Dance News

Dishing with Hi-Hat, Rihanna's VMA-Nominated Choreographer

Nadine "Hi-Hat" Ruffin's resumé reads like a rundown of Hollywood's hottest talent (Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Shakira, Missy Elliott and Ke$ha, to name a few), and you'll find her name in the credits of just about every major dance flick. Now, she's received an MTV VMA Best Choreography nomination for her work on the music video for Rihanna's hit "Where Have You Been." (Tune in on September 6 to see if she takes home the award!) We caught up with Hi-Hat to learn what it's like being at the top of the industry.

Dance Spirit: What's Rihanna like as a dancer?  

Hi-Hat: Rihanna is Barbadian and I'm Jamaican, so we both understand the Caribbean vibe, and that gives us the connection we need for her dance moves. She picks up choreography pretty quickly, and through experience, I can predetermine what will work on her body and what won't.

DS: Who is your favorite artist you've worked with?

HH: All of the artists I've worked with have unique qualities, so I consider them all to be favorites. But one in particular is Missy Elliott. Missy is a trendsetter and an innovator who has kept me on my toes throughout my career!

DS: What advice do you have for dancers hoping to break into music video choreography?

HH: Remember that there are many ways to advertise your skills. Social media is a great source, and dance studios often look for choreographers to teach. Build your skills by continually creating routines. Be great at it, be original and most of all, stay passionate.

DS: What do you look for when hiring dancers?

HH: Personality, edge, groove, uniqueness and a love of dance.

DS: What's next for you?

HH: I'm blessed to be working on Rihanna's 2012 MTV VMA performance and other upcoming shows. I'm also working on projects for Shakira and "The Voice" Season 3.

Want more Hi-Hat? Check out this awesome behind-the-scenes video from the making of "Where Have You Been."

Photo by Michael Higgins.

Photo by Joe Toreno

The coolest place she's ever performed:

I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!


Something she's constantly working on:

My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'


Signature look:

My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.


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