Jaquel Knight is the choreographer behind Beyoncé’s killer moves
Have you ever — actually, I know you have stood in front of your TV trying to mimic the great movements of Beyoncé. It’s okay, we all have.
And in addition to bowing down to the queen, you can thank Jaquel Knight for those moves. He has choreographed her self-titled visual album, Super Bowl performance, and “Formation.”
And it doesn’t stop there! He has also coordinated Britney Spears’ Circus Tour and please believe someones performance at popular awards awards shows like the VMA’s and AMAs has been graced by his touch. His track record is miles long when it comes to bad ass performances seen on TV and in movies. He’s even added Big Sean and Liam Payne to his list, but I’ll let him tell you for himself.
Check out our interview with him below where he spills the deats about his choreo experiences and new intensive course in London (and yes, that means you have a chance to work with him).
How long have you been dancing?
I’ve been dancing for 12 years now.
When did you start dancing and why?
I’ve always been a fan of Soul Train and music videos growing up as a young child in my grandmother’s house. I was about four or five, so I think that was my first beginnings. Then music became a thing as I got older and the movements just fascinated me. That’s why I started to take classes and move it forward.
What encouraged you to become a choreographer?
I was actually the head of the dance committee and marching band throughout my middle school and high school career so I was making up the dance routines for them. My best friend was also the captain of the auxiliary squad and we eventually started our dance team. So since I started dancing I’ve been choreographing, it’s nothing new!
You mentioned that music was a big influence in your up bringing, so what artists inspired you?
As far as dance and movement I was a huge fan of TLC, Mary J. Blige, MC Hammer, and of course Michael and Janet Jackson (can’t go without saying their names). Then as I got into music I became a big fan of Earth, Wind and Fire, Cameo, and all of those big bands especially because I was in one. I really think that is what helped shaped my ear now when I am choreographing.
How would you describe your style of dance?
Backyard fried chicken “countriness” mixed with a lot of soul and funk!
Other than music, what else inspires you as a choreographer?
I’m a people watcher! I can go sit in the middle of the mall and watch people for hours. I love watching the locals when I travel. Going to night clubs — and not the poppin’ ones, I’m talking about the hole in the wall dirty ones — that’s where the real people are! You learn so much from watching people, how they react to music, and their culture.
Who was your favorite celebrity to work with?
That’s like one of the hardest questions to answer. I love them all! Beyoncé is one of the favorites of course because her platform allows you to do whatever and go in and create. Tinashe is one of my favorites because she was young and hungry. She was willing to do whatever I thought would be hot. I am also enjoying working with Big Sean. We’re having a great time creating a new movement and perception on what rappers should do on stage.
What was the concept behind having all men dancers in Big Sean’s recent BET performance and was it hard to create that image?
You know his creative, Mike Carson, called me and ran this crazy idea by me which was basically what we did and I just took it up a notch. It was just so different! Sean really wanted people to feel like him, not like dancers. It was super fun working with Sean and getting his movement down. Then, going to teach the dancers to feel like rappers— you know, that’s two different energies. Those were difficult rehearsal days for them. Learning the song, Sean’s movements. It’s a lot that goes into those 3-4 minutes of TV time. The hard part of choreographing is to make the final product not look like choreography.
Tell me about your Knight’s Industry Intensive course in London?
This past year I’ve been spending a lot of time out there. I’m working with Liam Payne of One Direction and the group 5am. Being over there I’ve had time to see the dance community and listen to what they need. So, Knight’s Industry Intensive’s purpose is to give them a feel for what it’s like to be a true professional dancer. Work them long hard hours and put them under the same expectations our dancers here in America are under and hopefully help them grow and become a better artist.
How is it having your own entertainment firm and what do you hope to achieve from that?
Jaquel Knight Entertainment is my baby! We’re expanding the team and pushing things along. We’re developing TV shows, I’m currently writing my first movie musical. I have plenty of artists I’m doing creatives for and I’m actually getting into video directing. I figure why not do it while i’m young. We’re just pushing the envelope of what a choreographer/dancer can do. Every week it’s something new and it’s so exhilarating.
Are men or women easier to work with when choreographing?
It’s pretty difficult for both. I really kill my girls! You know how hard can you pop your hips, how far can you stretch your back. You know, it’s hard to be hot and sexy while on the floor. For the guys, it’s how suave can you be. Dance from your balls! Where’s your sauce? You gotta leave a lot of juice on the stage with me, haha!
Do you have any weird rituals you do to get rid of the nerves that want to spill?
I literally lose my wits before any performance and it never fails. I for real just walk and blessed the stage and performers with my holy water and my lil magic powers. Whoever it is, they already know I’m getting them together.
Is there any advice you want to give to young people trying to make it n the dancing industry?
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! IT STARTS WITH YOU FIRST! I GOT ME! Close your eyes to what you can imagine and open them to what you cannot. There is no such thing as dreaming too big. Anything is possible if you work hard for it.
As a youngin’ did you ever think you’d end up where you are now?
Excuse my language but F*CK NO! I would’ve never thought the young boy dancing at talent shows and in his grandmother’s living room is now traveling the world working with everyone. Like I have no phone service at my grandmother’s house, that’s how backwoods we are! Like who could’ve dreamed it?
As you move foward in the industry, are there any stereotypes that come with being a male dancer that you hope to break?
I think with dance in general, it’s the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to anything production wise. They get it the hardest and they’re the ones working the longer hours. Are talent is more than what we can do with our bodies. We have to be creative, visualize, dream and put it into action! I’m here to shift that mindset and show them that this little ol’ country boy can stand next to the you big ol’ LA dudes!
Finally, what should we look out for the rest of your 2017, early 2018 year?
OMG y’all should be looking out for production work on a movie! More heat from Big Sean, Liam Payne, Zara Larsson, and Victoria Monae. I’m talking to Tyga right now and of course Coachella next year!
I want to keep moving forward and never get comfortable. Keep inspiring people and myself!