Catching Up With the Ever-Busy Ebony Williams
After dancing JaQuel Knight’s choreography in Beyoncé’s epic “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video, Ebony Williams quickly became one of the commercial world’s most recognizable faces. But she’d already been working overtime as a dancer and choreographer, performing with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet while simultaneously taking on a range of commercial opportunities. “I think it was divine timing,” she says of her career.
Today she has expanded into choreographing for films, like Warner Bros.’ In the Heights (as an associate) and Disney’s Sneakerella. And looking ahead, Williams plans to turn her attention to creating work onscreen as both an actress and a director. “I feel really blessed to have had people believe in me,” she says.
Falling in Love With Dance:
“When I was a kid, my mom couldn’t afford to put me in dance school at first, so my best friend would come over and teach me what she learned in her classes.”
“I don’t like to be the first one down to the stage. If I’m there early, I think about all of the mistakes I can make. I get very, very anxious—I don’t sleep well the night before a show. But once I’m out there, I get totally calm.”
“Often, we think, Okay, I need to work with this untouchable director, and that’s great; we should always shoot for those things. But it can be just as rewarding to look at your friend and come up with something together that can be bigger than you ever thought it could be. Then, down the line, you could be that untouchable director.”
“As much as I have been working so hard across the board, what’s been the most valuable to me is learning balance and recognizing that balance equals abundance. And I don’t mean that in the economic way; I mean in feeling whole as a person.”
On Juggling the Classical and Commercial Worlds:
“One time I took a red eye after a performance with Cedar Lake to Monte Carlo with Beyoncé for the World Music Awards. After the performance, I got on another red eye to land in New York at like 8 in the morning to go straight to ballet class and do another show with Cedar Lake.”
On Her Choreographic Process:
“I’ve learned that I work much better under pressure. I have a hard time trusting that what I’m doing is great, but I recognize that everything that you do, there is no real wrong thing.”
A Career-Defining Moment:
“One of the biggest moments that sticks out to me is my last performance for Cedar Lake. The way the audience roared for me when I took my bow, it was really powerful. It was strange, because it was the end of a huge chapter in my life, but it also said so much about another beginning.”