There are a handful of people behind the scenes that truly make the entire celebrity world go round. One very important cog in the wheel are choreographers. They are the ones who create iconic music videos and make celebs look like total badasses on stage during their tour. Recently, I spoke with Justin Bieber's choreographer and choreographer to the stars, Galen Hooks. She has worked with all the big names in the music business from Rihanna to Camila Cabello and everyone in-between.
One of the most notable names on Hooks' impressive resume is Justin Bieber. We know him, we love him, but what's he like behind the scenes? According to Hooks, he's a total prankster. She worked with him on the music video for "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town" back in 2011. She recounted Bieber bouncing around set and being super interactive and fun to work with. She says,
It was very fun. I had a necklace that had a whistle on the bottom and every five seconds he would be blowing the whistle on my necklace.
The "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town" music video takes place in a toy factory so there were tons of props and fun set dressings in the background.
Hooks recounted another Bieber prank where he took her microphone and put it inside a stuffed teddy bear. This resulted in Hooks having to speak into a teddy bear for the rest of filming. She continues,
I have what's called a "God mic" when you're on set. Me as a choreographer, I like to speak into a God mic so that everybody in the room can hear me and I can give direction. So he took one of the teddy bears and cut a hole in the head of it and took all the stuffing out of it and put my God mic into the teddy bear — so I was holding a teddy bear with my God mic sticking out of it. He's a prankster. He just always kept it exciting so it's definitely a different experience than just having an artist who's, you know, just standing there waiting to be told what to do. He's very interactive so that was definitely a fun experience for me to be able to work with him.
Bieber would have only been 17 when they worked on the music video together, but I like to think he's still just as hilarious now. Hooks has worked with basically every celebrity that would make me cry if I met them IRL. This includes the one and only Rihanna.
Hooks had the unbelievable opportunity to work with Rihanna during her "SOS" era, when the singer was just 18.
Honestly, rewatching the "SOS" music video MADE ME SO HAPPY. Nostalgic AF. On her experience working with Rihanna, Hooks says,
I was actually working with her on her 18th birthday. It was the very early stages when she did “SOS” ... I travelled with her, danced with her on Ellen [The Ellen DeGeneres Show], danced with her in Japan, and we did all this Nike stuff. Then, we did a music video with her in conjunction with Nike.
I embarrassingly gushed to Hooks about how much I adore Rihanna — she totally agreed. She continued by saying how fortunate she feels to have witnessed the evolution of such a huge star. Hooks says,
It’s really, really amazing to have worked with somebody at that early stage in their career and see what it turned into. I remember doing a show with her and she sang “Unfaithful.” It was her first time ever singing the song in public and no one had heard the song yet ... She sang it once and it was stuck in my head the rest of the day. I was like, “I can’t wait to see what happens with this girl.” Look at her now! She’s the best! I’m equally a huge Rihanna fan, I’m obsessed with her. I feel very fortunate to have been able to witness her early stages and see what she’s turned into.
I could seriously listen to Galen Hooks tell stories all day long.
She seems to have a connection with everyone in the music business. I asked who was the most unexpectedly amazing dancer. Her answer — The Jonas Brothers. I seriously loved hearing this. She says,
Honestly, the Jonas Brothers. Nick Jonas is so talented. Joe Jonas is so talented. Kevin is, like, such a sweetheart — he kind of didn’t put himself in the forefront like that. You haven’t seen them dance lately, but they’re really good. Really. They’re pretty athletic and fearless. I think you can kind of tell they’re pretty not reserved and so, especially when they were younger, they could really hang with doing crazy tricks and splits and stuff... in addition to just dancing.
I remember Nick would be, like, doing gymnastics and splits and all these cool things. Like, you imagine Chris Brown would be flipping all over the place, but not Nick Jonas. Then, all of a sudden, he’s, like, doing this amazing kind of athletic dance stuff. So, they really surprised me.
As it turns out, Hooks started working with the Jo Bros back during Camp Rock and stuck around with them on tour. Here's a Camp Rock video purely for your enjoyment:
Another thing that has gained attention are Hooks' YouTube videos that feature an array of music videos, choreographed routines, and amazing dance numbers. Several of her videos have gone viral and she has a whopping 63,000 subscribers.
Obviously, she's the real deal and celebs are lining up to work with her. Hooks tells me her favorite celebrity is to work with was Ne-Yo. She says,
I love Ne-Yo because he is a true gentleman and makes everybody feel like a part of the family and like we are contributing to something that he really cares about. A lot of times celebrities can be pretty distant and not… they might not even look you in the eye when you enter the room or they might not even say “hello” if you’re introducing them to 12 new dancers that you’ve hired for them. They might not go introduce themselves to those dancers, but Ne-Yo will introduce himself and give a giant hug and make everyone feel welcome — so I really love him for that.
Also, don't forget Snoop. She continues,
Snoop [Dogg] is actually my other top tier person. I toured with him for years and he’s the coolest. He’s exactly what everyone thinks he is in terms of being the coolest guy in the room at all times. Like, you just feel cool by being in the vicinity of his presence. He’s definitely one of the best.
While her Hollywood connections are impressive, Hooks also teaches tons of different classes for all types of dance. She explained that she trains an array of people from moms to professional level dancers, all are welcome — find the full schedule on her website.
Somehow, Hooks also found time to work as a judge for the collegiate Red Bull Bracket Reel Dance competition.
The event was between 16 college dance crews, who brought a new routine and video edit each week for judges to critique. Hooks said it was "inspiring to see the quality of work coming out." She added it was great to see, "a generation of dancers who want to learn and get feedback because a lot of people don't do that nowadays." If Galen Hooks says you're OK, I think you've truly made it in the dance world.
Next time you obsess over a music video or a celebrity's stage presence, remember there's a choreographer back there putting it all together.
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