How Bring It On’s choreographer made the Toros and Clovers cheer perfection
Anne Fletcher and director Peyton Reed on the film’s flips, stunts, and, yes, spirit fingers
Fifteen years ago, before #SquadGoals became a Twitter hashtag and a Taylor Swift mantra, the Toros and the Clovers of Bring It On were actual squad goals — with high-flying stunts and precise choreography to go with those oh-so-quotable cheers.
That’s all thanks to Anne Fletcher, the head choreographer who helped the dueling squads take flight in the beloved 2000 comedy.
As Bring It On marks its 15th anniversary on Tuesday, Fletcher — who has gone on to direct films like Step Up (which she also choreographed), 27 Dresses, and Hot Pursuit — and director Peyton Reed (The Break-Up, Ant-Man) talked to EW about the choreography, shooting those cheer scenes, and the movie’s legacy.
Beginning to Bring It On
ANNE FLETCHER: It was my first choreography job by myself, away from Adam Shankman who had started directing. It was such a big undertaking — it’s really still one of my favorite experiences, it’s one of the movies I’m the most proud of.
Peyton really had a clear vision for the movie, so it wasn’t hard to give him what he needed. I got to hire Hi-Hat, who did all the hip-hop choreography, and Ray Jasper, who did all the competition cheerleading stuff, and really it was, “On your mark, get set, go.” I had to learn, I had to hit the ground running, and Ray Jasper was really my resource on the cheerleading aspects of it. … So he was incredibly helpful, Hi-Hat is enormously talented hip-hop choreographer who I just adore and worship, and so I had a great team underneath me to put the whole package together.
AF: We started camp — we called it camp — really early on, because I had a lot of actors who were not dancers or knew anything about cheerleading, so we had to give them the basics. I know I really wanted to not double anybody if I could, and really wanted to create choreography as much as we could with our real actors. The only one we had to double, and it’s only because of her time limitations and she couldn’t be at rehearsal camp with everyone else, was Kirsten [Dunst], but she fell in really brilliantly and I got a dance double for her, a dance double who’s a gymnast, to double her for all the final stuff. But we trained [all the actors], we got them in lifts, we got them in tosses, and we hired a great team of cheerleaders in San Diego, because we shot the whole movie there.
Shooting the cheer scenes
PEYTON REED: I had a responsibility to have it really preplanned in terms of the camera work and the way I was going to cut it, because in a cheer competition, generally speaking, the cheerleaders do the routine once and then get judged. And if they move on to the next level, they do it again. But here we were asking them to do these really strenuous routines over and over and over again and I knew they were not gonna really be able to do that many in a row. It’s just too strenuous. Plus, for the finals, we were outside in Oceanside, California, with the sun beating down, so I really had to have my s–t together [laughs].
AF: [Peyton] came to rehearsals a lot of times, so we were pretty well dialed in [to how they’d be filmed]. And then the kids really busted their butts off, and I made sure, because of our limited time, that they really knew what they were doing. … I’ve done so much dance myself, and choreography, and there are times when the choreography is really, really difficult. And you have to go to the dancers and say, “How many more do you have in you so I can tell the crew?” Because they were going to just keep going, but I know that there’s a limit to a dancer’s ability. I never had to say that to these kids. I never had to ask, because, everything was locked and loaded and ready to go, and all we had to do was really shoot it.
Clovers vs. Toros
PR: [Anne] really had a very different flavor and character for the choreography of the two different teams, and that was really important to the movie. Visually, those teams and their moves felt very different — the fact that the Clovers have a very funky take on “Brr, It’s Cold In Here” and then you go and see the Toros and they’ve got a much more stiff, sort of white-girl version of that cheer — it was really important that their characters come across in the dance and the cheers and the routines.
AF: What I loved about Bring It On is that our so-called “hero squad” didn’t win. They placed but they didn’t win, and I really loved that about the story. The real team that should have won, won.
It was important that the Clovers had to be better. They had to be better than the Toros, we had to have seen the stuff the Toros threw together, and throwing the last second number together, and all the little pieces they gather along the way — we needed to see in the choreography. And because it was last-second, they couldn’t be super perfect. So it was really trying to find that balance for the finale on who was better, because both teams were fantastic. To me, I watched those scenes, and I loved them. I can’t stop smiling because there’s so much great energy and fun, and those kids are working their butts off.
Sparky, and spirit fingers
AF: Oh my God! [Ian Roberts] was fantastic. Any time you can do something comedically with dance, is my favorite stuff — it was so silly and stupid. He’s a genius, and he played it so brilliantly, and yet his choreography is simply ridiculous. We have a lot of those frauds, I like to call them frauds, in every business. And he’s sort of one of those, who just happens to have a big name and can’t do anything. He’s fantastic.
We wanted to really honor the athleticism and the talent that goes into cheerleading, but you needed to dial it back a little bit where there’s some tongue-in-cheek [moments] throughout the movie. Spirit fingers was one of them, like, let’s play on that a little bit.
The opening scene
AF: I really love the opening number. [Screenwriter Jessica Bendinger’s] dialogue/lyrics for the opening dream sequence was so much fun to do, because I’m such a literal choreographer. So when you’re trying to figure out the physicalities that go along with the words, it’s so much fun. … It’s a great sequence.
The ‘Hey Mickey!’ finale
AF: That was on-the-day choreography — fly by the seat of your pants, here we go, and just pulling each person and each group that danced together and giving them something to do. “And go, and shoot, and you’re doing this!” … We had so much fun. And they were having a great time. They had some choreography, but it was a time to let their personalities come through and just have fun and let loose.
The movie’s legacy
AF: There’s a weird thing that you do know something’s going to work, and I just knew in my soul. I don’t know what Peyton’s answer would be. I’m sure that he would say, “No, of course not. You just want people to see your movie. You don’t know how big it’s going to be.” But I think I did. You just know when you’re on set what you’re shooting and how people are reacting to it. I don’t know, there’s just something about it. It just came out at the right time. I don’t know. I wasn’t surprised. I certainly wasn’t surprised. It was special. It was a special movie.
PR: I knew I loved the movie, and what I loved about it, but you just never know if it’s going to connect with an audience. But the fact that 15 years later people are still watching it is really, really rewarding for me. That they made straight-to-DVD sequels and that there’s a Broadway musical, it’s crazy to me! [laughs] It’s a really, really nice thing.
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