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 takes to be her backup dancer. Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: JaQuel Knight is the creative mind behind 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. And then when I was 16, I started my own dance group with my best friend in Atlanta. So that was kinda the first serious step towards choreography and creative direction.
Narrator: At just 18, JaQuel landed a gig choreographing one of the best videos of all time, “Single Ladies.” Years later, JaQuel reveals what it takes to be a backup dancer for Beyoncé.
Knight: To work for B as a dancer, it takes everything, you know. She’s a southern girl, you know, who’s worked very hard to get where she is. So she wants people to do the same. She wanna know that you want it really bad. She wanna see your heart, your passion, your drive. And then, you know, you gotta be able to jam. How greasy can you get? How can you hit it hard? Then there’s also the side of her that’s looking for the technical element. You know, are you trained? Do you have any ballet training? Do you have any jazz training? How are your lines? You know, so there’s a few things that go into the process.
And once we start to audition things, you know, we look for everything. We teach them hip-hop number, we teach them a super difficult technical number, we teach them the classic Beyoncé number, you know. And then besides that, you know, you gotta be able to carry the stage, you know, with her. You gotta be able to stand next to her and be just as good, you know. And sometimes people are ready, sometimes they’re not. You can be a great dancer, but it may not come through when you get on stage. You may kind of pull into a shell, don’t know who to look at. So she’s looking for stars. Star dancers, who have magic. That can bring it, you know, and pull other people in, always.
Working with B during the rehearsal process is like, it’s kind of an out of body experience, ya know. 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 the wardrobe at? You know, bring them in so they can see what the choreography is. OK boom. Where are we on this stage? You know, 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.
You know, we’re always thinking of every single piece of the puzzle. But you know, at the end of the day, we send her pictures, we send her videos. She’s watching people in rehearsal like who’s that? OK, that’s so and so that we talked about.She’s like ok, she’s good. You know, she’s looking at everything at every moment, you know. So she’s like heavily involved.
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