Interview: 'It's Definitely an Art Form': Choreographer Alison Faulk on Channing Tatum, Female Empowerment and Self Expression in MAGIC MIKE LIVE

'The world is kind of crazy - this show’s such a nice escape. It's a bizarre, strange, fun, weird escape.'

By: Dec. 12, 2023
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Interview: 'It's Definitely an Art Form': Choreographer Alison Faulk on Channing Tatum, Female Empowerment and Self Expression in MAGIC MIKE LIVE
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Magic Mike Live, the hit show at London’s Hippodrome Casino, recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. The interactive show, based on the Magic Mike movies, is focused on pleasing its audience members with “temperature-raising acts from a thrilling range of acrobatic and musical talent” while still emphasising the importance of both female empowerment and consent. 

Recently we had the opportunity to talk with Alison Faulk, the co-director and choreographer who has not only created the dances for Magic Mike Live but for the Magic Mike movies as well! We discussed how she first fell in love with dance and became a choreographer, what it is like to choreograph with a team, and what the creative process is like for something so interactive like Magic Mike Live

What first inspired you to become a choreographer?

I have danced since I was three years old and trained my whole life to be a professional dancer. So I was out in LA having a professional dance career, and I started getting asked to assist choreographers a lot because I'm kind of a dorky dancer - I know all the counts, I know I’m on time, so I was a really good assistant! [Laughs] I kept getting asked by all these big choreographers to assist them, which was super exciting. And then I started getting little things thrown my way, and I was like, “What the heck is this? I couldn't do this!” I didn't think that I was worthy of such a thing. And after a lot of introspection, I was like, “Okay, I'm gonna just dive in.”

I got a really big job opportunity and that pushed me in the direction of “Okay, you can do it!” I love it so much, and I didn't come at it from the aspect like, “I'm so great! I have all these things.” I was more the opposite! I came at it with a lot of respect and I've learned from all these great people, so I took it really seriously. And I still do! I got some cool opportunities, but it was baby steps to get there.

And what is it about dance that makes you love it so much? 

Well, it's the thing that I always can come back to no matter what - it's the thing I feel most like myself doing. Talking, communicating in that way, I always feel a little awkward. Dancing, I always feel like myself, and it's the most at-home and comfortable you can be. Whether I'm sad, whether I'm happy, it's always there as this little safe place. It's just this beautiful thing that allows me to express how I'm feeling the way nothing else can. It's a connection to everything, and nothing else exists. [Laughs] It's really cool! You can't think about anything else when you're doing it. It's a very all-encompassing thing. It's the closest thing to spirituality I have.

So how did you first get involved in the world of Magic Mike and its choreography?

Yeah, so I choreographed all the films. I was friends with Channing because of his ex-wife. His ex-wife, Jenna [Dewan], and I danced on tour with Janet Jackson [All for You Tour] in 2001-2002. She was a great dancer in LA and we were doing a bunch of projects together. 

Then I started doing choreography - I got offered the P!NK tour in ‘09 [The Funhouse Tour], and so my friend Leo [Moctezuma] and I were choreographing it. We assisted on some stuff with her previous [tour], so we had like a little bit of a relationship. So I did that tour, and it was my first big thing where people were like, “Oh, I guess she's doing this now!” A couple years after that, the film came up and Jenna suggested to Channing, she was like, “Hey, Alison's doing choreography now, you should hit her up!” And so he hit me up! [Laughs] And then I hit up my friends, Luke Broadlick and Teresa Espinosa, and we all did it together. It was cool because I was friends with Chan, and then my love and respect for him grew so much working with him because he's so brilliant, so smart, and such a hard worker and creative. So after that first movie, we were just like, “This is fun!” And we did more movies and then the shows.

Magic Mike Live

What is it like choreographing with collaborators, like your group with Teresa and Luke, ATL?

I think it's fun when you're doing a really big project to have a lot of minds because it feels like a lot of pieces added to make this really cool thing. If everybody's on the same page, it's the best thing ever. It's so cool because everyone just throws in their ideas and builds. And then sometimes you see things differently, and that's also good because it poses a question like, “Okay, so I see it this way, this person sees it this way, why is that? Do we want to go here or here? Do we want to come to the middle?” It helps you question things. And to me, it's a better product, because it's not just coming from one singular brain with one outlook on it. Especially with the Magic Mike stuff, because it's so nuanced, and there's so many different ways you could look at certain things. I like having a bunch of input and talking about it. I think that's just a more fun way to do it.

Can you go a bit into the creative process of choreographing something like Magic Mike Live

So what was exciting about that was we got to make it the show with Channing - it wasn't like we just received a script or something. We got to make the show with him, choose all the music, work with their music producer, Jack Rayner, work on all the beats of the show. So that was exciting. And that's really unusual, to get to create a show from scratch like that. Because typically, at least in the commercial world, if you're doing a show like this with a singer, you have a catalogue of music. But this is like, “Here's all the music in the world! Now what music do you wanna use?” [Laughs] It’s figuring out the tone of what you want.

So, the first thing we did was get in a room - it was me, Chan and Teresa, and this is two years before we even started doing the show. We just started talking about very broad ideas, and he is obviously the mastermind and was like, “I want it to be a Build-A-Bear stripper, like a guide teaches him,” and that's how you have the Mike character, and he learns all these things throughout the show. And then myself, Luke, Teresa and Jack, we listened to music for at least six months to a year, and we would just sit and be like, “Okay, what's the perfect song?” And that process went on for a long time. Then when we finally got all that done, we went through music clearance process.

