Paul Harris (choreographer)

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Paul Harris
St. Helens, England
dance teacher
movement Director

Paul Harris is an English choreographer, dance teacher and movement director in film, television and theatre.[1]

His notable works include the famous laser scenes for Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie Entrapment, the BAFTA Award-winning Bleak House and the wand fight sequences in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. An interactive hologram of Harris is a permanent feature of the Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden where Harris is described by Warner Bros. as being "the world's only wand combat choreographer".[2][3]

In the theatre, he choreographed the 50th-anniversary production of John Osborne's The Entertainer at London's Old Vic. He is also an author of dance books, having written Salsa and Merengue – The Essential Step by Step Guide and several dance syllabi for British awarding bodies in dance. Harris is an acknowledged authority and leading choreographer[4] in historical dance, period dance, tango, salsa, swing dance, ballroom dancing, Latin American dancing and theatre dance. He is the winner of the 2008 Carl Alan Award for choreography.[5]

Early career[edit]

Born in St Helens, Harris began dancing at the age of eight and as a dancer, was a successful Juvenile and Junior competitor in ballroom dancing. He won the British Open Championships at the Blackpool Dance Festival in both Ballroom and Latin American dancing, as well becoming 3 times English Champion, United Kingdom, International and West European Champion and placing in the first 3 of every major competition, including the World Championship as an adult.

On turning professional, he studied jazz dance, tap dancing, historical dance and classical ballet and won the British Exhibition (Theatre Arts) title. He retired from competitive dancing to study acting at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London and on graduating, he played leading roles in British television and theatre, including major national tours of three West End productions. His roles during this period included A-Rab in West Side Story, Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird, Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, William H. Bonney in Billy The Kid, Scranton Slim in Guys and Dolls and Catsmeat in Snow White with the late Marti Caine.

In the 1990s, he played a role as a Latin American dance champion on the BBC television drama Casualty, for which he choreographed the dance sequences himself. This was spotted by a leading UK dance agent and led to his career in choreography.[6]

As a choreographer[edit]

In 1997, Harris was asked to look at a script for a British movie with a view to choreographing the dance sequences. Following a single conversation with the director, he realised that combining his two backgrounds of dancing and acting was the direction in which he should take his career. Since then, Paul Harris has become one of the UK's most prolific choreographers and dance instructors in film and television.[1][4] He has also been responsible for the choreography on several big budget movies, including Entrapment, Inkheart, The Other Boleyn Girl, Far From The Madding Crowd, Crooked House and he created the physical language and choreography for the wand-to-wand combat sequences in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.[7]

Harris has also choreographed many of British television's most highly acclaimed, award-winning dramas of the last decade including Bleak House, The Way We Live Now, To the Ends of the Earth, Jane Eyre, Poirot, A Touch of Frost, William and Mary and six years as the choreographer for the hit UK comedy My Family starring Robert Lindsay. This led to Lindsay requesting that Harris be the choreographer of the 2007 critically acclaimed revival of John Osborne's The Entertainer. Other notable credits in theatre include being the choreographer of "Liberty", the first co-production of Shakespeare's Globe theatre[8] and being a guest dance tutor for the Royal Shakespeare Company on Two Gentlemen of Verona, as well as choreographing productions such as A Family Affair, The Rivals, As You Like It and David Copperfield. He has continued to choreograph for television during this time, including dramas like Lost in Austen, Da Vinci's Demons and Call The Midwife.

Harris co-choreographed Disney's The Cheetah Girls 2 with its director Kenny Ortega, having been brought in at Ortega's request, specifically to choreograph the tango sequence which was shot in Barcelona. The tango Harris choreographed, was described by Ortega in a Dcom Extra interview, as "the most exciting and demanding dance sequence he had ever shot". Other notable directors he has worked with are Jon Amiel and David Yates, with whom Harris has worked four times.[9] Among the notable actors Harris has created choreography for are Catherine Zeta-Jones, Scarlett Johansson, Gary Oldman, Sam Neill, Natalie Portman, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.


As a dance teacher, Harris has devised the dance module of the BA Hons (Acting) and MA (Acting)at four London drama schools. He is a dance tutor at The Actors Center in London and teaches dance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London), Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts (University of East Anglia) and the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts (University of East London). He was the main dance coach in the "Kick boxer to Dancer" episode of the BAFTA-award-winning Faking It and he has coached and choreographed for world champions in showdance, salsa, ballroom dancing and Argentine tango including several of the professional dance teachers from British television's Strictly Come Dancing on which he has appeared.

