Mary Ann Kellogg, Choreographer - 2005

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When she first entered the dance world, Mary Ann Kellogg never imagined that she would one day be the choreographer of production numbers such as those she created for the upcoming Showtime television film Reefer Madness, which stars Alan CummingAna Gasteyer, and Neve Campbell, based on the stage musical which itself was a satirical version of the 1936 cult film. The former dancer, who began her performance career steeped in the concert world of pure, abstract modern dance where narrative, text, linear storytelling, and character were out of fashion and considered merely “entertainment,” now finds herself choreographing a story about the seductive drug culture incorporating salsa, a swing Charleston number, unison dancing as done by Vegas showgirls, erotic dancing, and even a tap number. 

“Over the last ten years, I’ve been working almost exclusively in film and television and developed a broad filmic language that allows me to convey the story through dance,” Kellogg explains. 

Reefer Madness previewed at Sundance and will air in April. Kellogg is currently choreographing the musical play, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a production of the Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. The show, a family-oriented fable, opens in March. 

“This is not musical theatre in the traditional sense,” Kellogg says. “It has a unique twist that combines puppetry with live actors and singers to create a language, style and culture that conveys the story of the Gappers and the citizens in the little town of Frip.”

Kellogg’s career has continuously evolved since her days as a teenage dancer with the Atlanta Ballet. It was there that, along with her ballet training, she was first introduced to modern dance. “I fell in love with that style of dance, and I immediately followed my passion for it,” she remembers. While attending California Institute of the Arts she performed with the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company. After receiving her BFA, she went on to spend eight years as a member of Twyla Tharp’s Company, where Tharp created multiple original dances on Ms. Kellogg, while touring the world, dancing in such Broadway productions as The Catherine Wheel, Sinatra and Singing in the Rain and performing in numerous film and television productions such as Amadeus, Ragtime and AFI’s The Scrapbook, a documentary on Tharp. 

“Twyla was moving in the direction of storytelling through the use of popular music and it was then I began to learn about humor in dance, which has been helpful, since I now choreograph a great deal of comedy,” explains Kellogg. 

Her experience as an assistant director to director-choreographers Martha Clark and David Gordon and composer Phillip Glass helped her to further explore dance that is generated by a story line and also to work with actors, singers and dancers. She designed dance sequences for John Travolta and Kirstie Alley in the three Look Who’s Talking films and had her first exposure to choreographing for a comic when she worked with Steve Martin on the movie Leap of Faith. This led to her work with other notable comedians in such films as A Night at the Roxbury, Lost & Found and Clueless, among many others. 

“When I choreograph for actors,” she says, “it’s a very collaborative process, which I love. I have to use a different language from the one I use with dancers. We deal with intention and motivation and try to find movement that expresses the story through their character. I start with improvisation and then we set the choreography. Actors interpret the movement through logic whereas dancers interpret the movement through their physicality.” 

Her work with Molly Shannon and Will Farrell on Superstar and Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei in The Guru earned her two American Choreography Award nominations. 

She has also been the choreographer for such television programs as Will & Grace; Committed; The Gilmore Girls; Cracking Up; Good Morning, Miami; The District; 7th Heaven; Wasteland; HBO’s Breast Men; and Norma Jean and Marilyn, and she is a long-standing choreographer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. 

Kellogg describes herself as one who is constantly expanding her horizons. She sits on the board of the Academy of Dance on Film and has taught at several colleges and universities. Once she decided to make the leap into film and television she felt she had to know what came before.  Kellogg educated herself by researching and studying films of such great Hollywood choreographers as Jack Cole, Hermes Pan, Busby Berkeley, Fred Astaire, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and Michael Kidd, among numerous others. And just as many choreographers before her have done, Kellogg intends one day to make the transition to directing. She is ready to take her next step.