Richard Jackson is one of the most gifted and respected dance choreographers in the world. He cemented his success when he became a key element in developing the stage performances of pop stars such as Will Smith, Missy Elliot and Usher, never ceasing to explore his passion for dance ever since he was discovered while auditioning for Diddy almost ten years ago.
While his his movie credits include recent hits such as Marmaduke and the now classic You Got Served, Jackson’s appearances in television commercials are literally too numerous to be listed as you have probably seen his face in the advertisements of everything from Coca-Cola to the Ipod.
All guest spots and past clients aside, it’s safe to say Richard’s crowning moment of his career is right now, being that he can proudly say he is responsible for the choreography of quite possibly the most popular recording artist on Earth, Lady Gaga. A diligent and dedicated worker for all of his life, it’s no surprise that Jackson worked his way up from being a Tuskegee college student to Lady Gaga’s dance mentor on her hugely successful “Monster Ball” tour.
Elite caught up with Richard Jackson to find out what it takes to work with the best and what’s it like to be one of the leading men behind the scenes of the most wondrous entertainment spectacle to be witnessed today.
Everyone aspires for success, but what drives you to work so hard?
What drives me to work so hard is the chance to spread joy, knowledge and a sense of freedom about this feeling that we all have inside of us called dance.
Who your first mentors or role models that led you to pursue a career in dance?
My role models that led me to pursue dance were my family and Ed Moore. My family always pushed me to keep dancing and allowed me to explore San Francisco’s finest dance clubs. Watching Ed Moore dance and learning from him was the ultimate push for me to pursue dance as a career.
Was there a specific moment or experience in your life where you began to understand that this is the only lifestyle you would could pursue?
The first time I was handed a check for doing what I loved to do was when I knew that dance as a career was the lifestyle that I wanted forever. The question was more so “how long could I make this work?”
What is a typical day like when you’re preparing for a Lady Gaga tour?
A typical day preparing for a Lady Gaga tour would entail me being the first to arrive and the last to leave rehearsals. I’m juggling creative, technical, visual and choreography all at once. No stone goes unturned when you’re dealing with an artist as iconic as Lady Gaga.
Who still inspires you today?
At this point in my career, I am inspired by pushing the performance envelope in the entertainment business. There is still so much that can be done or other approaches that can be taken, yet this business consistently settles for “what works”. I am inspired by creativity, not laziness.
What common characteristics have you come to recognize when working with the best artists in the world?
Common characteristics that I have come to recognize when working with the best artists in the world are that they are not afraid to be vulnerable. They are great creators as well as listeners. And they understand that it’s not about the fame, it’s about a dream, a message and how their artistry inspires others.
What are three points of advice you can give to aspiring dancers?
Three points of advice I can give to aspiring dancers are 1. Do not lose sight of who you are as a person as well as a dancer. 2. Dance from an honest place. 3. Research who you are learning dance from. Not all choreographers are choreographers. Not all instructors are teaching legitimate technique or instruction.
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years?
Where I’ll be in 5, 10, 15 years is a question with an answer that I’d rather save for the element of surprise! Just keep your eyes and ears dancing. You’ll see in two shakes of a squirrel’s tail what’s to come!
For more of Richard Jackson tune into Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, which will be premiering on Lifetime Oct. 9th