Magazine Feature

Drake's 'Hotline Bling' Choreographer Breaks Down Her Best Legwork -- from Beyoncé to Rihanna

Drake "Hotline Bling"
Courtesy of Director X/Creative Soul/Cash Money Records

Drake "Hotline Bling" (2015)

Drake released his video "Hotline Bling" on Oct. 19, and his goofy, dad-like dance moves were instantly flipped into countless memes. But when the clip's choreographer, Tanisha Scott, swiveled onto the screen to grind seductively with the rapper, no one was laughing -- well, until Drake used her butt as a pillow. Scott, 35, has been a music video fixture since 2001, when she sprang from battling in Toronto clubs to introducing Jamaican dance moves to the masses with Sean Paul's 2001 hit "Gimme the Light." Since then, she has worked with everyone from Aaliyah and Rihanna to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (in new film Sisters, out Dec. 18). She even recently oversaw George Clooney's first-ever dance scene for the 2016 film Money Monster. With "Hotline Bling" at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, Scott looks back at some of her greatest video hits.

Carey Bradshaw
Tanisha Scott

Drake, "Hotline Bling" (2015)

When Drake, an old pal of Scott's who was inspired by her work with Sean Paul, reached out about "Hotline," he said there was one stipulation for her choreographing the video: She had to dance in it too. "His reference for our scene was 'Gimme the Light' and Pulp Fiction, when John Travolta and Uma Thurman are dancing together," she explains. "It was all improv, one take. People on set were like, 'Don't you need to rehearse?' 'Nah, we're friends. Let's just rock it!' We couldn't stop laughing."

Courtesy of Island Def Jam Music Group
Rihanna, "Rude Boy" (2010)

Rihanna, "Rude Boy" (2010)

Rihanna's video dance moves were more simple and constrained early in her career. But Scott says that when she stepped in to work on "Rude Boy," the singer hit her groove. "That was the first time you got to really see her dance," she says. "She moved a bit in 'Umbrella,' but it wasn't until 'Rude Boy' that you were like, 'What is going on?!'"

Courtesy of Columbia
Beyonce "Upgrade U" Featuring Jay Z (2007)

Beyoncé, "Upgrade U," Featuring Jay Z (2007)

The highlight of Scott's work on Beyoncé's "Upgrade U" video was helping her imitate co-star/husband Jay Z in one scene. "'You have to have a toothpick in your mouth! You have to sit like this!'" she recalls telling Beyoncé, who was blown away by Scott's own dancing. "She was like, 'I don't want to just do the moves, I want to do them like you!'"

Courtesy of VP/Atlantic Records
Sean Paul "Like Glue" (2003)

Sean Paul, "Like Glue" (2003)

Scott's big-time debut as a choreographer was in Paul's videos, and "Like Glue" was the first time the Jamaican rapper-singer really danced on camera. "It was bringing Jamaica to the forefront," she says. "We touched on different styles that were happening in Jamaica: Pon Di River, Down Di Flank, Give Dem a Run, every dance move that was hot."

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of Billboard.