This former dancer now choreographs fashion shoots

Posted by
Hannah Keegan
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Emma Chadwick, 30, is a movement director. She lives between London and New York with her husband, Karl, and dog, Kiki 

My alarm goes off…

As early as 4.30am, depending on the call time. But most of the time, my dog Kiki will wake me up by licking my face at around 7am. I grab a cup of coffee and change into something I can move easily in, such as jeans and a T-shirt. I love brands like Paloma Wool and Nike. On my way in, I make a playlist for the set. Music is important to take people out of the set environment and help them move in a more natural way.

I’m responsible for…

Making sure the physical body is aligned with the creative direction of a job, whether that’s a model’s movements on a photo shoot or a video featuring dancers.

I got the job…

After training as a professional dancer. I’ve danced since I was three years old, mostly classical ballet, and at 19 I joined the Ballet Basel in Switzerland, before touring as part of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. I moved into choreography and got my first job as a movement director for a Teen Vogue shoot three years ago. 

Using references helps Emma visualise her ideas

My typical day…

Starts with me introducing myself to the creative team and talent. A movement director is a relatively new role in the industry, so I explain why I’m there and make sure they’re comfortable.

Then, I head straight to catering and hit the pastries. For me, a lot of the preparation happens ahead of the shoot. I may meet with the talent – models, dancers or actors – beforehand to choreograph something if we’re working on a video. But on fashion shoots, things are mostly left until the day, so I like to be prepared. I will mood board visual references and have some moves in the bag, just in case. Sometimes with very seasoned models, they know what works for them and stick to it – my job is to help them push past that. 

We stop for lunch around 1pm and I’ll grab something like pasta or fish from catering. And cake! Then, I’ll sit down with the director, stylist and photographer to discuss what’s working and what shots we still need to get. The atmosphere becomes more militant after lunch because everyone’s more aware of what we have to achieve in the time frame.

I leave at 7pm most nights, but sometimes it will go on as late as midnight. I travel around once a month for work, which can be anywhere from Paris to Iceland.

My most memorable moment…

Was working on Vanity Fair’s 25th annual Hollywood issue. The video was directed by the amazing Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, so my job was to keep the actors moving fluidly. 

Inspiration can come from many sources

The worst part of my job…

Is when the talent is put down for doing something wrong. It’s not productive.

The best part of my job…

Is seeing how the smallest words of encouragement can completely change how someone moves in front of a camera. It’s pure gold.

After work…

I’ll meet my husband at a bar for some beers, but I don’t last long because I’m usually exhausted. When we get home, I’ll make risotto or spaghetti and watch an episode of True Detective. In an ideal world, I’d be in bed by 9pm but in reality it’s more like 11pm.

Plan B: Long jumper

When I was little I had so much energy my mum sent me to everything: gymnastics, dance, long jump. Eventually, something had to give, so I quit long jump but it’s a shame because I was really good at it.

Images: Keiichiro Nakajima 


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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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