22 Aug 2011
Hyenas, shoulder-shaking, flipping the bird, booty-bouncing and general hot-ness pervade the music video for Beyonce‘s “Run the World (Girls).” As one half (with Frank Gatson) of the choreography team responsible for the video’s adrenaline-inducing moves, Jeffrey Pagehas been nominated for this weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards.
So, what’s it really like to work with Beyoncé? Celebs.com’s Amy Handler spoke to Page directly to find out just how fearless Sasha Fearless really is.
Celebs.com: What’s it like to be nominated for the VMA’s?
Jeffrey Page: It feels amazing! I was nominated for an Emmy a few years ago, and this is kind of reminiscent. The MTV Awards are a lot more popular. When Beyoncé’s Executive Choreographer Frank Gatson told me the news, it took him a few emails to convince me that he wasn’t joking. It was a huge surprise.
Celebs.com: Tell me about your earlier life.
Page: I was an ‘80s-baby. My life as a young boy consisted of making up dances, entering talent contests and buying the latest Hip hop tapes.
Celebs.com: Do I detect a Mid-Western accent?
Page: I’m a Hoosier. I grew up in Indianapolis.
Celebs.com: Does dancing run in your family?
Page: I’m the black sheep. My father and four brothers are computer engineers, and my mother is a social worker.
Celebs.com: There’s a distinct African flair in your choreography.
Page: There are so many parallels of African culture within Hip hop, Jazz and in American culture. Africanism is not at the forefront of my mind, but in the recipe of it all.
Celebs.com: Tell me about your process.
Page: My ideas come about as I’m working. I have an idea of what I want the finished product to possibly look like. I go into the studio based on that and really don’t have a clue of what I’m doing other than having that texture in mind.
Celebs.com: Does that work for Beyoncé?
Page: Yes. Whatever she might want to bring to the table never disappoints me. When she says, “That’s not going to work, let’s try this.” I’m open to try it because I don’t have any preconceived notions.
Celebs.com: How did your working-relationship with Beyoncé come about?
Page: I toured with her when she was promoting “Baby Boy.”
Celebs.com: How did you land that gig?
Page: I was one of the 2-million-billion-billion guys who auditioned and happened to get hired.
Celebs.com: What happened next?
Page: I developed a relationship with Beyoncé and her choreographer, Frank Gatson. Then, my friend Anthony Burrell said I should put together something for “Déjà Vu.” I sent Frank a DVD, he showed it to Beyoncé and told me she wanted me to choreograph her performance for the Fashion Rocks event – she was doing this whole Josephine Baker thing. That was the taking-off moment.
Celebs.com: I know Anthony Burrell works with Rihanna. Are she and Beyoncé friends?
Page: They know each other well, respect each other’s work and are very cordial to each other.
Celebs.com: Is Beyoncé Wonder-Woman?
Page: I think the reason she has that illusion is because she’s unafraid to look stupid, or take a risk. Even when she’s not the best at something, she’ll keep working it so, sooner or later, she becomes really good.
Celebs.com: Have you noticed any vulnerability in her?
Page: Honestly? No. She’s absolutely fearless.
Celebs.com: “Sasha Fierce” is Sasha Fearless?
Page: Yes. But don’t get me wrong. She’ll say, “OK. Guys, I look really stupid doing this.” But then she’ll stay in the studio for hours and fix it. A lot of times when you’re such an artist, you’ll have people around who’ll be scared to oppose what you say. She has this cameraman around her all the time, and she’l look at the video and say, “No, I look stupid.” I think it’s smart of her to keep a watchful eye.
Celebs.com: Does Beyoncé take your orders well?
Page: She does. I might give her a note on what she could do with her face to communicate x, y and z, and she listens. But then, certain times she’ll say, “I don’t think that’s where that should go, Jeff.”
Celebs.com: And you’ll listen?
Page: Yes. It’s never this thing where it’s about me lecturing her. It’s two artists speaking about a project. She understands that this thing called Beyoncé is a product. She has the ability to remove herself from it and give criticism to this product as a fellow-artist.
Celebs.com: In “Run the World (Girls)” how do you explore varying identities, considering Beyoncé’s alluring sexuality?
Page: I think she’s taking on the position of exploring all aspects of what it means to be a woman. A woman’s strength lies in many different places and is an allure. It’s about strength, but, beyond strength. Beyoncé’s honed into this.
Celebs.com: The song feels ambiguous in terms of her possible vulnerability…
Page: I think that’s a stance and Beyoncé’s saying, “I can be all these things but are you strong enough to love me as a woman even though I have this power?” I think that’s intimidating to a lot of men.
Celebs.com: What’s Beyoncé taught you?
Page: To go beyond the selfish mode of artist into entertainment. Entertainment is magical because you can transform a person’s mood and save a life. An entertainer has that power.
Celebs.com: Do you think Beyoncé’s really about helping people?
Page: I believe that she is.
Celebs.com: And you?
Page: Most definitely!
Celebs.com: What’s your favorite music video?
Page: As of now, “Run the World.”
Celebs.com: How many times have you watched Beyoncé perform?
Celebs.com: Has being around celebrity affected you?
Page: It hasn’t. When I go into the studio with an artist, that person is simply another artist to me.
Celebs.com: So you can you go home and be “ordinary”?
Page: It’s easy. Right now I’m in Indianapolis visiting my family. It feels great to be home— sitting on the couch and watching TV.
All photos for Celebs.com by Scott McDermott (http://www.scottmcdermott.com)