Beyoncé’s show director says politically-charged performances “allow us to attack things in a more creative, artistic way”

Kai Acevedo

 // Apr 17, 2018

Beyoncé’s Coachella 2018 performance was not only lit as hell, but also woke AF. Following a year-long wait, Beehive members eager to witness their Queen slay (demolish may be more appropriate) were granted their wishes. It just happened to be mad ethnic. There were Black Panther-esque berets, an HBCU-type Homecoming, Egyptian-inspired costumes, excerpts from MLK speeches, the spiciness of Big Freedia and the reciting of the unofficial Black national anthem. Falling in formation with many of her recent high-profile performances, this was another example of how King B’s art is getting increasingly charged, both politically and socially.

“It allows us to attack things in a more creative, artistic way,” said JaQuel Knight, who as show director to Beyoncé, as well as one of her lead choreographers, helped curate the Internet-breaking Coachella performance. “Everyone is not a politician. Everyone doesn’t want to get up at the mic and hold the conferences.”

Tasked with everything from making sure cameras are right to directing dozens and dozens of dancers, his role as Beyoncé's show director is very necessary. “It’s literally just connecting the dots of every department involved with the project,” he said. “Making sure we can execute a show from top to bottom.” He admits that many of the traits that have allowed him to successfully navigate through and direct behind-the-scenes traffic at Super Bowls, massive world tours and epic festivals were first acquired during the humble beginnings phase of his career. “That’s your first hint at being your own creative director, without knowing the terminology.”

:: it’s pretty difficult to pick one moment to post of so many that you are attached to. but growin up a band geek in Atlanta to directing an entire HBCU Homecoming Experience w/ a cast of 150+ for #Beyonce - it’s still surreal. @chrisgranted my brother we did it! Picked this moment for you... you’re special man! Ed + @toddtourso - the best in game. @beyonce there’s no living being like you. We truly thank God for you... working next to you 4 is unreal. 🙌🏾⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ To the skeleton crew that has got every version possible of everything - we thank you. @mssjb we thank you for everything you bring in the room. Joe + Jamal - we thank you both for coming & creating authentic step moments w/ us! @iamdanafoglia so thankful to always get you in to elevate it all! Don Roberts & The Drumline Live Crew - Just Wow! Floored from the energy you all brought to the show. Flexers n Krumpers - you guys are Living Kingz! Les Twins - love you two to death!! Killed it! To every dancers, band member, singer - thank you! You guys SMASHED IT!! Love Each & Every One Of You! ✊🏾⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #JaQuelKnight #Coachella #Beychella #Choreographer #Creative #Director #Dance #ForTheCulture #HBCU #Homecoming #MarchingBand #InstaDance #Beyhive #CrazyInLove #Freedom #LiftEveryVoice #BlackNationalAnthem #Formation #DejaVu #SingleLadies #DestinysChild #JayZ #Solange #Lit

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Prior to locking in Beyoncé and other superstars like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Tinashe as clients of his, he was killing it on the dance crew circuit with squads he put together like Tru Style Hip Hop Dance Troupe. “Even now, running rehearsals with over 80 dancers in the room, working with the biggest superstars, helping develop these shows for these massive creatives - these are all of the elements used when deciding what to wear to the local talent show,” he said. “It’s all the same elements, now just magnified.”

Pulling off feats the caliber of Saturday night’s nearly two-hour long set is nothing new for the Atlanta-bred Knight. His historic working relationship with Beyoncé - which now includes helping bring to life tours like I Am…, The Mrs. Carter Show and Formation and special projects like Super Bowl Halftime shows and visual albums like Lemonade - was launched when he orchestrated the now iconic dance routine for the “Single Ladies” music video. “We really inspired a world to get up and dance,” said JaQuel, as he reflected almost ten years later. “It’s crazy the amount of inspiration that leaked into the world from that project.”

Another leading lady he’s managed to make some noise with is Mette Towley, star of N.E.R.D.’s Rihanna-assisted video for their comeback single, “Lemon.” The free-form choreography he blessed the dancer with sparked a viral craze that even inspired the likes of Serena Williams, Justin Timberlake and model Ashley Graham to join in on the fun. “The record screamed, ‘get up and dance, dance, dance,” he said excitedly. “When they played it for me I couldn’t stop moving.” Adamant about spreading those vibes, Knight set out to create something for all people to take part in. “It was super important to me to do something that everyone could do regardless of your level of dance training.”

When he’s not helping to execute performances of epic proportions for the icons of the era, he finds time to provide opportunities for the next generation. Via Instagram, he hosts a choreography battle that’s kind of similar in format to NCAA’s March Madness tournament. “I feel like with social media we could get lost in the fads and trends that come along with it, but there’s also a way to use it to empower, give knowledge and help build others up,” said Knight.

:: I would like to thank each & every person that entered & followed the tournament! It continues to blow my mind what a little light can do for so many people!! Blown away from the growth of each artist that entered over such a short period of time... You guys inspire me & push me to continue seek greatness!! Love you all & hope #JKMarchMadness have instilled that same push inside yourself! With that being said.... ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The Champion of The 2nd Annual #JKMarchMadness Tournament Is... @khalilmcneil !! Congratulations Sir!! You will be gifted with a @beatsbydre Pill, Exclusive Merch from #JKEntertainment & A Sit Down w/ Myself!! 😁 I was blown away each round by your ear and detail to musicality. THE POCKETS YOU FOUND!!! 🙌🏾🙌🏾 lol Congrats Khalil, I’m Super Proud of You Man!! 🏆 ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This is just the 1st of so much more to come to the up & coming community of choreographers this year! Congrats to all that entered as it’s not easy to get up & out of your comfort zone! You all are awesome!! Feel free to hit me in the DM if you are looking for any feed back... I will also be walking thru things that stood out to me as soon it slows down over here! ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Congrats Again @khalilmcneil ! Someone from my team will be reaching out shortly. @ayokeenan You Smashed It As Well!! ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Dancers / Choreographers / Creatives - Please make sure you & your friends are following this page to be the 1st to know of what’s new and coming!! Let’s keep this love & support up - All We Have Is Each Other! 🙌🏾 ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #JKEntertainment #JaQuelKnight #Coachella #Beyonce #Pharrell #LiamPayne #ZaraLarsson #Rihanna #BigSean #OTR #NERD #InstaDaily #Instadance

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After a decade of making major moves, while also making the world dance, the veteran performer has a new creative lease on life. “In my head I feel like I’m just getting started,” said Knight, who plans on developing films and musicals in the near future. “I’m just now taking a real stab at being able to display my artistry to the world.”

Not long after the smoke clears from the stage Beyoncé just tore down, it’ll be back to work for Knight, who believes that, “performances should evoke some kind of emotion.” He’ll soon be gearing up for the forthcoming On The Run II, B’s joint arena tour with JAY-Z. But before it’s on to the next one, he can rest assured that according to just about everyone who watched Beychella 2018, his mission was accomplished.

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