The ballroom dance scene is perhaps the most iconic scene in “Beauty and the Beast.” To accomplish this and the other musical scenes in the live-action adaptation of one of Disney’s most famous animated features, director Bill Condon enlisted the help of choreographer Anthony Van Laast, whom he had worked with on the 2014 Broadway revival of “Side Show.” “I was very nervous because I knew what an iconic piece it was,” Van Laast told Dance Network. “I knew the film very well and I knew the musical very well, so the challenge was to try and look at it again and find a way of reinventing it.”
The cast had to go through a musical theater boot camp before they started shooting the film. According to Van Laast, Emma Watson — whom he had worked with on the “Harry Potter” films — rehearsed for three months, while Dan Stevens spent three months getting his dance moves on point. However, preparing for the scene proved to be a bit of a challenge, since Stevens had additional challenges.
“We had to put Dan on stilts and dance on 10-inch platforms, so their eye level would be correct,” Van Laast explained. “Otherwise, if they danced together, her eye level would be wrong and his eye level looking down at her would be wrong all of the time. Even though he was dancing in a suit covered in dots (motion capture), he still had to dance in 10-inch platforms. We worked very hard. The rehearsal was very intense to get Dan into that position to be able to do that.”
However, when the time came to shoot the scene, Stevens nailed it. “The day we filmed, they did it all the way through and the whole studio burst into applause,” the choreographer said. “It was an exciting day and they both felt like they achieved something special.”
“Beauty and the Beast” will hit theaters May 17. Watch Watson and Steven’s ballroom dance scene below.