The Monkees choreographer was the only one brave enough to dance with Davy Jones to ''Cuddly Toy''
In the early days, Anita Mann was the woman everybody turned to for choreography on TV. She worked for every network and every star, from Lucille Ball to Elvis Presley. But on The Monkees, her interview with the Archive of American Television suggests that Davy Jones was one of the quirkiest stars she ever danced with.
Mann said, “He was a very improvisational performer. Like Lucy had to know where her little finger had to go; everything had to be choreographed. ... But Davy Jones was just free. He was a different kind of improvisational performer, and on camera, that could scare some people, but he lived for that moment.”
Jones was so committed to living for that moment that he didn't really like rehearsing, Mann said. That became an issue during a certain scene that any fan of The Monkees will remember. In an episode called "Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik," the band performs a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy," and the scene required a female dancer who could keep up with Jones as he sang the now-famous song.
You'd think that would be nearly every girl's dream in the 1960s – dancing with Davy Jones – but according to Mann, nobody wanted to do it for a very simple reason: There was no choreography, at all. Nobody wanted to risk looking a fool in Davy Jones' shadow, unable to keep up with his energy levels. In need of someone to fill in, Mann stepped into the scene herself.
"What can I say, that I was the one girl chosen to dance with Davy Jones," Mann said. "That was like the Beatles at a time. They were so much fun. And I think I was able to do it because I was a dancer who wasn’t afraid to go on camera and not know what the next step was." She gets serious remembering, "Because we didn’t know what he was going to do next." Watch the clip below to see how Mann's serendipitous scene worked out:
"It was absolutely hysterical fun," Mann confirmed, "I remember laughing almost the whole time.” Looking back, it's nearly as much fun watching her struggle to keep up with Jones now, as it was watching the first time, without knowing what was going on. The choreographer in her admits, though, that it was a little messy, saying, "I – honestly – if you look at that video again, you’re going to see me looking down at his feet, thinking, ‘What is next?’”
So, there's your answer if you ever wondered if it was exactly as zany to work on The Monkees as it was to watch: When it came to the dance routines, Anita Mann told the truth: "It was a free-for-all.”