At the Grammys on Sunday, one performance stood out in particular for its staging, energy and most of all, choreography: Rihanna, DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller's rendition of their inescapable summer mega hit "Wild Thoughts." We spoke with creative director and frequent Rihanna collaborator Philippa Price about what it takes to put a performance like that together.
What was it like to work with Rihanna on this?
I first worked with her exactly two years ago. I've worked on a lot of concepts and treatments with her, and then this came to fruition. I love working with her.
Is she very involved or more hands off? Definitely a bit of both. We're so on the same page creatively, which is always amazing. She said it's very rare that she lets people just ride, and she said, "I just let you ride." It was amazing. She loved the concept off the bat and then we had rehearsals for ten days and she was there almost everyday. I'm all about enjoying the process as much as the final product. I worked with [Rihanna's choreographers] Tanisha Scott and Parris Goebel, and I'm all about creative collaboration, so it created this awesome energy.
What's the main challenge of staging something as complex as that? It was a huge challenge. Our early rehearsals were definitely a mess and it took us a long time to figure out how to create this wild dance scene, but at the same time have it feel really clean and graphic. We had ten days with our dancers, and one day with Bryson Tiller and DJ Khaled.
There was such a wide range of dance styles and influences in the performance. What was the inspiration? This concept came from this edit of different dance videos from Youtube and old archive videos that I had put together. I had Fred Astaire, all these African school kids that have been going viral, Paris Crazy Horse videos, Bob Fosse was a huge inspiration, I even had some videos of random people on Youtube dancing. Soul Train was another big influence. And the idea was to put moves that you would never expect Rihanna to do and never expect to go with the song and kind of mash it all together and create a whole new style of dance.
People online went crazy for Rih doing the South African 'gwara gwara' dance. How did that moment come about? That was one of the videos that I edited in. The idea was meant to be a mix of African style dance, and then taking inspiration from Crazy Horse and Bob Fosse. A lot of these older styles of dance that used to be considered sexy and how when you look at them, they're so stiff and weird and awkward compared to twerking or everything now. Me and Tanisha and Parris were talking about it, and I think that older style of dance was before African dance had influenced western culture and western dance, which is where we're at now. So we wanted to take super African style dancing, mix it with the super opposite of that and put it in a disco setting and see what happened.
Price is repped by MAAVVEN and has experience doing everything from working with Stella McCartney on three campaigns, curating events and installations for Apple Music, Condé Nast, Vogue, Art Basel and Gentle Monster, and envisioning and executing music videos and live performances for Pharrell, Alicia Keys, Grimes, AlunaGeorge, Banks, St. Vincent and of course, Rihanna.