Marc Breaux, RIP

You may not know Marc Breaux by name. But you probably know his work.

He’s the guy behind this:

And this:

And this:

And (perhaps most memorably) this:

A long-time and renowned choreographer, Mr. Breaux passed away last week at the age of 89. And while I must shamefacedly admit that I probably wouldn’t have recognized his name either, his work (and the obvious verve and humor on display therein) is hard to ignore. From his obituary in The LA Times:

Athleticism was evident in “Mary Poppins,” which led to “The Sound of Music” film because director Robert Wise saw a screening of the chimney sweep number and hired them, Breaux said in the university interview.

Breaux played an important, unseen role in the film’s opening sequence of aerial shots, finally coming upon Julie Andrews spinning around on a hilltop before breaking into the title song. To get the timing right, Breaux was hidden in nearby bushes. “He watched for the helicopter coming over the mountains,” Wood said, “and at the right moment he had a bullhorn and yelled to her, ‘OK, Julie! Turn!'”

If you love Dick Van Dyke (as I do), then you have Marc Breaux at least partially to blame. From The Hollywood Reporter’s obituary:

When Van Dyke landed the role of Bert in Mary Poppins and was asked by studio head Walt Disney if he could recommend a choreographer, the actor came up with Breaux and Wood, who had worked with him on a couple of TV specials.

“I’m not really a dancer,” Van Dyke told the Times. “I could move a little, and I was what you call an eccentric dancer — loose-limbed and light on my feet. But they took what I could do and made the most of it. I was just thrilled.”

Back to The Times once again:

Van Dyke said one of his fondest memories of Breaux concerns a step the choreographer put in the “Jolly Holiday” number of “Mary Poppins.” It was based on a bit Breaux used to do for fun.

“Hard to describe, but it’s like you try to step on your own foot, and then jump out of the way,” Van Dyke said Thursday. “He stuck it in there as our little signature.

“It was our own little joke.”

See for yourself. And while you’re at it, don’t forget this, which just might be the best work Mr. Breaux ever oversaw. And that’s saying something…

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