There's a moment in Greta Gerwig's new film adaptation of "Little Women" that ignites the screen with as much energy as a fire that sets ablaze a character's dress in the scene prior.
Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) is at a party with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (Timothée Chalamet). He asks her to dance. But she's accidentally scorched a part of her dress and doesn't want other guests to see. Laurie takes Jo outside, and they have their own mini-dance party on the front porch bathed in the light of the larger party inside.
They dance in ways that are refined, silly, playful and buoyant all at once. The moment, choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes, has a bit of a punk-rock rebellion quality to it, but also keeps with the time.
"I wanted it to feel both totally modern and period accurate," Gerwig said during an interview at The Times.
"I didn't want them to be doing dances they wouldn't necessarily know. But I did want it to feel joyful and young, like kids dance."
Gerwig said the idea for this dance came from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch that features Gilda Radner and Steve Martin, where the two meet in a nightclub and trip the light fantastic.
"For our film, we wanted it to be this shimmery moment that feels like maybe it almost didn't even happen," she said.
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"I'm Greta Gerwig, and I directed and wrote the screenplay for 'Little Women.'" "Jo, would you like to dance with me?" "So this is "Laurie" Lawrence and Jo March. And they're hiding in a back room at a party, and they're talking about maybe trying to dance. And obviously, this is Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, who I adore." "You can laugh if you want to. It's funny, I know." "I have an idea of how we manage." "And then they dance. Well, they're going to dance outside. And it's the book that Laurie and Jo dance wildly, they say. But I was looking for a hallway while we were scouting. Because it's in a hallway in the book. And I wanted a long hallway, and I had this idea for how it would look. But I couldn't find one. And then I just kept coming back to this location because I liked it. And then I came back at night, and I thought, oh, you could see the dancers through the window, and then see them outside as these figures having their little party on the porch. And my choreographer, who's very wonderful, Monica Bill Barnes-- she created this dance with Saoirse and Timothée. And I wanted it to feel both totally modern and period accurate, in terms of I didn't want them to be doing dances that they wouldn't necessarily know. But I did want to feel joyful and young, like kids dance. And this is part of the story that takes place in their childhood, obviously. And it has this very snow globe quality. I wanted everything to feel very shimmery and very beautiful. And we shot with a certain filter to give it that feeling. And it has this warmth. We called it this golden glow that we were going for. And every part of it looks like a painting, but also an ornament. And this is, of course, Laura Dern as Marmee. And this is the first time you're really inside the March house, looking at it through Laurie's eyes, and seeing this kind of glorious female utopia. And the actors-- I wanted them all to be speaking over each other, which took a lot of coordination, a lot of rehearsal to get this choreographed chaos going." "I enjoy baking in the middle of the night. And don't mind the clutter, Mr. Lawrence, we don't." "Laurie, please." "But I just wanted it to be this cacophony of words and sounds, and everybody's doing something, and there's all these little moments. I looked at a lot of Altman thinking about it. Because he always has a way of creating spaces with lots of people and lots of activity. And I thought one of the beautiful things about 'Little Women' is the way the male characters hold the space for who women are without a spectator. And he's looking at them, but they're existing naturally, and he loves them because of who they are. And I think Timothée does such a beautiful job, and these girls are so wonderfully loud. And then this kind of position of this magical house that looks like a little mushroom coming out of the ground, but inside it's like a jewel box when you open it up."