Beyonce choreographer and Award Winning Frank Gatson Jr. shares his thoughts with aris-dance.com regarding the art of dance and what it takes to dance for Beyonce and Destiny’s Child.
Frank Gatson Jr: Dancers who do ballet and stay with just that, can’t come back down to earth and get into hip-hop…
Choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. who has five MTV best choreography videos under his belt, was nominated once again for Best Choreography at Video Music Awards 2004, which were held last year in Miami on August 29, 2004.
The nomination was for choreographing the song “Naughty Girl” by R&B star Beyonce.
We met Destiny’s Child choreographer in Atlanta, where he was seeking male dancers to perform for the up-coming album of R&B trio and want to thank him for his contribution to the art of dance in general and his exclusive interview to aris-dance.com.
Aris: Congratulations on your MTV 2004 VMA nomination. Once again you have been selected for Best Choreography in a Music Video. How does it feel to be recognized again?
Frank Gatson Jr. It felt really good because it showed that my movement is still relevant even after 24 years. I guess, I felt – wow I did it again.
Aris: When choreographing a song, what process do you follow? Do you listen to the music and then create choreographic moves or the other way around?
Frank Gatson Jr. Well, you have got to listen to the music first. You may have some type of movement in your mind, but you definitely have to listen to the music to find out if the dance moves fit with the music.
Aris: You are here in Atlanta seeking 25 hottest dancers in America for the R&B trio Destiny’s Child. What kind of dancer turn-out have you generated so far? And what type of dancers are you looking at these auditions?
Frank Gatson Jr. The turn out has been great. We had around 500 dancers auditioning in New York and 300 more here in Atlanta. We are looking for dancers with certain heights, athletic bodies, dancers that have that magic in them. It is hard to explain, but I am able to see it and I think everybody else in the room is able to see it, because that’s when you get the loudest applause. We are looking for dancers who have the vibe; somebody who totally has gotten the movement and the movement becomes them in their own personality.
Aris: What kind of dancer does not impresses you?
Frank Gatson Jr. The biggest turn off for me is a dancer who doesn’t have a good work ethic. I think when you are rehearsing you have to give 100% to get the movement and definitely not bring a negative attitude, because that negative attitude undermines the magic of what can happen if every dancer get connected as one.
Aris: All right. Let me ask you a question about Beyonce. Sometimes ago, it was reported widely in the press and I don’t know if that was just a rumor, but it was reported that Beyonce was acting like a diva and treating her dancers with disrespect. Is any truth to that?
Frank Gatson Jr. I’ve never heard that in my life. Ever. I think Beyonce knows what a good dancer is, and because she surrounded herself with good dancers she found herself working a lot harder and she found herself growing as a dancer. She has the utmost respect for any dancer. I mean, yes, she will get rid of a dancer who is not pulling it off, but I don’t think that’s a diva. If a dancer is not capable of pulling up the choreography and giving 100%, Beyonce probably would have never done it, I would have probably done it and she would have respect it.
Aris: I don’t know if you have heard this but Britney Spears dancers used to complain about being overworked overseas for Britney’s “Onyx Hotel Tour” and Madonna’s dancers have been complaining lately for being underpaid. As a choreographer, how do you keep the balance of demanding a high quality performance and keeping the dancers happy at the same time?
Frank Gatson Jr. Well, if Britney and Madonna decide to pay the dancers a certain amount of money for their performance, that dancer has the right to take that or turn it down. Now, once you agree on the terms, don’t complain. Maybe some people think that the amount offered is really cheap, but there are others who like the experience of working with a big star. Look, dancers have a real problem to me.
We have been looking for male dancers all over United States and I have noticed that the “working dancers” in New York and here in Atlanta have not shown up. For some reason they feel, they are above coming to auditions. They have a lot to learn and not become divas. And once they have committed to Madonna or Britney, they have no right to complain.
Aris: So, what would be your advice for dancers trying to get work as back-up dancers with big stars? What kind of dance classes they should take?
Frank Gatson Jr. My advice to them is taking at least a jazz class. A jazz class allows you to just wake up your body and make a left move or a right move and understand the steps. And you make all these movements come alive, so when you go to an audition, your body can comprehend and hit precisely the movement you have never seen before.
Now, ballet is probably the best training but a lot of times dancers who do ballet and stay with just that, can’t come back down to earth and get into hip-hop. So they need to make a choice. A little bit of ballet and a lot of jazz classes will sharpen your movement and then go to the clubs or the hip-hop classes just to get the vibe or the groove. These things will get you endurance and power and that’s what you need to do as a dancer to get jobs.
Come prepare and who can deny you a job?
Aris: Thank you for your time.
International booking for Choreographer Frank Gatson Jr.
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