Drake and Rihanna's Choreographer Tanisha Scott on Why Dancing Is the Best Workout

We asked choreographer Tanisha Scott about her Toronto roots, what it's like to work with stars like Drake and Rihanna, and why anyone (seriously) can bust a move on the dancefloor

Tanisha Scott has danced with an impressive roll call of stars, including Rihanna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and even Drake. The Toronto-born dancer isn’t just responsible for creating the moves for some of the most memorable music videos in recent times (think Rihanna’s “Work” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling”), she has also earned several MTV Video Music Award nominations for her inimitable choreography.

In Toronto for the launch of Sport Chek’s LifexStyle collection, Tanisha tells Hello! what it’s like working with the stars, and why you don’t have to be a professional dancer to show off your dance moves.

@bet @hiphopawards

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You’ve choreographed some of the biggest artists in the world. Is there any pressure working with such big names?
Without a doubt, there’s always pressure. I have to remind myself to take myself out of it. The reason why I personally get called to choreograph for somebody is because I’ve made it a point to have my choreography reflect the artist, the client. I don’t have anyone do things that I want them to do or what I think is cool. I let their body, their movement and their music dictate what the movement and the vibe should be. I’ll say, “OK, what song do you want and how do you want to move?” And then I create that picture because I’m literally a mirror to all my clients, and just the reflection of what they do.

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You’ve also worked with Hollywood celebrities like Tina Fey and George Clooney. What was it like choreographing them?
George Clooney is exactly what everybody thinks he is—very charming, smart, proactive and professional. And he’s a huge jokester. It’s actually a lot easier with actors because they’re used to playing a role so they know how to step away from who they are. And once they become a character, they can move the way I want them to move or the character needs them to move.

Last year, you choreographed Rihanna’s Anti World Tour. How different is your approach to choreographing a tour versus a music video?
There’s always a big meeting we have, from the stylist, production, what the stage is going to be like and the songs they’re going to use. Then there’s styling, and then comes the movement and choreography. It’s one part of a whole entire sequence that has to gel so everything has to make sense.

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What makes dance such a great and effective workout?
It’s a full-body workout. It’s cardio so it gets you up and moving, and it targets every area of your body. You can jump, you can easily turn, you can get into squats, you use your arms. It’s movement, it’s sports, and it’s definitely something that everybody can do because everyone likes to dance. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to try a dance class but is shy?
It’s about having fun. You have to be selfless with it, and not take yourself seriously. Dance is the one international thing that everybody does in some way, shape or form. You can dance fast, you can dance slow, you can do hip hop, jazz, ballroom, reggae, or you can create your own style. There’s something for everybody.
Besides dancing, what else do you do to keep energized and stay fit?
I do kickboxing for my legs, my flexibility and my strength. Because a regular rehearsal is eight hours, if I’m the leader choreographing my clients and my dancers, I have to set the bar. My energy needs to be way up to make sure everybody’s is way up as well.