Bristol Fashion Week Day 1: Q&A With professional choreographer Jordan Darrell

I catch up with the Official choreographer for Bristol Fashion Week, Jordan Darrel to talk dance, routine prepping, choreo tips and more!

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Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you start dancing?

I started dancing at 22, I got spotted in Cambridge by the Head of BodyWork Dance School and was given a 3 year grant. After 2 years of school, I auditioned for my first musical in the West End and I got through! I then continued to be in musicals for another 8 years in the West End. I did the Thriller tour, Bodyguard, Fame, Daddy Cool, basically a lot! I then started as a backing dancer for all the TV shows (X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Royal Variety). I’ve also toured with artists like Take That, Will Smith, Little Mix, Rita Ora, Jess Glynn, Girls Aloud etc. Choregraphy-wise I’ve done bits for Thriller the musical, Girls Aloud tour, Bristol Fashion Week, London Fashion Week & Dreamboys!

What’s it like choreographing for Bristol Fashion Week?

It’s cool, it’s a really good atmosphere, good vibe. Always good music, working with good people and its cool because you can have fun with the choreo for the scenes.

How different is choreographing a group to choreographing for yourself?

It’s a lot easier to choreograph for myself. I usually have a loose idea of what I’m doing if I’m choreographing with me in the group and then generally I focus on choreography for the others and just freestyle for myself! I like to switch it up each night! Doing group choreo is alot harder. I don’t tend to write anything down when choreographing but for groups I will usually write down the counts.

Have you always had a passion for dance and choreography?

No, I only started at 22. I was adopted and estranged from my adopted parents at 14. I then went to ‘experience life’ on my own, I was homeless for a bit and then stayed with friends until I was 18. I was then a chef for a bit and then they spotted me to dance.

When you start your choreography, how do you start the creative process?

I usually listen to the music around 3 times. The first time to get the feeling, the second to get the vibe for the choreography and the third for key points to breakdown and listening out for accents to work with. I don’t write anything down, it’s all in my head. I tend to let the music choreograph the moves. You can tell when someone has choreographed for the moves instead of with the music in mind. If you let the music choreograph it speaks volumes.

What skill sets do you feel you need to be a successful choreographer?

I think they need to have a creative vision of the full process. It’s not about just doing the moves or teaching them, it’s the full show. You have to make the dance moves work with the costume, the backdrop, the lighting etc. You also have to choreograph to you or your dancer’s strengths. There is no point in getting them to do something they can’t do or you doing something you’re not confident in. Choreograph within your repertoire, know your audience and always make sure you command the crowd.

When you have created a routine for a competition, do you dance for the judges or the crowd and do you think about the winning side of a competition? 

I’d say a bit of both, obviously if it’s a competition the judges will be looking for specific tricks that show ability etc.so you need to dance for them, but you should also dance for the crowd because if you put some crazy trick or sequence in there, the crowd will go wild and that will also effect your score with the judges. For me personally, I never do anything to win – I go to do the best of what I can do for myself and I believe that will always shine through.

If you could give 3 pieces of advice to up and coming choreographers what would it be?

Have confidence, work hard and know your worth!

When you choreograph pieces for yourself, how long do you spend creating the piece?

Content and choreography is usually a day! I need a skeleton of what I’m going to do (like the basis) and I have a beginning, a middle and an end. I usually get that in a day and then everything else will make its own way there through feeling the music. I think if you try to choreograph in order of how you hear the music it will hinder you. I break it up into beginning, middle and end and use that as the base and then just let it all flow naturally. Let the music guide you, it’s always all about the music.

What items could you not live without when choreographing?

ummmm my brain, my feet, my hands and anything that I can play music on!

Which choreographers / dancers have influenced you most?

Michael Jackson for his smoothness, coolness and effortless moves. He made everything look so easy when it was complicated. Also a musical choreographer Gary Lloyd – he taught me hard work, how to work a crowd and the level of effort you have to put in. Like a song – it’s the build up, showing the little bits and utilize the music with my moves.

Also Beth Honan – she’s a commercial choreographer for shows like the X-Factor etc. She taught me the physical hard work within dance. Like we used to dance and then be sick on the side stage and go back and dance all over again. Its hard work and a lot of effort but its to better yourself and for your own personal gain.

What’s your proudest accomplishment as a dancer?

My personal proudest is having a job from being homeless! Second I would say is performing to the Jackson 5, whilst being part of the J5 crew in Thriller. Also performing to a crowd of 120,000  in Wembley for Rita Ora!

Do you or have you ever had stage fright?

Only once, the first time I went on stage for my first musical. I was a fill in for someone who went off sick and I didn’t remember the moves and was so scared I was going to mess it up! I think you stop being as scared to perform when you realise you’re not performing for people to look at you – its your piece. A bit like a piece of artwork, they are looking at your performance, not you. You’re portraying how they feel / what you want them to feel. I always think you should never be afraid to go wrong because…..does anyone other than you actually know what you were meant to do? No! If you go wrong just do something else until you pick it back up again, be confident with it and nobody will know the difference.

You can follow Jordan on social here:

Instagram: @jordandarrell

Twitter: @MRJD_OFFICIAL

Snapchat: jordandarrell

 

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