VMA’s 2012–Best Choreography

[Update: Want to know who won? See my post-show assessment here]

Hey! Important event in popular dance tonight—the VMA’s, MTV’s annual music video award show. There’s about 16 categories, so I’m not going to go through all of them, but I thought I’d run you through the 5 videos (well, actually their choreographers) that were nominated for “Best Choreography in a Music Video.” You can see the rundown here.

I’m on my way to a friend’s house to watch the show, so this is just a quick run-through. A little history: the VMA’s started in 1984, and the Choreography category has been awarded every year since (other categories have come and gone.) Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Choreography by Michael Peters) won the first year, and a range of choreographic styles have won since then. See all the winners here.


Performer: Avicii Choreography: Richy Greenfield & Petros Papahadjopoulos Summary: Bored 80s office worker is overcome by energy wavin’ poppin’ and lockin’ through his body + dorky toprock, and guess what, it’s contagious. Surprise: Non-dance surreal lyric interlude. References: Napolean Dynamite, Michael Jackson Big Q: Is freestyling choreography?


Performer: Beyoncé Choreography: Danielle Polanco, Frank Gatson Jr., Beyoncé & Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (<–DOES ANYONE SEE THAT?!?! Check here and here to see why I’m shocked but it’s a pragmatic move) Thoughts: I have a hard time thinking about this video; on one hand it’s totally incoherent as its own aesthetic production, on the other hand the original de Keersmaeker choreography is on beyond gorgeous…I think one of my friends put this perfectly; “Countdown” belongs in the ‘adapted screenplay’ category, not ‘original’ (although I’m not sure they adapted it all that effectively…)

“Turn Up the Music

Performer: Chris Brown Choreography: Anwar ‘Flii’ Burton Summary: Chris Brown takes a futuristic cab to a dance party in the street…and other ambiguous music video spaces. Styles: Unison House/New Jack Swing plus that Afro-Carribean elasticity swag that all the cool kids are doing. References: MJ meets Usher meets Men In Black meets Gene Kelly. Verdict:  Impressively high energy, very of-the-moment, virtuosic performance. 

“Dance Again”

Performer: Jennifer Lopez f/ Pitbull Choreography: JR Taylor Summary: Orgiastic art deco meets the title scene of GoldfingerVerdict: Wait, there was choreography? Oh, you mean the awkward Dancesport moment in the middle? Big Q: How do you evaluate choreography if the dancing is terrible? But seriously, the mass squirming is way more gorgeous than any of the ‘dancing’…and I like JLo. Sidenote:  the ads that play before this video are always in Spanish!


“Where Have You Been”

Performer: Rihanna Choreography: Hi-Hat (amazing and prolific) Summary: Rihanna as Mami Wata/Orientalist wet dream. Styles: Hip/House, the afro-funk styles like Kwaito, Azonto, Kuduro, with hints of Belly Dance and traditional West African movement; it gets into the hip flexors in the lushest most fantastic range of motion. References: Anaconda, Indiana Jones, Indian and Aboriginal iconography. Big Q: I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time and there’s a lot to say, but briefly put, can essentialist and exotic symbolism and iconography be reclaimed reproductively by/for postcolonial bodies?


Despite some political hesitations, I pick “Where have You Been”–most innovative, varied, rich choreography, and the most well performed (although I know that’s technically not the category.) 

What do you think!? We’ll find out soon. Happy Watching!

[Update: Want to know who won? See my post-show assessment here]

About readymadebouquet

Twenty-something dance scholar, dancer, linguist/langophile, poet, and amateur fashonista, in the process of getting my PhD in Dance Studies, and lovin' every second of it. This blog will reflect the multiplicity of my inspirations and creations. View all posts by readymadebouquet

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