JaQuel Knight has been doing choreography for Beyoncé for years. Knight landed his breakthrough gig at 18 years old for Beyoncé’s iconic video “Single Ladies”. His most recent collaboration with her at Coachella left people speechless. We spoke with Knight about how he got into dancing and what it’s like working with Beyoncé. Following is a transcript of the video.
Emmanuel Ocbazghi: JaQuel Knight is the creative mind many of Beyoncé’s iconic performances. He’s worked with her for years and he’s been dancing his entire life.
Knight: I remember dancing in my grandmother’s living room at the age of four and five, copying the things I saw on TV. As I got older I remember copying all the major iconic MTV award shows, performances, Soul Train performances. And then when I was 16 I started my own dance group with my best friend in Atlanta and that was kind of the first serious step towards choreography and creative direction.
Ocbazghi: At just 18, JaQuel landed a gig choreographing one of the best videos of all time….”Single Ladies.”
Knight: Frank Gatson Junior, who was choreographer and creative director for Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child for, you know, ages. He was actually working on Michelle Williams’ debut project. In the process of that he was like, “Wow, you know how to teach, you know how to deal with people, you lead really well, you know, how about you come on board and help choreograph the video with us.” And the next week he was like, “Can you come choreograph the entire promo tour?” And then a few months went by, he called and was like, “Yo, I have this Beyoncé record, can you fly to New York tonight?” I was like, “Yo, I just got the call! Going to New York tonight! Yoncé!” Got to New York, the record was Single Ladies. Once getting in the space with her, starting to dance with her, and see how she thinks and move through the project and how she sees things in her head, I was completely blown away.
Ocbazghi: Ten years later, JaQuel and Beyoncé teamed up for yet another iconic performance. They incorporated homecoming moves made popular by Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Knight: You know, that was a thing that Beyoncé kinda woke up with one day and was like, “Yo, let’s do this homecoming experience.” The research behind it, we went back and watched football games. You watch homecomings, so many probates. We watched fraternities in the club, we watched sororities. We watched a load of just black college experiences and then kind of got in the mindset of creating the right energy. I wish I could count the hours that went into it but we worked for like five to six months on it.
Working with B during the rehearsal process is like, it’s kind of a out of body experience. People don’t understand the amount of effort. Her work ethic is out of this world. And it’s never just one thing. When we’re creating choreography it’s ok boom, where’s wardrobe at? Bring them in so they can see what the choreography is. OK, boom. Where are we on the stage? Let’s make sure lighting knows how to light this. Boom, where are the cameras? OK let’s look at this camera and then do this. We’re always thinking of every single piece of the puzzle. So just to see that her mind understands every part of putting a show together and she remembers and she knows all of her marks and she knows all of her lyrics and how she’s gonna sing everything. She’s really in there getting it, asking questions. You doing it a hundred times. So we spend a lot of time in the dance studio making sure that these things come off feeling like nothing.
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