Jasmine Jassieuo Durhal, courtesy Thom White

Meet Thom White, the Creative Genius Behind the Stunning "bbygrl" Visual

You may have caught a glimpse of the mesmerizing movement on your Explore page, or you might've peeped the repost with over 1M views right on Chloe x Halle's Instagram page. But if you haven't watched it yet, you need to. The viral "bbygrl" video, highlighting 20 Black dancers of all shapes, complexions, and sizes came from the mind (and heart) of choreographer and visual artist, Thom White. He conceptualized, choreographed, cast, directed, and edited this mind-blowing creative project—all while in lockdown—leaving viewers feeling beautiful, healed, and empowered (and bringing many to tears!). We got a chance to explore his process and dive into the deeper meaning behind the magic.

Closing the video, White spotlights a handful of the many Black girls that we've wrongfully lost throughout the years, urging viewers not to forget their names, and familiarize themselves with their stories. With glistening glimpses of Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Sandra Bland, and countless others, he leaves us with these words: "Please share. Please search the stories of any names you don't recognize. Please include them in your conversations. #SayHerName #SayTheirNames." We love seeing impactful creativity rooted in freedom and empowerment come out of such a restrictive time. In the words of Chloe x Halle themselves: "This is what true art is about."

Make sure to follow Thom on Instagram @thomeography. —NS

​How has your creativity been throughout quarantine?

My creativity definitely felt a bit stifled at first, but adapting is one of my strong suits. We can create anything with the bare minimum. Though we may have our limits, art does not.

Was this entire masterpiece your vision from the start? How did the idea come to be?

Oh yes! The way I visualize dance is heavily intertwined with the way I listen to music. Sometimes I'll hear a special arrangement of rhythms/melodies/lyrics and I'm completely enveloped. That was Chloe x Halle's "Baby Girl" for me. It's a love letter that reminded me of a magic that is specific to Black women, and I wanted to honor that.

​The visuals were insanely beautiful! How did you go about the editing process?

Thank you so much! It was a very experimental process. I spliced together footage of each person in their own space, using Final Cut. I wanted to create an immersive, Zoom-inspired platform to emphasize the power of dialogue and the importance of names!

Have you edited anything like this before?

I use similar methods and tools to edit all my projects, but I've never completed something with this level of precision.

How long did the entire process take from concept to completion?

It took almost a month. There was a lot of material created and distributed for the women to learn. Then I had to sift through hundreds of videos to stitch together, but that didn't take as long as you might think!

Did you have any inspiration, dance-wise, when creating this piece?

Absolutely. When I choreographed this piece, the movement from Aaliyah's "Rock The Boat" music video was in my mind the entire time. Which is cool because the musical production of Chloe x Halle's "Baby Girl" also reminds me of "Rock The Boat".

​Was your intention to get Chloe x Halle to see your work, or did that happen organically?

A little of both! This work wouldn't exist without Chloe x Halle, and I definitely wanted them to know how much their artistic contributions are appreciated. But I did NOT expect a response of that magnitude from them.

How does it feel to know that you've sparked so much emotion in people that have come across your video?

It was overwhelming at first, but it's deepened my already profound love for the arts. My inspiration to create has skyrocketed.

Can we expect more creative magic from you in the near future? Any new projects in the works?

Oh, yes indeedy. Much more in the works! I can't wait to share.

Jasmine Jassieuo Durhal, Courtesy of White

Want to learn the choreography? Check out Thom's patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/thomeography

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Enter the World of the Knicks City Dancers with 2 of Their Newest Rookies

Auditions rarely fail to deliver on suspense. But this? This was the nail-biter to end all nail-biters. Hayoung Roh and Chelsea McCloskey, both professional dancers based in NYC, had made it through what felt like endless rounds of cuts, both on Zoom and in person. Out of the nearly 500 dancers (from 30 states and nine countries) who'd answered the Knicks City Dancers' open call for video submissions, just 20 remained—McCloskey and Roh among them. "We were separated into six holding rooms, where we kept trying to figure out the math," Roh recalls. "How many girls are there in total? Who was called back?"

Finally, the women returned to the audition room to dance one last time—or so they were told. Instead, KCD head coach Alyssa Quezada dropped her bombshell: All 20 women had made the final cut. They would be 2021–22 Knicks City Dancers: the latest and greatest edition of one of the most prestigious NBA dance teams. "It was the biggest celebration and the coolest moment of my dance career so far," says McCloskey now. And that was just the oh-so-perfectly-dramatic beginning.

Chelsea McCloskey stands on her left leg while kicking her right leg up with her arms crossed, a smile on her face. She is auditioning for KCD. Chelsea McCloskey Photo by Tess Mayer

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