career has spanned from Broadway to the big screen and more, it wasn’t until the pandemic that she got the chance to consistently work with dancers from the East Coast, albeit virtually. “I started teaching twice a month on a platform called iCoach Dance, and most of my students are from New York,” she says. “Now I’ve got such a big group of New York dancers that are so well-trained, talented and smart, I know I can trust them on set.”
For Derricks, that trust is super-important considering TV’s tight turnaround time. “I typically have one, maybe two days of rehearsal before we shoot a production number,” Derricks explains. “And I always tell dancers from the minute I hire them that they need to have eyes on me at all times on set, because it’s very typical once we’re there to start making changes on the spot.”
On Why “Maisel” Includes So Many Dancers
“Amy and [executive producer] Dan use dancers for every moment on the show, no matter how big or small,” Derricks says. With “Maisel”’s sweeping, theatrical camera work, it’s essential for dancers to take direction well and understand angles and formations on set. “Even if it’s just a department store scene, dancers know how to lead the camera from one place to the next, which adds to the sweeping beauty of all of ‘Maisel’’s scenes,” Derricks explains.
Having worked with the Palladinos for over a decade, Derricks lends her choreographing expertise for much more than just the show’s dance numbers. “This season I really felt like I had a voice in production and got to work with every department on these big scenes,” Derricks says. “For me, that stuff is as thrilling as choreographing a big production number.”
On Casting “Maisel” Dancers During the Pandemic
“I had to do most of the casting from my bedroom on Zoom, so the audition process took a lot longer,” Derricks explains. After going through hundreds of initial submissions, Derricks held additional Zoom sessions with dancers to make her final selections. “I look for what’s needed in each scene, because what we do in the Button Club on ‘Maisel’ is much different than at the Wolford.”
Of the dozens of dancers in this season, Derricks worked most closely with the burlesque dancers at the Wolford. “There’s a moment in one of the finale numbers where the curtain raises, and they’re all in a straight line with their costumes on, and each one of them is so unique and special. Their sizes and heights don’t match at all, but they all have something quirky, and fabulously wonderful about them.”
Derricks’ Advice for Dancers
Despite the pandemic’s lingering effects on the dance industry, Derricks is hopeful for the future. “It could be so easy in a time like this to get frozen, but keep being proactive, connecting with others, and believing in your dreams,” she says. “You may have to alter the way you get there, but it doesn’t mean you stop—keep moving forward.”