By Chris Bamford.
As Usher toured across the country, some of us were lucky enough to take master classes with his talented team of dancers. Fierce, fresh and amazing, Usher’s dancers are the best of the best in the commercial dance scene. Dance Informa’s Chris Bamford chatted with three of the dancers, Devin Jamieson, Saidah Nairobi and Marc ‘Marvelous’ at Sydney’s Caramell Dance Studio.
What’s it like to work with the world’s most famous music stars?
Devin: It’s always an interesting experience because you get to see their lives and who they really are as human beings, and not just as an artist. You get to see the amount of pressure that they are put under to deliver. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for them! In terms of the experience, you get to work with these amazing artists that lay the platform of what music and dance is and you get to witness this first hand! It’s just a great experience altogether.
Saidah: It’s pretty amazing. I never thought when I was training that I would be touring the world and actually making a career out of dancing! There is so much you learn that you never thought you would learn from doing something you love. With working with Beyonce and Usher I’ve liked seeing their work schedule and what they are like on stage. They are very detailed artists. They both love to dance in rehearsal. They are so focused to get the dancing down.
Marvelous: Every artist is different and as far as the calibre of artist is concerned, I treat every gig the same. I’m very grateful to be on a job, let alone to be working for an artist that’s a world known icon. I still look at it as a blessing that God gave me and I’m here to do what he wants me to do and use my talent to inspire people or speak to people. Every gig is different as every artist has a different crowd, but the energy is still the same as the audience is excited to see the artist.
What is it like to dance with Usher ?
Devin: Usher has been amazing. He has been the most down to earth artist that I have had a chance to work with. He has been the most ‘chilled’ and the most real person. He is a very smart guy. He isn’t just paid to sing, he knows what he’s doing. He is definitely in charge of everything he does and he has been very inspiring.
Saidah: Being one of Usher’s dancers is not easy, especially for the female dancers. We have to perform in heels and flats, we have a lot of quick changes and we are constantly moving. When you’re on stage there is so much to take in, but when we go backstage it is crazy! There is sweat, make-up and clothes flying everywhere! It’s intense. I have grown a lot on this tour. There are a lot of styles to master. There were eight choreographers for this tour and I had only worked with two of them before, so six styles were foreign to me. It was a challenge, but a good one.
Marvelous: It’s great. He’s like my big brother. We joke around a lot. He’s cool. I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of artists but very few I would call my family.
Have you enjoyed your time in Australia.
Devin: This tour has had a very hectic schedule. Our days off have really been travel days, but I have been to Australia a few times and I always enjoy my time here. The crowd is great in Australia. The crowd is one of the best in the world!
Saidah: This trip I haven’t been able to do much. I have taught a few classes while here and have gone to a few after parties, but it has been a very busy schedule. I did go up the Centrepoint Sydney Tower and to the wildlife museum.
Marvelous: I’ve been to a lot of parties. I love Australia. I have been here five times and every time it gets better. I haven’t had many days off this tour as the schedule is pretty intense. Even Usher said ‘I think I organised this wrong!’ But one thing I tried this time was kangaroo meat. I was scared. It was ok, but I love kangaroos and I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.
You have toured all over the world. What has been the most memorable place?
Devin: Australia has always been my most memorable place. I always have a good time in Australia. It reminds me of home a lot. Dubai was very interesting. It’s a totally different culture and different scene. We actually had to change our show a bit due to their cultural beliefs, so that was definitely an interesting time.
Saidah: Australia is my favourite! The UK is cool, but the weather is a downer. The weather in Australia is always sunny and the people make the experience. Dublin was also cool.
Marvelous: Australia, because here the audiences are very appreciative. Some European audiences have attitudes and they’re hard crowds to perform to, but the audiences here have been amazing.
What’s your advice for aspiring dancers?
Devin: Make dance your first priority. It should always be in the front of your mind, on top of the list. Never give up and treat dance professionally – treat it like a job. Treat it like you are saving to provide for family because it is possible.
Saidah: Never give up on your dreams. Auditions can be hard and there is a lot of politics within commercial dancing. It’s not just about your talent; it’s about your image as well. If you’re six foot and you want to work with Janet that’s probably not realistic as Janet is little. It’s not that you can’t dance but you need to keep in mind the height and body type of the artist. But study who you want to work for and study choreographers as there is definitely endless opportunity.
Marvelous: Get your ‘vocab’ up. Have a strong ‘vocab’ in all styles, but also have your own style. If you can do what they can do, but they can’t do what you can, then you are winning!