This interview originally appeared on EARSTYLE February 1st, 2010
earStyle recently caught up with choreographer and dancer Sean Bankhead. Find out his thoughts on dance reality shows, who he’s worked with, where you can take his classes, and the artists who he believes are the better dancers in the game.
How are you?
I’m good, I’m good. I’m outside, now. It stopped raining, finally.
So, we first heard about you once you choreographed Keri Hilson’s “Turnin’ Me On,” right?
Ah, yes! Part of “Turnin’ Me On” I was actually kind of working with her when I was doing, like, “Return The Favor,” but yeah. I did some of “Turnin’ Me On,” too. Yeah.
Okay, so how was that for you?
It was great! Keri Hilson is dope! She’s such like a… she just goes for it! She’s like, “what do you want me to do? Okay, let’s do it!” She’s really cool, she’s down to Earth, rehearsal was great. We had thug dancers, so it was good!
So, how did that come about? Like, who paired you two up?
Actually, a good friend of mine, Jamaica, who choreographed for like Ciara and Ne-Yo and Keri. She helped me out on a good project. I was working with her a little bit before that and she was like, “let me see what you can do with Keri.” So, she kind of put me on to that.
So, okay. Was that, like, your first big video that you choreographed or did you do some before?
No, that wasn’t my first video. I say my first big video that was like Cheri Dennis, but that was- (laughs) that was a long time ago. Cheri Dennis’ “Portrait of Love” video.
That was a good song! So, what inspired you to become a dancer?
What insp- well, rest in peace Michael Jackson, of course, like, watching him when I was growing up just… he just used to be the sh- I don’t know if I can cuss? But he used to be the dopest entertainer, to me. Just ’cause he can sing, he can dance, he knows how to use the stage. Just everything about him just kind of inspired me to start, I don’t know, just dancing. I used to watch his videos and pick up his stuff, so I owe it all to him!
So, do you have any other inspirations, or just Michael, would you say is your biggest inspiration?
Michael was definitely, I mean when I say it now, he definitely was. Beyoncé ’cause she be eaten everybody up (laughs). I don’t know, just like, if I see a dope artist I always- I’m pretty much on their nuts!
(laughs) So, if there was one artist, who you could have choreographed their video, if they have a video, and you looked at it, like, “Hmm?”
(laughs in background)
What artist and video would that be?
I don’t know! (laughs) Damn, see! I don’t know, but I do want to choreograph for Lady Gaga! I think she’s dope! She’s so outside the box and I think she’s so smart. Just her whole appearance and the way she carries herself and the way she- just her music. And her songs are always dope. And she puts on a show! So, I would love to work with her!
Cool! Now, right now, there are tons of reality shows based on dancing and, for the most part, everybody’s mother and each and one of ‘em is probably the people who favor reality shows, right now. We have “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Best Dance Crew.” Do you think that these reality shows are perfect representation of the life of a dancer?
Well, it’s definitely not perfect representation- I don’t know. That’s a tricky one because there is a difference between, like, working dancers who are like signed to, like, agencies and there is a difference between dancers who are going on shows to get, like, you know, the fame and the fortune and all of that stuff. I love the shows! I have a lot of friends who are on “America’s Best Dance Crew” and it’s- I say it’s a fair representation. It’s not that active ’cause a lot of those shows are staged and, you know, they have to do it to get the ratings. So, whatever they say goes, sometimes. It’s not about the talent, which sucks, sometimes. So, I don’t know!
I want to know who you think the best dancer is. I’m going to give you some combinations. Some are going to be easy, I’m sure! You know, ’cause I talked to you, but some are going to be a little odd! First up, are these two groups, one is male, one is female, but I think the way they dance, males versus females could do it. TLC or Dru Hill?
Dang! TLC. I’m the biggest TLC fan, yeah. No matter what, hands down. They just had some groove about them the whole time, like, they were always sort of, like, chill and lucky, I mean ’cause they would never do, like, full out choreography, but I just like their plan. I love TLC.
Alright, this one, I might be crazy, but Janet or Ciara?
Ah? Janet. (laughs) Hands down. Next!
Alright, how about Ciara and…
No, no, no! Wait, wait. I think they both are great. I love Ciara. I love Ciara when she first came out when she was, like… I like- I like old Ciara.