Magic Mike Live

And then we went through a design process where we were able to see what the room was going to look like with our production designer, Rachel O'Toole, and our scenic designers, Rob [Bissinger] and Anita [La Scala].

 So then we go into my garage, which is a little dance studio, and we tape everything out, and then we just start prepping the choreography. So we'll make up the dance steps and then we'll prepare the staging as well, just so we go in fully prepped. We'll get little pennies, tape them, put initials on them, and we'll move them around and take photos of the staging. We typically rehearse quickly, so we like to be as prepared as possible. Sometimes it works really great, and sometimes you're like, “Oh, it wasn't very good,” and you change it in the room. But that's pretty much it!

Then you rehearse the guys and sometimes it's way better than you thought it would be, and sometimes you adjust it and fix it. And then the final bit is getting into the space, which is always exciting because Magic Mike is like 50% off the stage. So that's exciting for the guys to get into the room and be like, “Oh, what can I climb on? What can I do?” And same with us! We’ll climb everything and jump on crap and be like, “Can this hold me?” [Laughs] So that's the process, and then we open the show!

And what is it like creating the dances for the show, making it sexy but safe?

It's really fun! I am a big tomboy, and so I break a lot, like b-boying and stuff. I have always loved dancing masculine. I love dancing like a woman too, but I've always had a part of me that likes to dance “tomboyish.” And so did Theresa, and Luke's obviously a man! [Laughs] So when we first started so long ago, we wanted it to be like when you would watch the sexy part from the artists’ tour, like all the cute guys would do the sexy part. We were like, “That, but more!” We wanted it to feel oozy and sexy, but still dance and still musical so that it wasn't just like anybody could do it - these are dancers, you know? But it was fun finding like, “Oh, this is how we're going to do it.” Not over choreographing it, not under choreographing it, but just finding the little sexy pocket.

Magic Mike Live

What is it like choreographing for dances that you know the audience will interact with?

It's fun, and you have to think about all of the what-ifs! [Laughs] You have to prepare the dancer for like, “Okay, if this happens, you do this. If this happens, you do this.”

There's an art to choosing people to come on stage as well. It was interesting, Dreya Weber, who does all of our aerial choreography, when we first started, she was like, “You want to make sure they're engaged in the show, that they're smiling, they're not too drunk. Because if they’re too crazy, that could be insane. You just don’t want to embarrass people - that's not what we want to do.” But it's interesting, right? Because you want to make sure that you have the right person coming up on stage.

All ages, all ethnicities, all genders, every kind of person, we love having on stage, but specifically, we want to make sure they're not too drunk. And most of the time, except for one or two numbers, they have on pants [trousers], because we don't want someone to be embarrassed - that's not the point - it's for them to have a moment to enjoy themselves as opposed to being made a spectacle of. So it's definitely an art form. I think our MCs get really good at it, picking out women that are engaged and excited. Maybe they're with a friend, or maybe it's a granddaughter and a grandmother, which is hilarious. But also, when we choreograph it, I'll always be both the guy and the girl so I can feel it. And then I'll give the guys really dumb notes like, “Move her hair out of the way nicely!” [Laughs] The little stuff! I experience all of it because it's important. I'm so desensitized to the actual thing I’m able to be analytical about it, so I can give them good feedback, like, “Put my leg here! Put my arm there!”

What do you think has made Magic Mike Live such a popular show? 

I think Chan did a really good job with just the overall vibe. He always has said he wants people to leave the show asking for a little bit more of their lives, whether they outwardly are like, “I want more out of this!” Or they have that little click of, “Oh!” That permission to ask for more.

We put, and I say we, meaning every single person that works on the show in a creative way, so much time and effort into thinking, “What would anyone in the audience, specifically women, like? What would they want to see and experience? And what is the journey that we can take them on that is going to be the most pleasurable, fulfilling, exciting . . . “ What is sexy? So many things! We want to give them a show that has all of these different aspects that might be attractive to them. So much care was put into the details of this show and people respond to that.

I also think there was a big open space in the market for something for women that was like, “No, this is really for you. This is our thing - we worked so hard for you.” And then I also think that we cast men and women in the show that are generally good people and care about the audience and like.

To me, the most important thing is that everybody in the room, if they want to feel connected to, that they feel connected to, so I think the guys do a really good job with that. And I think the MCs do a good job of being with the crowd and connecting. The world is kind of crazy - this show’s such a nice escape. It's a bizarre, strange, fun, weird escape. It's just a fun night for yourself, a fun night for yourself and your friends. 

Do you have a favourite moment in the show? 

I've been asked this before, and it always changes! It depends on who's doing the show, depends on how the audience responds . . . It always changes. Sometimes I'll watch the “Suits” number and I'm like, “Yeah, that's great! That's the one!” Or sometimes I'll see “Sex Machine” and I'm like, “That's amazing! It's incredible!” And then the water number is so fun. I got to do it a couple times early on - it's just fun to do! It's an unexpected, really fun, beautiful thing. So no, I don't have a favourite part!

And finally, how would you describe Magic Mike Live in one word?


Magic Mike Live runs at London’s Hippodrome Casino with tickets currently available until January 2025. 

Photo Credits: Matt Crockett