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Interview: Fatima Robinson on Choreographing Beyoncé’s “Be Alive” Performance for the Academy Awards

Beyoncé delivered a wonderful performance at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony for the song Be Alive, which was featured in Reinaldo Marcus Green‘s King Richard. The song speaks about an empowering message of success earned through effort and the performance was nominated for Outstanding Choreography For Variety or Reality Programming at this year’s 74th Emmy Awards.

Awards Radar had the opportunity of speaking with legendary choreographer Fatima Robinson, who was responsible, alongside Beyoncé, for this performance. Fatima spoke about the process of creating the sequence, as well as the cultural meaning of it. You can find the interview below:

Awards Radar: What did you think about Be Alive when you first heard it?

Fatima Robinson: It’s such a beautiful song about women, empowerment, overall confidence and happiness. It’s about who you are and who we are as a race and a generation of people who stand on their ancestors shoulders, who have been through so much. To me, it’s about overcoming adversity in your life. I love that song.

AR: After knowing what the song means to you, how do you start formulating a choreography?

FR: There are a lot of things that go into place. We were doing an awards show, and because it was for live TV, it was different from a music video. With the theme of it taking place on a tennis court, there are so many variables to it, such as the costumes. Those things dictate the choreography alongside with how Beyoncé wanted to portray the song.

Once I saw all of that, especially with the women in the big gowns , it helped me understand how to create the movement and talk about empowerment and confidence.

AR: There are plenty of firm, strong movements and placings during the choreography. Was that related to the messages the song conveys?

FR: Yes, that’s what it is all about. The song, the movement, and the strength of Beyoncé and how she sings the song. And then you add on top of that some of the poses, which I got out of looking at Egyptian books or things that inspired me from our ancestry and culture. A lot of times inspiration comes from books, the song and where the music leads you when you’re working on the room. It also depends on how the music makes me feel.

AR: What was it like working with Beyoncé again?

FR: It was awesome! We love working with each other. I worked with her years ago with Destiny’s Child and then I worked with her in the movie Dreamgirls. We love hanging out! I’m a mother, she’s a mother. We have lots to talk about when we’re not dancing. We’re at a place where we understand each other.

AR: What was it about this specific performance that you both liked in comparison to your other collaborations?

FR: Mainly, we liked how smooth the process went. It wasn’t a difficult routine to perform, but it was elegant, soft and pretty. We wanted it to be elegant while talking about empowerment. Somebody called it a “hood ballet”.

AR: What would you say to young women of color who dream of joining the dance industry?

FR: Learn your craft as best as possible. Get in there, take classes, perform at art schools where you can perfect your craft. And then you have to move to a place where you’ll be able to get the work that you’re looking for, such as Los Angeles or New York. You can’t be in a city that doesn’t have a lot of dance opportunities.

AR: After such a long and amazing career, what has changed in the craft of choreographing over the past couple of decades, in your experience?

FR: In the nineties, you had to go to the clubs to learn hip hop dance. Now, it is taught everywhere and is now considered a true art form of dance where it wasn’t before. I’m happy to see that.

AR: How did you feel about Be Alive‘s message of women of color being united and them being at the forefront of their dreams?

FR: I loved that empowering message. It’s all about feeling yourself and walking in your power. Stepping into you power all day.

AR: What was Beyoncé’s influence on the choreography?

FR: We want things to look good on her body. I present things to her, and when she gets in there, she makes it feel right for her. It truly is a collaboration.

AR: How is the body of a dancer crucial in the process of creating a choreography?

FR: It’s about how the heights work, and the way the shapes could make girls fit at the same height level. We couldn’t have girls who were 5’2 standing next to girls who were 5’8. That’s how it matters.

AR: Having a tennis court has a stage, how did you use that space for the dance number?

FR: It depends on how I’m feeling. As you create, you go with the feeling of it. I go with what I feel when I walk in the room.

AR: How do you feel about your Emmy Award nomination?

FR: It’s exciting! It’s nice to be honored and to be recognized. It’s special to be recognized for this performance because I love Beyoncé and I love working with her. It truly is an honor to be nominated for this.

King Richard is available to stream on HBO Max and you can see Beyoncé’s performance of Be Alive below:


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Written by Diego Peralta

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