I Am The Dance: A Conversation With Laurieann Gibson
(AllHipHop Features) Laurieann talks about her inspiration as a dancer, working with Mary J. Blige and Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot, her Top 5 favorite Hip-Hop dances, and her new role as judge on the 16th season of So You Think You Can Dance.
Laurieann Gibson is the dance. Ever since her early days as a dancer with Mary J. Blige and as a “Fly Girl” on In Living Color, Laurieann has been putting in major work as one of the most renowned choreographers on the scene today. Trained at the historic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Laurieann has mastered many forms of dance such as tap, contemporary ballet, but her choreography work in Hip-Hop is what made her famous. She is the creative genius behind feature films, ground-breaking videos (My personal favorite is “No Matter What They Say by Lil Kim), world-wide tours, and has appeared on Making The Band, Born To Dance, Dance Moms, and many others.
I caught up with Laurieann and we talked about how she fell in love with dance at an early age and how she still battles anybody who challenges her on the dancefloor.
AllHipHop: When did you discover your passion for dance and who influenced you early on?
Laurieann Gibson: Oh, wow, my passion for dance, I was born with it. It’s been both a good thing, and sometimes a not so good thing, because the passion is what puts the pressure on me to persevere and to fight the injustice, just to create with authenticity, and a desire for the truth.
As far as early influences, I think, very early it was Alvin Ailey. I responded to the passion of his work. Then obviously Debbie Allen, Gregory Hines, and the Nicholas brothers. They all sparked something, a connection that I something I could identify with. Diana Ross was another person where I identified with the passion of her performance.
AllHipHop: When did you connect with the Alvin Ailey Company?
Laurieann Gibson: So, I started when I was 12. I’m from Canada and I will never, ever forget the impact of seeing African American dancers, Black dancers with that passion, that soul, that purpose. It just stuck with me. When I was 17,18, I jumped on a Greyhound bus ant went to study with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company which is where I received my training. That’s what sustains me as a choreographer today.
AllHipHop: Tell me what was your first major gig as a choreographer?
Laurieann Gibson: I used to dance for Mary J. Blige and then I was a “Fly Girl” on In Living Color. Mary had never done a show before and I did her first show with her as a dancer. Then after we did all these shows, and “You Remind Me” started blowing up, I started to have visions and realized that I was a choreographer and I wanted to add to the show. That's really how it happened. I didn't know that I had the gift, but I found out I had it. Then, I think the first real sighting of it was when I choregraphed Mary’s first tour and then I did a video for Missy Elliott called “I Can't Stand The Rain” that just blew up and really set my creative abilities apart. Just what was happening.
AllHipHop: Now that's an understatement. You’re talking about one of the most iconic videos of all time and Missy’s introduction to the world as a solo artist. It was legendary. Tell me this, what are your top five hip-hop dances?
Laurieann Gibson: The Roger Rabbit, the Running Man, Da Butt, The Rock, and the Nae Nae. I'm not gonna lie because I can put it in there when I'm in a club because I don't believe in the latest dancers. I am the dance.
AllHipHop: I can imagine sometimes when you go to a club, you want to just sit down and chill. Does the crowd pressure you to get up and dance?
Laurieann Gibson: You are absolutely right! When that happens, because I am such a warrior, I still get in the circle,
AllHipHop: You still get in the circle and battle people?
Laurieann Gibson: What!!!?? To the finish! Or until my family drags me out.
AllHipHop: How do you feel about cultural appropriation of the Black style and dance?
Laurieann Gibson: Michael Peters, you know, obviously, another, you know, choreographed “Thriller” and iconic moves and there's still not a system that set up like songwriters publishing. We don't have a publishing system, so I think it's still a huge injustice, when a Hip-Hop kid from the streets, creates a dance, and then it gets put in video games. We’re trying to figure that conversation out. But it's just up to the culture, people like me to continue to educate people and to empower those young visionaries and those young creatives. So, I'm excited about this upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance because I get to speak into my knowledge of Hip-Hop as well as tap, contemporary ballet because I've been trained in all forms of dance.
On the show, I get to educate the public on my experience, with authentic information that I have about the value of Hip-Hop in pop culture today, you know/ Truthfully, it’s been happening for a while.
AllHipHop: You are the face of the dance, the Queen of Hip-Hop dance on reality T.V. Did you ever see that happening?
Laurieann Gibson: Wow! It's just an accumulation of a lot of hard work. And the dream that I have, and it's still unfolding. So, thank you, that's very generous of you and I really am grateful.
AllHipHop: How did it feel to get the call to be a judge on So You Think You Can Dance?
Laurieann Gibson: When I first got the call, I thought that they would want me to just to choreograph it. Then they said, “No, we want to give you the chair.” I pulled my car over and I started to cry. I just was so overwhelmed. I think just because it's my tribe to be able to judge on a day dance show like that, it was a big blessing. It came at the perfect time and I'm really having a great time. It’s an awesome show. We’re looking forward to giving the audience one of the best seasons ever.