Oftentimes the entertainment industry sees the names who create, inspire, and execute the spectacle go unsung. However, with a talent and personality as tall as Laurieann Gibson‘s, that couldn’t be further from the case.
First introduced to the millennial masses on MTV’s ‘Making The Band,’ the dynamic, Emmy-nominated choreographer has been a fixture on screens for over 15 years and behind them for even longer. Now, the “Boom Kack” advocate is bringing her seasoned expertise to the judging table of FOX’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ 16th season.
Ahead of the premiere of tonight’s episode, That Grape Juice caught up with Gibson, who waxed honest about her storied career, the state of dance today, the YouTube takeover, and, of course, what viewers can expect from this season of the hit show.
Join us after the jump…
That Grape Juice: Congrats on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’! What’s been the most surprising aspect of being a judge so far?
Laurieann: I’m having the time of my life, but I didn’t know I would have so much anxiety and so many different emotions because I’m speaking to [young] dancers, my community, and it’s just really heavy out there.
That Grape Juice: ‘SYTYCD’ is celebrating 16 seasons. What do you feel you bring to the panel of such an established show (that it hasn’t had before)?
Laurieann: What’s at the core of what I’m bringing is just outright passion and excitement.
I’m someone who has been a dancer, still dancing, still choreographing, and still in it. It’s a fresh take on my passion to get to this winner and see them jump into the professional world to have their dreams manifest.
That Grape Juice: What are some unique characteristics you’re looking for when you judge contestants?
Laurieann: I’m looking for that dancer who has everything; they have to know how to be technical in dance and do multiple styles but also have that passion for dance. Once you get the choreography the challenge is [showing] who you are.
That Grape Juice: You always get asked about who influenced you in your early days, but we’re curious to know who are some of your contemporaries or even some of the new generation that you really feel are doing well in dance.
Laurieann: I’m just getting into the newer scene of dancers, but there are about three or four that I have my eyes on. Wildabeast, King Chris, Linda Brown, and Rhapsody are definitely ones I know have the real gift and are not just for the moment.
That Grape Juice: YouTube has given up-and-coming dancers and choreographers the opportunity to showcase their skills like never before. Considering there are so many on the Web right now, do you feel like they are oversaturating the industry?
Laurieann: I think it’s one of those things that are good and not so good. It’s good because it took a long time in dance history for the likes of Debbie Allen, Fatima, Hi-Hat, and myself to transcend our brands or even create that conversation for us and about us. They [Youtubers] have the ability to get in front of the public immediately, but with that there’s a danger in just anybody doing it. It’s one thing to add the freestyle and the latest dance to your performance, but to just choreograph all the latest dances with no dynamics and no substance is not necessarily a good thing.
Having random people in heels just throwing their bodies all over the place is not hot.
That Grape Juice: As a woman – a woman of color especially – Laurieann Gibson has opened quite a few doors in the arena of dance. Can you speak to how that feels now as you look back on your career?
Laurieann: I feel like it’s hard for me to look back as I’m still opening those doors and demanding the credit and respect as a woman of color for not just myself but all of us.
I can’t think of one thing to say other than “mother” is still in it children (laughs).
That Grape Juice: Now, we have a segment we like to call ‘Fast Five From Fans’ that sees us collect 5 questions from our readers specifically for you.
TGJ-1: Do you feel choreographers are not given enough credit for their contributions to music videos, tours, etc.? why?
Laurieann: Absolutely not. As someone who has curated videos that are at billions of views, there is no residual for [choreographers].
TGJ-2: What’s been your most difficult choreography experience to date and why?
Laurieann: I’ve had several so I can’t really get into it, but I think maybe when I choreographed Lady Gaga’s ‘JUDAS’ in a hotel room. It had to get done and it got done.
TGJ-3: As you studied at his famous school in New York City, will you be involved in or with the forthcoming Alvin Ailey biopic?
Laurieann: I’m not involved in it at this present moment, but I hope to be in any way. Even if it’s just tweeting about what changed my life and one of the most incredible forefathers in choreography to this day and the school that gave me a foundation.
TGJ-4: Who is the most overrated dancer in music history?
Laurieann: A lot of the new kids are overrated, so let’s keep it ‘a hundred’ at that part right there.
TGJ-5: Biggest misconception about Laurieann Gibson?
Laurieann: That I’m mean. I’m not mean, I am a warrior (laughs).
That Grape Juice: You get that though, right? I know when some people go back and watch you give out dance instructions they can be like, “wow, she’s intimidating.”
Laurieann: Yes, 100%. It does seem like I’m intimidating, but I’m not.
The hardest thing is to have a vision and fight to be number one in a very competitive business, but my intensity is what makes the difference in their [the dancer’s] career. I don’t think that greatness is something you have to apologize for.
‘So You Think You Can Dance’ airs Mondays at 9/8C only on FOX!