What do you remember most about Britney Spears biggest hits? For some of us, it’s the choreography that sticks — even all these years after song like the late 90’s, “Baby One More Time.”
Fans of the pop star undoubtedly remember all the moves from “I’m A Slave For You,” or “Ooops!… I Did it Again.“
With Lifetime’s biopic, “Britney Ever After,” starring Natasha Bassett, premiering on Saturday, the choreography will have a new platform. So we spoke with the show’s choreographer, Heather Laura Gray, about how she made it happen. What makes Britney Britney? And why it’s such a hot time for 90’s-style dancing.
Did you recreate dances or create new choreography?
Gray: “Because the sequence of dance steps from all of the original choreography are under copyright, I had to create new choreography based on the steps of that time, which span from 1998 to 2008. My goal was to make the audience feel they were reliving those performances again. So I tried to match the energy and approach that Britney’s choreographers used but in my own way. It was a really fun challenge.”
How did Britney’s dances change over the years?
Her dance was entirely different between when she opened for *NSYNC in 1998 and her 2001 MTV performance. The 1998 performance was full of new jack swing so it was bouncy and boppy in contrast to 2001 on MTV, which was really grounded, sexy and full of huge accents.”
What is it about how Britney moved that you wanted to come through in the film?
“I really wanted the commanding and sensual nature of Britney’s performance alter-ego to come through to show the difference of how she in a normal Southern girl in regular life. It reminded me a lot of Michael Jackson, Prince and Janet Jackson and how they are larger than life when they are performing but are so soft spoken when interviewed.”
How did the actress playing Britney take the choreography?
“Natasha Bassett had never danced or sung before so we worked to find that commanding energy to grab her audience’s attention and then keep luring them in with sensual appeal. Natasha was so open even though a lot of these things were foreign to her. People will really feel her because she fully tapped into Britney’s humanity as a character and then gave it her all in the dance performances.”
What do you think is a key Britney move and how does the film show that off or illuminate it?
“She is so purposeful in how she decides to show you her face. Natasha and I spent a good amount of time getting the signature hair whips, head tilts, head turns to show off the profile, etc. Those punctuated head movements in the film are key to what makes us feel ‘Britney.’
What in your past work gave you insight into how to structure this movement?
“I was also going to class and dancing the popular styles of the late 90’s into the late 2000’s. The audition was for Marty Kudelka who was Justin Timberlake’s choreographer at the time. We learned the “Like I Love You” music video choreography. I was obsessed with the amazing dynamics, groove, intricacy and accents all woven together in that movement.”
“Britney Ever After” premieres on Lifetime Saturday, February 18, at 8 p.m. ET.