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Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New


This paper will be covering the opening scene of a famous 2016 musical called La La Land. It is often referred to as the freeway dance scene because it was filmed on a busy Los Angeles freeway interchange. The vast list of dancers includes Reshma Gajjar, Hunter Hamilton, Damian Gomez, and Candice Coke (“La La Land (2016) – Full Cast & Crew”). The performance was choreographed by Mandy Moore, who also composed the music and arranged the smaller details of the scene (Vanity Fair). This scene is crucial to the structure of the film, as it defines its unusual setting.

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The scene incorporates several contrasting styles of movement that come from different eras and have distinct meanings. In the beginning, the characters are transitioning from sitting in a regular traffic jam to being a part of this incredible spontaneous performance. As the music plays, more people leave their cars and join the frenzy, until there is a total of 30 dancers on screen. The camera moves through traffic and shows people doing backflips and dancing on car roofs and hoods (Vanity Fair). The nature of the movie is perhaps best demonstrated by the episode where the very sensual and passionate “flamenco lady” dances next to a much more aggressive and jagged “krumper” (Vanity Fair). The old sophisticated dance coexisting with harsher-looking modern moves create a vivid picture of the movie’s world.

In addition to the dance moves, the dancers also change their location throughout the scene. They begin in their cars, then start walking and dancing, before long, they climb on their vehicles; the scene finishes with everyone returning to their places and shutting the door at the same time (Vanity Fair). The costumes were not the center point of this performance, although the colors were carefully chosen not to bend with the cars (Vanity Fair). The dance and the music were matched exceptionally well, as their rhythms and moods coincided perfectly. The lighting was provided by the extremely bright midday Los Angeles sun, which added to the easy and relaxed feel of the scene.

The scene has invoked a strong emotional response in me, due in equal parts to the music and the choreography. It seemed to tell a story that is familiar and relatable to every person who experienced traffic. It was easy to connect with the characters’ feelings of wanting to break out of their useless cars and move freely, even if it was possible just for a brief moment. One could say that exiting the cars and starting to dance symbolizes the desire to express oneself openly, without restraint. In that sense, the piece told a story of bravery and defiance.

The musical number not only fits the story of the film but was also an integral part of it. Although it did not contain any plot points in the traditional sense of the word, it established the universe in which the main characters would have their adventure. The camera shows the first few dancers singing, and it seems natural that the others could begin doing it as well, when they join the dance. The characters were portrayed convincingly, and it was easy to believe that this scene was a natural part of their lives.


In summary, the opening scene to La La Land is a brilliantly choreographed performance. With 30 dancers, moving perfectly to one beat, this performance is a true work of art. It combines several styles of dancing to create a unique and descriptive picture of the movie’s world without any words. Finally, the feelings that this musical number conveys to the viewer are probably as real as possible on a movie set.


“La La Land (2016) – Full Cast & Crew.” IMDb, 2016, Web.

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Vanity Fair. “La La Land’s Choreographer Explains the Freeway Dance Scene.” YouTube, 2017, Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 8). Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, January 8). Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New.

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"Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New." StudyCorgi, 8 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New." January 8, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New." January 8, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New." January 8, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Chazelle’s “La La Land”: Mixing the Old With the New'. 8 January.

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