“Mary Poppins, step in time!” cries Van Dyke to Breaux & Wood choreography 4

Dance · Film

Kick the knees up! Step in time
Votes for women! Step in time
It’s the master! Step in time
Step in time.

As we enter movie theaters in anticipation of the fun and joy director Rob Marshall and his choreography partner, John DeLuca, have in store for Mary Poppins Returns, let’s step in time … back to 1964. That’s when choreographers Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood, a married couple, created their sensational chimney-sweep dance for Disney’s original Mary Poppins (1964). Here’s the number in entirety:

Brief snippets of Breaux and Wood’s bios — just to get you going — are reprinted from the late Larry Billman‘s invaluable compendium, Film Choreographers and Dance Directors, a tome that rarely leaves our side. Thank you Larry.

Marc (Charles) Breaux
1924 – 2013
b. Carenco, Louisiana
Multi talented dancemaker who, with his wife, Dee Dee Wood, created some of the most memorable dance sequences on film in the 1960s. As a youth he moved to New York with thoughts to become a chemist, but instead followed his interests in dance and theater. He studied modern dance with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, ballet with Helene Platova and Elizabeth Anderson-Ivantzova and received dramatic training at the Neighborhood Playhouse.

Dee Dee Wood
b. Boston, 1925
With her husband, Marc Breaux, this dancer, choreographer and director gave the movie musical some of its most memorable numbers. After training at the School of American Ballet, she became a member of Katherine Dunham’s Experimental Dance Group.She began dancing on Broadway and first worked with Michael Kidd in Guys and Dolls in 1950, eventually becoming his assistant. Other Broadway appearances including Can Can (’53) and Li’l Abner (’56) — in which she assisted Kidd, appeared on the cover of Life Magazine and met her future (now ex-) husband, Breaux.

4 thoughts on ““Mary Poppins, step in time!” cries Van Dyke to Breaux & Wood choreography

  1. grover dale Jan 9,2019 11:58 am

    As a couple, Marc and DeeDee had a way of bringing talent together that’s rarely seen in the dance world. Generous, loving, kind, and intelligent…every step of the way. I’m grateful for every minute.

  2. Shea New Jan 9,2019 10:35 am

    Marc is very responsible for the success of the Choreography Festival. I was originally going to offer the Lifetime Achievement Award to Patricia Bowman that first year and she unfortunately passed away during that time. (She and I were friends and, this too, is a very interesting story about our American Pavlova) Larry and I were looking to advertise the Festival in Arts and Pages Magazine in which we met Grover Dale. We told him of our dilemma and asked him if he knew of someone deserving. He led us to Marc though Marc was recovering from a stroke and was in the CA Nursing Facility here in Palm Springs. From his hospital bed he agreed to receive the award at the Ernie Hahn Amphitheatre in Palm Desert Civic Center Park. Virginia Waring presented the award with Marc in a wheelchair performing etrechats with his usual aplomb. Somehow it was fate as he volunteered for over ten years assisting/consulting with the Festival. He offered access to his connections, including Dee Dee and his dear friend Glen Tetley who both became Lifetime Achievement Award honorees as did the wonderful Grover Dale. I have some special momentos of Marc – dvd’s, pictures and such that he gave me. He was a very generous person and always humble and grateful for all the good in his life and his career. (An interesting connection was that Patricia Bowman toured with Fred Waring in the early thirties and we were able to get Virginia Waring through Marc to present and then be instrumental in the Festival’s development. She also became a dear friend. Fred was the person instrumental to the building of the McCallum Theatre which became the official producer of the Festival five years later. He tirelessly fund raised for many years and there was initial controversy that the McCallum was named the Bob Hope Cultural Center in the beginning but Fred has the street named for him. C’est la vie? Small world or no coincidences?)

  3. debra levine Jan 8,2019 11:21 pm

    I’d love to learn more about them, Shea.

  4. Shea New Jan 8,2019 4:22 pm

    Thanks for remembering Marc and Dee Dee as choreographers. Two terrific and talented people!

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