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“How weird do you want it?” That was one of choreographer Charissa Barton’s first questions when she met with Peacemaker creator James Gunn. “He handed me a page with a couple of paragraphs,” Barton recalls of her first meeting with the writer-director. ” ‘Peacemaker stands in the middle of a room and starts doing a weird dance.’ OK … What does ‘weird’ mean?” The script page noted that as Peacemaker does his weird little dance, the show’s supporting characters slowly join him in motion before Eagly, the superhero’s pet bald eagle, swoops down with dramatic flair. “James left it wide open for a lot of creative thinking about how to execute this.”
Set to “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” by Norwegian glam metal band Wig Wam, the dance sequence during Peacemaker‘s opening credits sets the tone for the HBO Max series. It’s over-the-top, full of machismo and extremely silly — just the right kind of weird, according to Barton. “I didn’t want to do weird for weird’s sake,” she says with a laugh.
Barton spent hours listening to “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” to get a sense of adding movement to “the musicality of the song.” Because she was unable to rehearse with the show’s cast until they shot the dance sequence, Barton worked with professional dancers to block out the movements.
Barton admits the castmembers had varying levels of dance experience. “Danielle Brooks [who plays Leota Adebayo, a team member of Peacemaker’s] has a background in musical theater and is very comfortable in her body and how she moves,” she says. “John Cena [as Peacemaker] got it within the first rehearsal. I assumed that with [his wrestling experience] he would be very body-aware, but he told me at the end of the first rehearsal, ‘This is the first time I’m learning dance choreography, and I realized it’s so different.’ It’s a different way of thinking about movement.”
Barton encouraged the cast to feel natural in their bodies even if dance was, for them, completely unnatural. “I was relying on that self-consciousness and awkwardness, because I approached it very seriously. But the whole thing is absurd. That they’re doing it with straight faces makes it very funny.”
Each episode of Apple TV+’s Pachinko also begins with its actors joyfully dancing, in this case to The Grass Roots’ “Let’s Live for Today” in the vibrant pachinko parlor seen in the series. Showrunner Soo Hugh tells THR that the credits sequence has the “spirit of the cinematic experience,” which adds to the drama’s epic nature. “I wanted one moment where characters of the past and present come together to dance with unfettered joy, honoring the enduring human spirit,” says Hugh. ” ‘Let’s Live for Today’ celebrates those moments when we can take stock of where we’ve come from and where we are going while also taking that much-needed breath to appreciate the present.”
The two dance sequences, which follow a similar dance sequence in the credits of A24’s After Yang, have initiated a mini-trend, bringing new relevance to the title credits sequence as an art form. “Pachinko and Peacemaker engage with their audiences in a visceral way,” says Barton, noting that our brains incorporate “neuron mirroring” when we encounter other people moving rhythmically. “You connect with a show on a deep, neurological level, just by watching people dance.”
This story first appeared in the June 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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