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The OA’s Choreographer on the Meaning of the ‘Movements’

Dec 22, 2016

Ryan Heffington

Very mild spoilers for The OA below.

While the new Netflix series The OA is ostensibly science fiction, it’s filled with artistic choices that defy the conventions of the genre. None of those choices are more surprising than the Movements, a dance sequence that's crucial to the show's narrative. Over the course of eight episodes, Prairie (a.k.a. The OA) and her compatriots learn that this supernaturally potent quintet of hand and body motions can potentially heal the sick, raise the dead, and even allow interdimensional travel.

Despite the mystical nature of the Movements, series creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij opted to depict them without special effects. They’re simply performed with sweaty focus by the actors. In order to craft these key physical motifs, Marling and Batmanglij turned to dancer and choreographer Ryan Heffington. He’d worked with them on a previous film, 2013's The East, and he’s best known as the choreographer behind an array of Sia's music videos, most notably “Chandelier.” Vulture caught up with Heffington to talk about his unusual task of creating the Movements, what they represent, and how he made them "believable."