With almost 650 million YouTube views, "Single Ladies" remains, nearly a decade since its birth, one of the most iconic music videos ever created. That's thanks wholly to its choreography team, JaQuel Knight and Frank Gatson.
We spoke with the former at Houston's inaugural Red Bull BC One Dance Camp, a three-day, immersive breakdancing convention and competition scouting the best talent in Texas to move on to a final round of breakdancing competitions between dancers from around the world in Zurich, Switzerland.
During the festival, Knight taught workshops alongside such iconic dancers as Beychella-famous Les Twins and the incomparable Crazy Legs.
Knight remains every grateful for having a hand behind such an iconic music video, and insists that nothing could have prepared the team for just how big of an impact their collaboration would yield. We chatted with Knight about the dancers who served as role models for getting him to where he is today, his future dreams as a choreographer, and, of course, Bob Fosse.
Oh, and afterwards we had Knight himself teach us the "Single Ladies" choreography. Click the link above or watch here:
OUT: What’s it like being part of Red Bull BC One Camp, with so many aspiring young dancers? How’d you get involved?
JaQuel Knight: I think it’s really important to use your platform to inspire the next generation of artists. Whether they be dancers, choreographers, creatives… So I’m super thankful for Red Bull’s BC One Camp, for this three day event here in Houston. Specifically for the local talent here. It’s super important to be able to go to these big cities and hone in on mentoring and bringing out the talent in those cities. Everyone isn’t from LA, or New York. I think it’s super important that we continue to help the next generation.
Was there someone who helped you get your start, who made you want to pay it forward?
So many great people—from Frank Gatson, to Jamal Sims. Chuck Maldonado. Dondraico Johnson. These people… Beyoncé’s Creative Director. Jamal just choreographed the new Aladdin coming out next year. Every movie has Dondraico Johnson dancing in it. These people have really pushed me to be great. They kept me going, and told me I wasn’t crazy.
Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool
Who are some of the other dancers and choreographers inspiring you?
Bob Fosse is king. He’s the biggest inspiration of all time. Talk about a great artist, choreographer, and director. He has such great taste. He’s a reference for all of these major artists. He just gets it.
Is there a musical that you dream of choreographing?
You know, I’m writing a musical right now. That’s dance, and great music, and a lot of the songs are done. I’ll be super excited about that. But one that’s living… there’s so many great ones. Chicago is a great one. The storyline is sick by itself. Dreamgirls is a good one. Those would be my top two. And I would have loved to choreograph Hamilton. That show is really good.
We have to talk about “Single Ladies.” What’s it like to have had a hand in one of the most iconic videos and dances of all time in pop culture?
That’s a really hard question to answer. I’m still blown away by the appreciation and acceptance of the video. Talk about something that’s just pushing it. Dance from top to bottom. Everyone in it learning the dance top to bottom. It’s become signature for every time you hear the song, or someone’s getting married, you do a piece of dancing from it. I’m so thankful for it, and for the opportunity to have done something for the culture. We grow up and we all want to create the next “Rhythm Nation.” The next “Beat It.” The next “Smooth Criminal.” I think “Single Ladies” is that for me. I’m super proud of it.
Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool
Did you have any idea of how big the impact would actually be on all those gays out there?
At the time, no. I think we wanted it to be really big, and we worked really hard, so I wasn’t surprised. But you don’t know. Sometimes these things are hit or miss for people. You either hit it on the head or not at all, and it just becomes another music video. So for me, it was really important that we made sure to make the J-setting that’s in it. I kept it authentic to the Southern J-setting movement. It was important it felt authentic and came from somewhere, so a lot of this choreography is based in the South. Whether it’s how people I knew danced at cookouts or family BBQs, or how people dance at basketball games in front of the band, or how people dance in the clubs. It was really important to capture the feeling of all those moments in my life.