Signature Moves With Sean Bankhead

Last 12 months, when Cardi B’s staff reached out to the choreographer Sean Bankhead to assist create dances for the “Up” music video, he requested if she had two months to dedicate to studying them.

As it occurs, she did. Mr. Bankhead didn’t waste any time. The dance, with its lunges, jumps and squats, appears straight out of a high-intensity interval coaching class. “I pushed her, and that’s a really hard thing to learn the balance when you’re working with a high-profile celebrity like that,” he stated. “You need to know how to push, but not overly push them off the cliff.”

Pushing has turn into one in every of his hallmarks. Mr. Bankhead, 32, is the choreographer behind among the 12 months’s largest music movies — together with Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” and Normani’s “Wild Side” — and he’s in excessive demand, regardless of the time dedication he expects from his movie star costs.

As quickly because the video for “Up” premiered in February, folks started posting themselves doing the choreography on Instagram and TikTok — many to the sound of Mr. Bankhead’s personal TikTok tutorial, created along with his co-choreographer Ahsia Janaé — serving to the tune keep on the high of the charts for weeks.

Mr. Bankhead doesn’t think about himself an emotional particular person, however seeing his creations flip into viral challenges could make him bawl like a child, he stated: “It’s been so heartwarming to see effort.”

The inspiration for nearly all of his strikes comes from the tightly choreographed music movies of the late 1980s and the ’90s. Listing influences together with Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, Mr. Bankhead stated he admires sure pop stars who had been capable of stand out and stamp themselves on the tradition due to their sharp choreography and creativity.

“I was a self-taught dancer from those music videos,” he stated. “That energy, that life and how those videos made you feel is exactly what I try to put into my creations today.”

“In a TikTok-driven musical industry, it’s easy to get away with mediocrity,” he added. “So when you see an artist come out that actually tries, it’s almost refreshing because I then say to myself, ‘I remember when this used to be the standard.’”

He has been particularly impressed by the exhausting work of Lil Nas X, who concurrently realized the choreography for his latest music video “Industry Baby” and for his efficiency on the BET awards in June (the place he made headlines for making out with one in every of his male dancers onstage).

“He’s like a little brother to me,” Mr. Bankhead stated. “We’re both from Atlanta, young gay Black men. We kind of had the same upbringing and so we clicked immediately.”

The one factor Mr. Bankhead needed to perform for each sequences was to point out “you can be a cool, young, successful gay Black kid and a lot of people are watching you,” he stated.

Even so, he was shocked by how recreation Lil Nas X was to take dangers, together with for a scene Mr. Bankhead choreographed for “Industry Baby” wherein male dancers strip all the way down to nothing for a steamy bathe room sequence earlier than the rapper levels a jail break.

“‘Let’s do it,’” Mr. Bankhead recalled Lil Nas X saying. “‘Period.’”

“Sean is a beast,” Lil Nas X wrote in an electronic mail. “He’s on it and he knows exactly what to do to bring what he wants out of an artist. He’s been one of the biggest helps to this newest chapter of my life. The best part is it doesn’t feel like work!”

He added: “He is the moment when it comes to choreographers, shaping the new generation. I am thankful for him.”

While rising up in Atlanta, Mr. Bankhead remembers his mom telling him tales about discovering a really younger Sean, across the age of three, in entrance of the tv watching MTV and BET and making an attempt to emulate dance strikes from movies from the likes of Michael Jackson.

His first reminiscences of his love for dance, nevertheless, come from performing with the reward and worship dance staff at his aunt and uncle’s church when he was about 9 years outdated.

Singing in church, taking part in three devices (piano, saxophone and drums) and having the ability to learn music gave him a special ear for creating his dance talents. “Because I could read music, I could create rhythms and percussion with my feet and hear different musicality in the music that really influenced my dance style,” he stated.

He had his first break in highschool, in 2006, when a YouTube video of him teaching a young girl a choreographed dance to “Wind It Up” by Gwen Stefani hit 1.5 million views in just a couple of days. “That was shocking to all of us,” Mr. Bankhead said. “We didn’t expect that back then. Doing those types of numbers on YouTube was unheard-of. Especially for a dance video off of a cellphone from a dance studio.”

He also landed a role as a backup dancer (and on-screen boyfriend) in Tiffany Evans’s 2007 “Promise Ring” music video. “I was still in high school,” he said. “I remember the video came on ‘106 and Park’ when I was in school, and I went from being a nobody loser to everyone loving me and wanting to be my friend.”

Next, Mr. Bankhead hopes to start his own dance facility in Atlanta, with a multipurpose rehearsal facility, professional staging area and center where dancers can rehearse for tours and award shows.

That plan has been put on hold by the pandemic, but Mr. Bankhead is as busy as ever.

“I really tapped into a place that I’ve been working so hard to even get to,” he said. “I’ve set the bar high enough for myself that if someone knows that you’re working with me for choreography, I’m not going to play.”

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