Last week Rihanna dropped the long awaited and much teased video for "Pour It Up". In the opulent, irreverent clip, Rihanna dons a blond wig, smokes a cigarette and twerks upside down on a gilded throne. While most of the internet was in an uproar about the scantily-dressed pop star's provocative moves, we were most impressed and intrigued by the video's supporting cast of dancers and pole artists. Here, the video's choreographer and dancing stars explain how they made their way into Rihanna's orbit and what went down on the "Pour It Up" set.
Oth'than Burnside, choreographer
Works at: The S Agency
Casting story: [Rihanna's] creative director gave me a call when they were getting ready for the Diamonds tour. Then they though of this song and were like, "Oth'than you'd be perfect to choreograph this record." So I came in and choreographed "Pour It Up" for the tour. Then a few months later, when they decided to shoot the video, I just came on board.
On-set experience: It was a very very long, two-day shoot. We were there till 4AM each day and call times were at 10AM. I love my job, so I had a blast.
Was it difficult to get Rihanna to dance super sexy? Not at all! Rihanna is amazing and she's naturally not afraid of her body and her sexuality. It was very easy for me to give her certain moves. I also gave her the freedom to make the choreography her own as well.
Do you think the video is empowering to women? For sure. I think Rihanna gave women a leeway to not hide their love of exotic dancing. Its a dope record that Rihanna chose to do, to show a different side of herself and represent for exotic dancers.
What is the biggest misconception of exotic dancing? That exotic dancers are whores or prostitutes or that it's such a sleazy form of dance. I honestly disagree 100%. I love going to the clubs and I think it's such an art. It's beautiful to not be afraid of your body and to express that through dance. There are all types of dance and exotic dancing is just another form of it.
Follow: @Otheezy_RBC and Oth'Than on Instagram.
Asha Franklin, hip-hop and jazz dancer
Works at: The S Agency
Casting story: My agent sent me on the audition. I didn't know who the artist was, I was just told to go. When I got there, they turned the "Pour It Up" on and said to freestyle. Within the next couple of days, I got a call saying I got booked.
On-set experience: I was the only dancer on set that wasn't a professional stripper or pole dancer. That was a crazy thing. What made me feel better about it—on my second day of shooting, Rihanna came up to me and told me that she saw my audition tape and personally chose me. It made me feel like I was actually supposed to be there.
What would you say has been your career highlight as a dancer? Honestly, working with Rihanna on this video and with Robin Thicke on the "Give It To You" video.
Were you nervous to work with Robin Thicke, after seeing his "Blurred Lines" video? That actually made me want work with him even more. It's funny, as exposed as we were in "Pour It Up," [that exposure] made me more comfortable in my own skin. Normally, I'm a tomboy. I don't dress like that and never want to dance like a girl. Because of how we were dressed, I was forced to be as feminine as possible. Now, I'm ok with going to auditions and gigs dressed in less clothing because I went through that on "Pour It Up."
Secret Moneii, exotic dancer
Hometown: New Jersey
Works at: Magic City
Casting story: Rihanna came into Magic City after her concert in Atlanta. I was dancing and she was throwing money, but I didn’t think nothing of it. Then a couple of weeks later, someone called me up saying that Rihanna wanted me to come to LA to dance in her video. I was like, This is not real life, it’s gotta be spam. I got on a flight the next day to shoot the video.
On-set experience: I really really enjoyed myself. It was good to talk to Rihanna in person and see what she’s all about. You always hear this stuff on TV and you read about her, but when you sit down and have a conversation with her, it’s just amazing. A couple of the dancers were professional dancers that dance in choreographed videos all the time. I was like, Yo, I’m just a dancer, I work in strip clubs, this is new to me. I do videos but not of these standards. This is a Rihanna video, are you kidding me?
Do you think the video is empowering to women? I guess it’s empowering for me, because of what I do. "Pour It Up" gets people hyped in the club and makes them want to spend money on me. When this song dropped, it became the biggest song in every strip club. When I'm out on the stage for my feature dance, its the number one song that I dance to. It makes the club go crazy and spend money.
Who tips better, ladies or dudes? The men. I have some female customers that come in and spend lots of money, but it does not compare to what a man spends. He comes in the strip club, he sees big booty, he sees half-naked women and he’s gonna go crazy. The men are gonna come in and give you their whole paycheck! It's sad.
What’s your special move? I don’t have a specialty, I just twerk. Rihanna loves when I make my cheeks go up and down separately, so I guess that's my specialty.
What did you think of Ri's dancing? RiRi was good! She asked for some pointers, so I taught her how to make her booty go up and down separately. She was getting it!
Follow: @Secret215 and TheOnlySecretMoneii on Instagram.
Candace Cane, pole dancer
Works at: Secret Pole Dance
On-set experience: Coming to the set, I didn't expect to be pole dancing on water. It looked great on camera but is such a hazard. The pole was wet, it was very difficult to maintain our grip. I went to flip upside down and slipped all the way down. I heard through some of the production people on set that Rihanna was a tad bit inebriated for the first day of shooting, which meant that they had to botch some of the shots because she wasn't focused or didn't look good on camera. So when it came to the second day, a lot of our time was spent waiting as she rerecorded what she'd done on the first day. But the fact that Rihanna was there to talk with us and give us some direction for the video was great. Speaking with her was wonderful; she didn't seem like she was above anybody and she was very personable.
What’s your special move? I started out dancing classical, jazz, ballet, modern and hip-hop, so I have a lot of flexibility. A lot of people know me for the jade splits, doing splits on the pole. There's another move that I like to do, the spatchcock, which is essentially me being splayed out, spread eagle on the pole.
Do you ever dance at clubs?: Recently I went to King of Diamonds to feature there as a specialized performer of the night. I don't go just go up there and shake my ass, I actually put on a show and do headstands, flips, cartwheels, climbing all the way up 30 feet in the air and hanging from the ceiling of the club. I tend to shy away from the clubs though. I don't have to take my clothes off for you to appreciate my talent.
Who tips better, ladies or dudes? When I do featured dancing and receive tips, a lot of my tips come from women. Every now and then I'll get the guys that want to show off, which is more of an ego thing, like, "I can spend more money than the next guy.” I feel that women are more appreciative of my talent and my work.
Follow: @SweetMsCandace and SweetMsCandace on Instagram.
Nicole The Pole, pole dancer
Works at: Allure Pole Dance Studio
On-set experience: We were doing our pole tricks when Rihanna heard all the noise from the crew and came out. She saw me my tricks was like, "Oh my god! That shit you were doing on the pole!" She was like, "You are so fucked up!" in her Bajan accent.
How did you get started pole dancing? I’ve been a personal trainer for 13 years. After about a few months of learning pole dancing, I set up a few poles in the fitness center that I co-owned. I switched from doing personal training to teaching pole dancing and making instructional videos exclusively.
What other exercises do you do to keep your upper body fit? I only do pole dance. That’s all I need to do. Pole dancing is the same as any person going to the gym. When I do a basic beginner spin, I’m literally working my back, my chest, my biceps, my triceps, my shoulders, and my abdominal muscles. It’s about putting in the time like it is with any other sport.
What’s your special move? I would say a lot of my signature tricks are what you saw in my audition video–doing the 'ceiling stand’ and also the 'death drop with a pushup', where I drop really quickly to the floor and I do a pushup. That’s one of my moves that everybody loves.
What is the biggest misconception about your work? The biggest misconception about pole dancing is that we want to be strippers. I do pole dancing because it keeps my body in shape. I look like I lift weights, but I don’t have to go to the gym. As a pole dance instructor, it’s about helping women to transform their bodies and get out of their shells.
Follow: @NicoleDaPole, NicoleThePole on Instagram, and Pole Dance Allure on YouTube.