Harris is a Fellow and Examiner of the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing (UKA), as well as an Honorary member of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing (BATD). He also teaches internationally, particularly in South East Asia,[10] where he has helped to develop dance in the Philippines,[11] Indonesia and Thailand. In recognition of this work, Harris was made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Philippine Professional Dance Teachers Association and he has appeared on as a guest dance expert on television in England and in Asia, to discuss choreography and dance styles as diverse as salsa, Argentine tango, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, historical dance and dancesport[12]

He has adjudicated at many international dance championships, including the prestigious Blackpool Dance Festival[13] and he is a licensed adjudicator with both the World DanceSport Federation and the World Dance Council[14]

Salsa and Merengue – The Essential Step by Step Guide was written by Paul Harris and published in 1998.[15] It is considered a definitive work of its kind in the dance industry and is the basis of the syllabi Harris has written in merengue, salsa and mambo, for the International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA),[16] the British Association of Teachers of Dancing (BATD), the National Association of Teachers of Dancing (NATD) and the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing (UKA).[17] The book played a pivotal role in the history of salsa in the UK[18] particularly in the formation of the (then) new Club Dance Division of the UKA. This development, for the first time, enabled teachers of salsa in Britain, to gain a recognised professional teaching qualification.[19] In addition to this, Harris wrote the UKA's course guide for drama schools in 19th & 20th century social dance and co-founded their historical dance Faculty.

In 1996, Paul Harris founded London Theatre of Ballroom, during which they enjoyed a critically acclaimed six-month run at London's Café de Paris. They are dedicated to preserving and progressing ballroom dancing as performing art and their repertoire, choreographed entirely by Paul Harris, consists of shows based on swing dance, tango, Latin dancing, vintage dance and American smooth (Hollywood style partner dancing). They remain Britain's only ballroom based dance/theatre company.[20]


Television dramas and films[edit]

Year Type Title Production Director
2018 Film Patrick Disney Mandie Fletcher
2017 TV Drama The Halycon ITV Stephen Woolfenden
2016 Film Crooked House Sony Gilles Paquet-Brenner
2015 TV Comedy Catherine Tate's Nan ITV Geoff Posner
2014 TV Drama The Great Fire ITV Jonathan Jones
2014 Film Far From The Madding Crowd Fox Searchlight Thomas Vinterberg
2013 TV Drama Da Vinci's Demons BBC / Starz US David S. Goyer
2013 TV Drama Call The Midwife BBC Juliet May
2012 TV Drama The Paradise BBC David Drury
2011 TV Drama Great Expectations BBC Brian Kirk
2011 TV Drama South Riding BBC Diarmuid Lawrence
2009 TV Drama Desperate Romantics BBC Diarmuid Lawrence
2009 TV Drama Emma BBC Jim O'Hanlon
2008 Film Inkheart New Line Cinema Iain Softley
2008 TV Dramas Lost in Austen ITV Dan Zeff
2008 TV Dramas Little Dorrit BBC Dearbhla Walsh
2008 TV Dramas Miss Austen Regrets BBC Jeremy Lovering
2007 Film Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix Warner Bros. David Yates
2007 Film The Other Boleyn Girl Sony Pictures Justin Chadwick
2007 Film Mister Lonely O'Salvation Films Harmony Korine
2007 Film Love and Other Disasters Skyline / Ruby Films Alek Keshishian
2007 TV Dramas Sense and Sensibility BBC John Alexander
2006 Film Cheetah Girls 2 Disney Kenny Ortega
2006 TV Dramas Jane Eyre BBC Susanna White
2005 TV Dramas Bleak House (BAFTA Winner 2006) BBC Justin Chadwick / S. White
2005 TV Dramas To The Ends of The Earth BBC David Attwood
2005 TV Dramas Poirot Granada Hettie MacDonald
2004 TV Dramas The Quest II YTV David Jason
2003 TV Dramas A Touch of Frost YTV Roger Bamford
2003 TV Dramas William and Mary Granada Hettie MacDonald
2002 Film Dream Thief Salad Films Nicola Levinsky
2001 TV Dramas The Way We Live Now (BAFTA Winner 2002) BBC David Yates
2000 Film Trick of the Light Zephyr Films / Film 4 Teresa McCann
2000 TV Dramas The Sins BBC David Yates
2000 TV Dramas My Family (2003–2008) BBC Dewi Humphreys
1999 Film Entrapment 20th Century Fox Jon Amiel
1998 Film The Tichborne Claimant The Bigger Picture Co. David Yates

