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.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.