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February 27, 2017

As the World Twirls

From Scranton to Hollywood, Fred Tallaksen dances on.

Maria Neuman
  • Diana Gomez

Sometimes life comes full circle.

Growing up in the 80’s — in scrappy Scranton, Pennsylvania — Fred Tallaksen caught the dance bug from weekend TV standard Solid Gold.

“I was obsessed with the dancers, especially Darcel [Wynne],” recalls the Los Angeles resident, who is currently creating routines on season two of the ABC comedy The Real O’Neals. “I used to twirl my sister around the house so fast, it drove my dad crazy.“

The choreographer, who has been nominated twice for an Emmy for his work on Malcolm in the Middle, says the Fox show was a hoot. “It was an amazing job! I once spent almost a month teaching Bryan Cranston how to roller skate.”

And with competition shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance now television staples, choreography has entered the cultural mainstream.

“I think people finally realize how much work it takes,” Tallaksen notes. “Especially for episodic television, where the timing is pretty fast. For last year’s Halloween episode of The Real O’Neals, I hired 30 dancers for two separate scenes and there was a week to get it together.”

That’s one week — to prep, teach dancers and actors, as well as work with costume and production designers, before shooting on the last day.

Still, “I love it,” he enthuses. “Cameras pick up the tiniest details, like a facial expression or the flick of a wrist, unlike when I work on a live show, where every movement has to be big so it registers with the audience.”

Tallaksen credits his success to a tireless work ethic, cheery demeanor and razor-sharp discipline. “When I first started as a dancer, I always arrived on time, knew the steps and paid attention,” he says.

That led to a career that is going strong after more than 20 years and includes work with the likes of Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. “There’s something really magical about just being able to say, ‘I’m here — I’m doing this.’”

Another solid gold moment. 

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2017

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