What It’s Really Like to Dance in a Music Video

When you ask successful commercial dancers why they started dancing, you tend to hear similar stories: Their 5-year-old selves turned on MTV and obsessed over "Thriller" and "Vogue," and they ended up dancing for hours in the living room, mimicking the iconic choreography and falling in love. Music videos were so many dancers' first inspirations.

But what's it really like to dance in a music video? Ysabelle Capitulé, who was featured in Bruno Mars' retro-chic "Finesse" vid, shares her experience fulfilling those living-room dreams.

Hurry Up and Wait

From start to finish, Mars' "Finesse" video took only three days to make. "It was definitely the fastest job I've ever been hired for," says Capitulé. The project consisted of two nine-hour rehearsals and one 15-hour shoot.

Arriving in the wee hours of the morning, dancers were rushed into hair and makeup and hustled off to wardrobe. And then…they waited. "I like to call a day on set a 'hurry up and wait' situation," says Capitulé, laughing. Once the dancers finally got called to set, they sometimes filmed for 5 minutes, sometimes for 5 hours. That unpredictability means music video dancers have to be not only patient, but also prepared for anything.

What does preparedness look like? Capitulé's must-haves on set include her laptop, makeup bag, makeup wipes, extra comfy clothes, and her slides. "And don't forget your chargers!" she says. "It'll be a long day."

Capitulé (center) working hard on her craft (courtesy Capitulé)

Having Fun

All that said, dancing in a music video is definitely a fun job. "We knew when it was time to work hard, but with Bruno we all had our moments of goofiness," Capitulé says. "It didn't feel like work." She and the other dancers were excited that Mars was so fully involved in the process, making it enjoyable and unforgettable.

Capitulé specifically remembers Mars not wanting it to look like he was the star backed by supporting dancers. Instead, he wanted it to feel as if they were all in one crew together. "I don't think I've worked with anyone as down-to-earth as Bruno," she says. According to Capitulé, working with major celebrities is usually the same as working with anyone else: As long as you're professional, everything should go smoothly.

The "Finesse" music video is an homage to the '90s TV show "In Living Color," and for the dancers, it was an honor to emulate the show's iconic Fly Girls. "The set looked just like the show and the costumes were amazing. It felt like the real thing!" says Capitulé.

Tips for Living Room Dreamers

Ready to take your moves to the small screen? Capitulé recommends getting familiar with being in front of a camera (creating dance videos with your friends is a good place to start) and auditioning as much as possible, so that you get used to performing under pressure. "You have to be able to learn quickly in rehearsals, have a good memory to correct notes on the spot, and your dancing has to be on point whether it's 4 p.m. or 4 a.m.," Capitulé says.

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.


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