TV features, reality shows and appearances[edit]

Title TV Network Director
Harry Potter Studio Tour (Permanent Hologram) Warner Bros. Laura Watson
The Supersizers Go (1920s Dance Consultant) BBC Kate Scholefield
Faking It (Mentor) (BAFTA winner 2002 & 2003) Channel 4 Jonathan Smith
Gloria Hunniford's Open House (Salsa Feature) Channel 5 Personal appearance
Granada Reports – Look North (Salsa feature) ITV Personal appearance
11th Hour (Tango and Swing feature) ITV Personal appearance


Title Theatre Director
The Entertainer Old Vic Sean Holmes
Gaslight (Period Movement Coach) Old Vic Peter Gill
The Importance of Being Ernest Theatre Royal Bath Peter Gill
Liberty Globe Guy Retallack
Romeo and Juliet Oxford Shakespeare Co. Guy Retallack
Two Gentlemen of Verona (Dance Coach) Royal Shakespeare Co. Fiona Buffini
Flight of the Swan (Movement Coach) Royal Opera House (Linbury) Rob Swain
A Family Affair Theatre Royal Bath No.1 Tour Andy De La Tour
Wallflowering National Tour Jennie Darnell
Tommy Royal Academy of Music Guy Retallack
A Christmas Carol Bridge House Theatre Guy Retallack
As You Like It Central Martin Wylde
Redemption Over Hammersmith Broadway LAMDA Max Key
Jerusalem Mountview Max Key
Dancing at Lughnasa Mountview Andrew Jarvis
The Rivals Mountview Glen Walford
The American Clock Mountview Sean McLevy
David Copperfield ALRA Stuart Wood
Mill on the Floss ALRA Janette Smith
Erpingham Camp ALRA Finetime Fontayne

Commercials and music videos[edit]

Title Production Director
My Name (McLean) Atlantic Records Nick Bartleet
Grease is the Word ITV Creative Simon Mitchell
Trafalgar Square Big Dance British Tourist Authority Michael Geigan

Stage and trade shows[edit]

Year Title Production Director
2004 Fox Promotional Screen Test at Cannes Film Festival 20th Century Fox and Stella Artois Geraldine Maloney
2002 London Boat Show Sealine Paul Harris
1999 London Boat Show Sealine Paul Harris
1998–2006 Miss Philippine Alfanti Productions Paul Harris
1997 Miss China CNE Peter Chen
The Delfont Awards Grosvenor Productions Alex Clayton
The Half Monty Inch High Productions Paul Harris and Warwick Davis


  1. ^ a b "Dance coach Paul is a Haydock lad". St Helens Star. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Warner Bros. Studio Tour London". Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  3. ^ "A Celebration Of Harry Potter Returns To Universal Orlando – Coaster Nation". Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Famous Dance Choreographers - A Knowledge Archive". A Knowledge Archive. 30 March 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Interview | Choreograaf Paul Harris". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  7. ^ "About Paul Harris". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Liberty / Shakespeare's Globe". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Dance coach Paul is a Haydock lad (From St Helens Star)". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Edna Ledesma: Grace under pressure | Health And Family, Lifestyle Features, The Philippine Star |". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  11. ^ "Paul Harris mentors local dance scholars -, Philippine News for Filipinos". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  12. ^ "Video". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  13. ^ "Scrutelle". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  14. ^ "Home". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  15. ^ Paul Harris (1999). Salsa and Merengue: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. ISBN 9781850586999.
  16. ^ "IDTA (Sales) Ltd :: Books :: STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO SALSA, MAMBO, MERENGUE BY PAUL HARRIS". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 June 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Salsa & Merengue Society - A History of Salsa: Resources". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Salsa & Merengue Society - A History of Salsa: Salsa in the UK". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  20. ^ "London Theatre of Ballroom". Retrieved 27 August 2015.

External links[edit]