He's choreographed everyone from Kylie Minogue to the X Factor, and is a judge and choreographer on our fantastic Dance Wembley brief. We caught up with Ashley Wallen to talk adverts, audition tips and Hugh Jackman's height...
You’ve done quite a few projects, like our UEFA brief, where you audition a huge number of professional and non-professional dancers. What are you looking for?
Obviously they’ve got to have rhythm and be able to take direction, but the main thing we’re looking for is people who are really enthusiastic and really want to do it.
When you’re working on a project do you chose the theme, or do you tend to work with the director?
Directors come to me with the idea that they want to get across and I have to go away and work that out. I come up with my own ideas, get the music and then try to teach 300 people to all be in time.
Do you have any audition tips for young dancers?
Wear deodorant. Ha! Seriously, auditions are very quick – they teach you the routine in 15 minutes and then you have to perform – so classes are a good way to practise picking things up fast.
Would you ever work for free?
Oh god, yeah. Even now, I have to pay out when I’m doing pitches and they end up costing me money if I don’t get the job. It’s absolutely worth putting the effort in to do things for free.
These days you do quite a lot of advertising work. Do you find it easy to combine the creative with the commercial?
People can be sniffy about advertising, but creatively it’s amazing. It sounds wanky, but you get such big budgets that you can be so much more ambitious. Dance in advertising has taken off massively.
I started off choreographing for music artists, but since downloading took off, the budgets for videos have really reduced. That’s why a lot of artists are starting to put product placement in their videos, to pay for something a bit bigger.
A lot of modern music artists are also trained dancers. Does that make your job a lot easier?
It’s amazing. Kylie was so fast at picking choreography up. She would watch it once and could do it straight away. Hugh Jackman was good too. Although, at 6’2” it takes him a lot longer to get down to the floor and come back up.
I did a video for The Boy Does Nothing with Alesha Dixon and she just blew us all away. I worked with Will Young on all his tours and videos and he really surprised us with his dancing. When I first had him he couldn’t dance at all but he ended up being really good.
You were lead choreographer on X Factor. What do you do if the contestant can’t dance?
With people like Rebecca Ferguson, you’ve got to give them a mic stand and try to create these pictures around them. It looks like they’re involved in the number, when really they’re not doing much at all.
Which choreographers influenced you?
The stuff [Hollywood director/choreographer] Busby Berkeley did back in the day was groundbreaking, but my biggest inspiration would be Bob Fosse. He did Chicago and Beyoncé ripped him off in Single Ladies. Of course, Michael Jackson was a big influence on a lot of people.
What would you say were the best things about being a choreographer?
I go to work every day and just dance around. But you still have to work hard and look after your body.
To be in with a chance of dancing for Ashley Wallen in front of the entire Wembley Stadium at the Champions League Final, apply for our Dance Wembley brief.