Gentlemen’s Corner: Beyoncé’s Choreographer Chris Grant on Pepsi’s ‘Dance for a Chance’ and Why Bey Reminds him of Michael Jackson
As a self-proclaimed Beyoncé fan, I can only imagine what it’s like to work alongside such greatness. In her 10 plus year solo career, the living legend has presented a plethora of dance moments. Whether it be the “Uh Oh” booty bounce, “Single Ladies” routine or “Get Me Bodied” breakdown, Bey’s hips have swiveled their way into pop culture history and thanks to choreographers like Chris Grant, the legacy is sure to continue.
As Frank Gatson’s trusty assistant, the Making the Band alum is responsible for many of King Bey’s dance routines including “End of Time” and “Love on Top.” Most recently, he joined forces with Pepsi to choreograph the soda brand’s “Dance for a Chance” superfan video. The eight lucky fans were chosen from thousands to not only work with Grant on fierce choreography, but meet Mrs. Carter herself at her Barclays Center tour stop.
Shortly after the video’s premiere, we talked with Grant about his dance inspirations and why he coins Beyoncé the “female Michael Jackson.”
Tell us about working with the kids on the “Dance for a Chance” video.
Working with the kids was really inspiring for me. These are some of her biggest fans and they were reacting and responding to the movement and they were just ecstatic. I’ve learned a lot working with them. Just seeing how humble they were and how happy—it just amazes me how Pepsi found a way to give back to her fans. That’s so important. I had a great time with them and I’m pretty sure they enjoyed themselves.
Was working with inexperienced dancers a hard adjustment?
The difference in working with Beyoncé is that she has more control and knows her body. She’s been doing this for years. Working with fans that are not professional dancers; they’re not really trained and they don’t really know so they have to learn on set. It’s like teaching raw talent and Beyoncé loves dancers from the street. She loves new and exciting things. So, it was just one of those moments where I was just teaching them the ‘proper’ way of doing things.
How did you get your start in dancing?
I started at a very young age watching Michael Jackson. Even when I was a kid, I was dancing and buying DVD’s and watching him. That’s what really got me into dancing. When I was 18, I auditioned for Making the Band 4 and I made it to the top 16 and then a year later, I met Frank Gatson. He noticed me from the reality show and wanted to work with me because of my dancing. So, we met up one time and a couple months later and I did my own version of “Single Ladies” and Frank loved it. He flew me out to show Beyoncé and she loved it. Next thing you know, I’m teaching and holding auditions with Frank as an assistant. That’s how it all started.
So it was all a whirlwind.
Everything happened really fast. It was a blessing because right after that, I got Michael Jackson’s “This is It” and I remember Beyoncé encouraging me saying “You should do this.”
Besides Michael, who are your dance inspirations?
Janet Jackson of course. I just like the tightness and structure that she has. James Brown, Fred Astaire- those are really my top, top picks.
Is there a type of dance you haven’t tried yet?
It would have to be tap. I went to a dance school in middle school and it had jazz and ballet and everything. I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand it, but my mom said to stick with it and that I would appreciate it when I get older…and she was right. I wish I would’ve stuck at it a little bit more. I was just stuck on the fact that we were wearing tights (laughs).
How much input does Beyoncé have when it comes to her choreography?
She has a lot of input (laughs). I’ve been working with her for awhile now and she likes to change things up. She loves to be hood, but then she wants to be sexy, and then she wants to make sure it’s not too sexy. She wants the audience to enjoy and want to do the movement. She reminds me so much of Michael Jackson it’s crazy. I call her the female MJ because she knows what she wants and I feel like that’s so important. She knows her body and what looks right on her, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. Sometimes she doesn’t even know that she’s doing it and it looks good. She might feel crazy, but we’ll tell her, “no, you look amazing!” She’ll work at it and next thing you know, she’s changing it and making it fit however she wants it to fit. She’s very educated when it comes to entertainment. She will watch those tapes after she performs and fix whatever she needs to fix. She knows her brand.
When it comes to your choreography for her, which ones are your favorite?
The ones I enjoy most are “End of Time” and “Love on Top.” I enjoyed those two because “End of Time,” it just feels a lot like Michael and it’s a lot of stomping. It’s high energy, but easy movement. It just feels good. “Love on Top” is another feel good song, but it’s more back in the day- the type of style we miss. Like the New Edition and it has a bit of the Jackson Five- a lot of old boy band groups. We just had a ball making up the steps and trying to get that feeling back.
Are you still pursuing your own music career?
I honestly just started getting back into it. I’ve been focusing more on the choreography because it’s been going so well. Now, I’ve definitely been picking up a lot of voice lessons and getting back into music. I have good friends like Elijah Blake and Luke James and they inspire me to get back into the music, so that’s definitely something I want to do.
Watch the winners dance for a chance below: