When Kanye West publicly expresses enthusiasm for music videos, the world takes notice. Six years ago, he declared Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" clip one of the best videos of all time; three weeks ago, he tweeted his praise for Tinashe's shipping yard throw-down, "All Hands On Deck." The invisible link between those two videos? Choreographer JaQuel Knight. "It's really cool that he enjoys projects that I'm a key part of," Knight told FADER over the phone from his L.A. home. "I may even reach out, because Kanye's really trying to open up and move a bit more. I saw his Coachella set [during The Weeknd's performance], and he's got a really cool movement."
Born in North Carolina and raised in Atlanta, Knight didn't formally train in dance until he was 15 years old; before that, he got his moves from middle-school marching band practice and memorizing Janet Jackson and TLC routines he'd recorded to VHS in his grandmother's living room. Today, he's got work with Britney, Cher and Christina Aguilera in Burlesque, Brandy, and Nicole Scherzinger under his belt. Plus, he put together arguably the most iconic Bey routine ever. Knight's got a ton of fans in high places; he once choreographed a routine for a girl group Pharrell was working with. "Wow! This is exactly how the record feels," the producer allegedly told him.
Having spent the last three years working with Tinashe on her live choreography—as well as the "2 On" and "All Hands On Deck" videos—he told us how he's been watching her star quality steadily emerge. But right now, dude's shining in his own right. Here, Knight explains exactly how he continually creates routines that are anything but routine.