Dance Spirit: When did you start dancing?
Richy Jackson: I grew up watching music videos, and when I was 16, my friends and I would sneak out to the clubs in San Francisco to go dancing. I went to Tuskegee University because I wanted to be a lawyer. While there, I saw a friend dancing in an Aaliyah video, and I basically left for L.A. that week. I called my mom to tell her, and she almost had a heart attack. At the time, I had no formal training. But I landed a job dancing for Will Smith.
DS: Did you know you ultimately wanted to be a choreographer?
RJ: Absolutely. My mother coached a cheerleading squad, and I started choreographing for them when I was 13. They even went to Nationals with some of my routines. But when I got to L.A., I wanted to take the time to learn the craft. The first person I assisted was Michael Rooney, and he changed my life. He showed me that “simple but effective” is the way to choreograph. It took time to get to the point where I could call myself a choreographer.
DS: When did you meet Lady Gaga?
RJ: Six years ago. I watched her perform three songs in the studio, and I said, “Wow, you are going to be a problem in this industry.” At that time, pop music looked like Britney Spears—Barbie-doll perfect. But when I saw Gaga, I knew she was anything but. She was a live singer, she played instruments, she was vulnerable and expressive and she’d take chances no one else would.
DS: You’ve also worked with Katy Perry, Keri Hilson and Nicki Minaj. How is working with Lady Gaga different?
RJ: When Gaga’s learning a dance step, she works until she gets it exactly right. If it’s an eight-hour day, she’s there for the full eight hours to make sure she has it. She cares about what her dancers look like, what the aesthetic is and what artistic approach we’re taking for each song. She brought entertainment back to the music business.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.
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!'
My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.
Marzia Memoli may be the Martha Graham Dance Company's newest dancer, but her classical lines and easy grace are already turning heads. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Memoli started studying at age 16 at the Academy of Teatro Carcano in Milan. Later, she attended the Rudra Béjart School in Lausanne, Switzerland, before heading to NYC in 2016 to join MGDC. This month, she'll perform The Rite of Spring in the Martha Graham Studio Series in NYC, and tour with the company in Florida. Read on for the dirt.