Laurieann Gibson puts Lady Gaga and other stars in step
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Choreographer Laurieann Gibson has helped Lady Gaga with her often spectacle-filled performances. ‘She is so fearless,’ Gibson says of Gaga.
Laurieann Gibson is pressed for time — even at breakfast. The in-demand choreographer is noshing on bacon and scrambled eggs before she’ll race to LAX to catch a Chicago-bound flight. There she will join her busiest client, Lady Gaga, to tape a performance for Oprah.
This after a hectic month spent completing Gaga’s “Judas” video and HBO concert special (she directed both), traveling to Atlanta to film an upcoming BET reality competition, shooting a vacuum cleaner ad and promoting her E! docu-series, “The Dance Scene,” which follows Gibson and her team of dancers and choreographers as they prep artists and industry events. The show is averaging 1.1 million viewers weekly.
Since her days as a Fly Girl on “In Living Color,” Gibson has choreographed for longtime collaborator and friend Sean “Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry and Gaga, among others. Her dance work with the latter singer, whom she affectionately calls Gags, has yielded 10 videos, including “Bad Romance,” which earned Gibson a Video Music Award for choreography in 2010. The 2003 Jessica Alba flick, “Honey,” was based loosely on her life.
Gibson is accustomed to the pace. On a tour of the Hollywood dance studios where she does her work (and later used to film the E! show) she hopped around as she juggled projects: Kelly Rowland in one studio rehearsing for a video, teen pop upstarts Destinee & Paris in another. She managed to find time for a moment with Pop & Hiss.
People might not know that you’ve been with Lady Gaga from the beginning. How did that union start?
She came to me like, “I got dropped and I don’t really know if I have it in me to know what I need to do to make my dream come true.” And then she played me her record and I said, “Listen, I’ve got enough for the both of us, let’s go.” We started designing her opinion as a live performer and what that would be, what the records would feel like visually. How would “Just Dance” turn into “Poker Face,” into “Bad Romance”— and now the “Monster Ball” [tour].
A lot of her visual aesthetics have been compared to Madonna. As her creative director what are your thoughts on that?
Listen, [Madonna] should be bitter because I did it on purpose, and you can quote me. I did it on purpose because for all those kids who believe that you can’t, I wanted to let them feel that you can. And that’s what I represent, that’s what Gags represents. That’s what this movement represents.
You’ve been pretty tight-lipped on this BET project. What can you tell us about it?
It’s called “Born to Dance: Laurieann Gibson.” We auditioned 20 girls from three different cities. These girls, like me, were in their canopy bed dreaming of an end place and nothing around them said it was possible. I talk about it and I cry because I think of who let these girls down. When someone says you’re not good because they are intimidated by your gift, I’m going to help them not internalize that.
What can you tell us about the new Gaga album?
“Born This Way” is shaping up to be creative ecstasy. I think what I most love about this project is she is so fearless and the freedom that I’ve gotten since day one to stretch my gift. It’s hard to work with an artist that’s like, “I don’t want to do that.” You can’t push them. Where she is like, “Let’s go, and add more sprinkles.” It’s like a rubber band. It stretched me. She did an incredible job on the new album. It’s a visual fantasy for me. There’s no place we can’t go.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Images: Laurieann Gibson & Gibson on the set of a Lady Gaga video shoot. Credits: Stefano Paltera / Los Angeles Times