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Creating the musical episode of ‘Riverdale’: a talk with dancer Joe Tuliao

Vancouver’s Joe Tuliao does not simply describe himself as a dancer; he is an artist. Through his chosen medium, he is expressive with who he is and how he is feeling. Rather than putting a brush to canvas or a pen to paper, he conveys this through movement. Dance is an outlet for him to showcase his truth, his emotions, and his personality. Through this artform, he inspires others while finding inspiration in his surroundings. Dance is a language for him to communicate with others and create a relationship with those watching.

Tuliao is free spirited in his dance. As an industry-leading dancer in Canada, he is skilled in many styles and is known for combining various techniques to create his own unique style. He is trained in many urban styles such as hip hop, locking, waacking, popping, and contemporary, and channels his personality through his movements. This is evident with his work on many high-profile projects, including Janet Jackson’s “Unbreakable” World Tour, Disney’s successful TV movies Descendants 2 and Descendants 3, the film R.L. Stine’s: Mostly Ghostly, and more.

“I love the connection I make between myself and the audience. The ability for me to share a passion through my movement and for people to watch is such a blessing to have. No one can duplicate one’s authenticity. Every dancer is unique in their own way,” he said.

Earlier this year, millions around the world got to see Tuliao’s outstanding work in the extremely popular American teen drama Riverdale. The television series takes a darker look at the iconic Archie comics, following the teens and their parents as they navigate the many scandals of their small town. The award-winning series was adapted by CW network and is available on Netflix around the world. It features an ensemble cast based on the characters of Archie comics with KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes and Cole Sprouse.

“I like the story of Riverdale because it shows the trials and tribulations of teenagers in high school. It shows how they overcome their situations with the support of friends and family. The messages are catered for all ages,” said Tuliao.

Tuliao was a key part of the sixteenth episode of the third season, which aired March 20, 2019. Titled “Chapter 51: Big Fun”, the episode begins as rehearsals for the Heathers musical gets underway; Veronica learns some devastating news; Jughead makes a surprising move against Gladys. Tuliao was featured in multiple musical numbers for the Heathers musical, choreographed by Heather Laura Gray.

“I’ve always been a fan of the Archie comics when I was a kid. To be a part of this new beginning of the series and how much buzz it got from the first season was surreal. I’ve also wanted to work with the main actors and the choreographer for quite some time,” said Tuliao.

It was actually Gray that reached out to Tuliao to be a part of the show, knowing how much talent this young dancer possesses. The dancing made the episode very lively, and was key to the success of the musical storyline. Therefore, the best dancers were required to take up such a mountainous task.

During the rehearsal process, Tuliao and the rest of the dancers helped the actors perfect their dance moves to be ready for filming. This was one of Tuliao’s favorite parts of working on the show. He found the choreography to be fun to dance to and building a relationship with the actors made the process even more enjoyable.

“Working on the musical episode of Riverdale was so fun especially with the actors. They’re so fun and full of energy and they made the process a breeze. It felt very surreal when we were filming on set and being a part of the actual production,” said Tuliao. “It’s an achievement of mine to be a part of this show. The network received a lot of compliments regarding the musical numbers. My friends messaging me that they saw me on their favorite tv show was so amazing. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Riverdale on Netflix, especially the Heathers musical episode.
By Annabelle Lee
Photo of Joe Tuliao by Richie Lubaton
Riverdale photo featuring dancers on set
Oct. 8th, 2019

Creating the musical episode of ‘Riverdale’: a talk with dancer Joe Tuliao Reviewed by JaamZIN on 7:41:00 AM Rating: 5
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