Ciara or Aaliyah? They are kind of similar in style and Ciara use to be compared to her when she first came out.
Umm. I still go with Aaliyah ’cause she’s the… (whispers the word sh*t) ’cause I love chill dancing to where it just be like in the …. who are in the pocket which means they are just like, I don’t know, I understand it when they do it! Like, they just- it looks good, it’s comfortable, I would watch them do it, all day! But I think that’s how Aaliyah was! She was just so calm and chill when she would dance. So, yeah.
That’s cool. So, how about Tina Turner or Beyoncé?
(laughs) Well, I know Beyoncé is definitely inspired by Tina, but I just think Beyoncé, is like, in a whole another league, right now. I don’t know, she’s amazing.
You performed with Beyoncé, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did get the chance to perform with her, which was amazing, too, so.
That’s great. So, we have two males: Usher or Chris Brown?
Well, again ’cause he just be so clean and smooth and I pick him. I think Usher.
Okay, I respect that. And this last group I got, like, four options for you. This is my group of people that can’t dance ????? I’m gonna let you pick the best one. I got Amerie, I got Ashanti, I got Mary J. Blige, and I have Keyshia Cole.
(laughs) You said who’s the best out of them? Well, it’s definitely not Ashanti. So. (laughs) I say- I say Amerie. I like Amerie. I think she gets down a little bit! Man, she’s just- she’s just so old school! Keyshia? I don’t know about Keyshia. And Ashanti? No!
So, that’s my pick!
That’s cool, that’s cool! So, what advice would you give to an, like, up and coming dancer who’s trying to get to where you are?
Advice I’d give to dancers: #1 thing; just take as many classes as you can ’cause you can never take enough classes. You should always be trying to develop yourself as a dancer and just making the best out of it. And also, know your business side about just dancing and meeting people and working with artists and it’s a lot more then just dancing, sometimes, which people don’t know. You have to be on-top of your head shots, your resumés, and you know, auditions. Making sure your going to class and just staying on-top of your game ’cause it’s not easy. At all. So, that’s my advice!
Cool, cool! Who are, like, some of your favorite choreographers out, right now?
My favorite choreographer is my brother JaQuel Knight, of course. He did “Single Ladies” and he’s, like, responsible with Beyoncé, right now. That’s, like, one of my best friends, growing up! I love JaQuel, I love… who do I love? I love everybody, man!
What classics do I like? Oh, my friend Xavier, from Atlanta! I don’t know, I just really respect everybody who’s out there, doing what they are doing. I think JaQuel is going to takeover everybody, though. So, that’s my pick. Yeah.
That’s what’s up! And if there was one dance, one video, one performance that you saw or you looked at and you just was like, “What the hell was going on?” What would it be?
Don’t bite your tongue! (laughs)
What did you say?
I said, “don’t bite your tongue!”
Yeah, I know! You know what I wanna do? I wanna do Beyoncé over again, but I feel like we should of did that for, like, an award show!
I would love to do that, again. Just because, I don’t know!
I asked, what video was horrible, dance-wise? You know.
A video I was in?
No, just a video, period!
Oh, any video?
Yeah, any video!
You know, okay. This is so random! You know that song with Sophia Fresh, “What it is?”
That video was awful! (laughs)
It was so bad. I don’t know, it just needs a little work!
They need a lil’ more work!
I have one last question for you. A lot of- there is a lot of dance crazes going on, right now, you got the “Ricky Bobby,” “Soulja Boy.” All that stuff. If you had a dance, what would your dance be called?
(laughs) If I had a dance what would it be called? I’m gonna stick with my “Bankhead Bounce” and I’m gonna leave it at that.
I’m gonna bring the “Bankhead Bounce” back! That’ll be my dance!
Cool. So, you got- I know you have classes and all, where can people find out more information about your classes and see clips of your…
Yeah! Well actually, I think I’m gonna be teaching at Atlanta, on Monday, at the Dance 411 studios. I think they have a website: dance411studios.com. Need to check them out! And I’m always updating my Facebook and my Twitter about what I’m teaching and stuff.
Okay, and your Twitter and your Facebook is just Sean…
Yeah, you can find me, Sean Bankhead. S-E-A-N Bankhead.