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Tara Nicole Hughes

23rd May 2023

Interview & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent

Photo Credit: Paige Craig

Hair & Makeup: Michelle V

Dancing her way all her life is the talented, Tara Nicole Hughes. Hughes is a movement coach and has taught familiar names such as Lady Gaga, Idina Menzel, Joaquin Phoenix, Taylor Swift, and Emily Blunt only naming a few. She has recently worked on the upcoming live-action Disney's The Little Mermaid with Halle Bailey.

We chat with Hughes about how it all started with dancing, and working on big films such as Burlquese and Joker 2 and she tells us what it was like teaching choreography on the set of The Little Mermaid.

Hello Tara! Thank you for taking your time to chat to us at ReVamp. You must have a busy schedule! How has this year been for you? 

Hi there, thank you for having me! This year has been wonderful. I am home in Los Angeles after working in London for almost 2 years on the Disney live action film The Little Mermaid and we just had our world premiere the other night. It was so great to celebrate with our cast and creative team after such a long journey together. I am very excited for people to finally see this beautiful film, directed by the brilliant Rob Marshall!

Growing up, was being a choreographer something you wanted to do? Do you remember putting on your first pair of dancing shoes?

I do remember my very first dance class at 7 years old; the memory is like a movie in my mind. I was completely swept up by the music, the bright smiles of the dancers, the sense of community. I got lost in the joy of it, and I never left. By the time I got to high school, I knew I wanted to dance professionally and after college I bought a one way ticket to Los Angeles to pursue my dance career. Choreography came years later when I worked with Rob Marshall on the movie musical Nine, as part of his choreography team. I learned so much and it became my training ground.

You have worked on major films such as Mary Poppins Returns, Burlesque, Joker 2 and the soon to be released live action The Little Mermaid. Wow! That’s an awesome backlog of work! What’s it like working on the various genres?

I really love diving into different styles of movement and exploring dance from many time periods, from the classical stage to the social dances in the clubs. That’s part of my job, to know the history of dance and then to integrate it into a world and story. 

With The Little Mermaid, did the original animated film inspire on how you did the choreography?

I love the original The Little Mermaid film, as so many do, and it’s fun to share this film with a new generation of kids and have Halle Bailey as our Ariel. I co-choreographed with choreographer Joey Pizzi. Our biggest underwater production number is Under the Sea, that Daveed Digs sings as Sebastian, with Ariel. It really is a show stopper in the film, it’s so exciting! These iconic songs, as well as the new ones in the film, really became the inspiration for the choreography.

As some of the movie is of course based under the sea, did you have to learn how to dance underwater? Or was it more on land?

We have a choreographed dance on land with Ariel and Prince Eric in the village, but all the underwater movement was shot with a process called dry for wet, where everything was on a blue screen set. We used different rigs where the actors could be in a swimming position, but our training in the water informed how the actors bodies were moving on the rigs. 

Lastly, have you got anymore exciting projects you’re working on?

I am working on a film right now that I can’t quite share yet, but I will when I can! I am on IG: taranicolehughes and love to connect with people there. I also lead master classes and retreats with my program INsideOUT that incorporates meditation and movement and I host live sessions on social media, so join me!

Follow Tara!

The Little Mermaid is out in Cinemas on Friday the 26th of May.

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