Interviews

Parris Goebel is just getting started

Parris Goebel. Photo by Kendal Collins.
Parris Goebel. Photo by Kendal Collins.

From Jennifer Lopez to Justin Bieber, Auckland’s Parris Goebel has worked with them all. Best known for choreographing Bieber’s music video, “Sorry”, which has garnered over 2.5 billion views to date, she went on to direct and choreograph all 13 videos of Bieber’s Purpose: The Movement album. Apart from starring in the videos, Goebel’s dance crew, the Royal Family, has also won the World Hip Hop Dance Championships three times with distinctive routines choreographed in her signature style, polyswagg.

Still fresh from the highs of the Royal Family’s European tour, Goebel, who is currently in London working on her music, tells Dance Informa about the pressures and joys of success, life and growing up.

In the last few years, you have seen astonishing success. Tell us, how has your life changed since the call from Jennifer Lopez and later, Bieber’s Sorry video, which you choreographed and in which you starred?

“The main thing that has changed –  from Jennifer to now – is demand for my work. Jennifer’s call gave me the first break in the industry, and I would wait for the next call to come. Today, I am blessed, as the calls are always coming, and I get to choose the jobs I want to work on. It’s definitely a fortunate position to be in, and all the artists I work with respect my work, so I’m really able to work with them to produce something great.”

Parris Goebel. Photo by Jared Leith.

Parris Goebel. Photo by Jared Leith.

What has been inspiring you lately in the dance and music industry?

“I’ve just finished a tour of Europe with my dancers in the Royal Family, and that has inspired me yet again and reminded me of my love of dance. When you have sold out theatres with people who are there to see you do nothing but dance, you can just give back; that outpouring of love and appreciation is so rejuvenating. With music, I’m still working on making my own music and just enjoying getting into studios as well as working with different writers and producers to make something unique and a whole fresh sound.”

Tell us about your upcoming world tour with your dancers in October/November. What can we look forward to?

“We’re only just in the planning stages at the moment, but countries are coming on from all around the world, and it’s going to be exciting. We won’t start building the show until August, but I’m planning to have a lot of my music in it, lots of fashion, crazy visual images and really take the audience on a journey through dance and music. To be honest, I’m still buzzing from the shows in Europe, so if they are anything to go by, then the World Tour is going to be insane!”

Your schedule of tours, performances, interviews and rehearsals is unrelenting. How do you keep yourself from burning out? What personal traits do you have to try to reign in to keep yourself on top?

“I have gotten better at working days off into my schedule, as I never did that until recently. It’s the only way to make sure I don’t burn out and make sure I stay fresh for all the things I am working on. I have a fantastic team around me who balance all the madness, and this allows me to just focus on the creative elements of what I do. I have been doing dance for the past 10 years, so I know how to maximise my time while keeping a personal balance.”

Although you are perhaps best known as a dancer/choreographer, you are also, as you’ve mentioned, a musical performer! When did you first start taking serious interest in music, and what are your musical goals?

“Last year, I just went into a studio and was mucking around with a producer. I liked what we made and thought, why not have a go at this seriously, so I did. My goal is just to produce music that I love and that people around the world will then also hopefully love. Music is really another way to express myself creatively, and it obviously goes hand-in-hand with dance and the projects I will be working on soon.”

How would you describe your style and your musical inspirations?

“My musical inspirations are really varied, as I like so many genres, so I can’t name someone specifically. I love listening to all types of music, so my playlist is forever changing! I’m just in London now working on new songs and will keep putting a body of work together until I’m at a stage where I feel comfortable releasing it to the world.”

The future is looking bright. What do you hope to achieve in the short- and long-term?

“I don’t really have short-term goals, as everything happens so fast! But working on a movie, a Broadway show, writing a book, making some music and preparing for our world tour at the end of the year are all goals of mine.”

Parris Goebel. Photo by Evan Xiao.

Parris Goebel. Photo by Evan Xiao.

What has been your personal or career highlight so far?

“There are too many to list, and there is no one defining moment. Obviously, though, the success of the ‘Sorry’ video would be one — to be seen by over 2.5 billion people was so unexpected. My personal highlight will always be the support and love I have from my family, which has never changed from the start and up until today.”

Although you may appear to some as an ‘overnight’ success, I’d love to know some of the challenges you’ve experienced. What did you learn from them?

“My major challenge was just being so young and experiencing the success I have had. I had to grow up quickly and really had no personal life, as I was always working. I had to learn to work through relationships with people and understand the difference between who true friends are and those who just want to use you to get somewhere. The main thing that I’ve learnt so far is to always stay true to myself, believe in what I’m doing and not to accept ‘no’ for an answer.”

What advice would you give to others, particularly young dance students hoping to break into the industry? 

“That’s easy — keep working on your craft. No, there is no replacement for hard work. Kids nowadays are often looking for quick success through social media, but you can’t cover up if you haven’t put in the work in your craft. Continue to dream big, have people who will support you, and make sure you stay unique, as there is only one of you in the world!”

By Grace Gassin of Dance Informa.

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