Michael Higgins

Galen Hooks Loves Wearing All the Hats

Galen Hooks is in a category of her own when it comes to multi-hyphenate careers. Working professionally since the age of 7, Hooks had toured with Snoop Dogg, choreographed for the Jonas Brothers' TV movie Camp Rock and finished her BA in law and society at Penn State University (online, of course) by the time she was in her early 20s.

"We all know there are days that we want to quit," Hooks says. "But I think, subconsciously, I was always deciding 'I want to keep doing this.' "

To date, Hooks has worked with more than 70 artists, including Britney Spears, Rihanna and Usher. And her expertise encompasses everything from dancing and choreographing to producing and directing commercially across film and television. She loves when she gets to take on projects in their entirety. "It feels like I get to create a full world, top to bottom," Hooks says. "I really enjoy wearing a lot of hats all at once."

Galen Hooks, surrounded on three sides by dirty outdoor white walls, steps forward, a jacket in her hand flying behind her.

Michael Higgins

Her "I made it" moment: "Booking the Super Bowl with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake."

Favorite piece of choreography: "A performance I did for Ne-Yo on 'So You Think You Can Dance,' to 'Beautiful Monster.' "

On the pandemic: "A lot of people are struggling with their path right now. Maybe pursuing dance has been put to the side because there aren't a lot of auditions, or they've had to give it up fully. But don't feel like not having a place to put dance work-wise means that you can't still do it. You're not a failure if you don't make a living dancing."

On becoming a choreographer: "I did not want to choreograph growing up. I was assisting all of the time, and saw how much pressure it is. Then, in my late teens, I felt like I wanted to move a different way. That was during the height of pop music videos, so all of the choreography was jazz funk or hip hop or kind of sexy pop choreography. Teaching gave me an outlet to express myself in a different way from what was being put on me all the time."

What's on her playlist: "Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos and Hazel Dickens, who is one of the titans of bluegrass."

When she's not dancing: "I really love writing songs."

Biggest indulgence: "I'm so addicted to sweets—cookies, cake, brownies—any kind of really, really sweet baked good."

One thing she can't live without: "I drink water nonstop, so I guess my insulated water bottle."

Dream partner: "Bboy Casper."

Bridges frame Galen Hooks in the background as she stands with feet wide apart, some California hills behind them

Michael Higgins

On working with Britney Spears: "I had auditioned for Britney Spears pretty much my whole life as a teenager and a young adult, and was always so gutted when I didn't book those jobs. So when I did finally get to work with her, on the 'Till the World Ends' video, I didn't take it lightly. Being in the rehearsals when she would do any of her classic songs, it was like fulfilling all of my childhood dreams."

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Photo by Ernest Gregory, Courtesy Fleming

How This Tap-Dancer-Turned-Composer Stays True to His Jazz Roots

From Riverdance to HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," tap dancer DeWitt Fleming Jr. has proved to be a triple threat on the stage and screen. He's also an entrepreneur, selling his own line of wireless microphones, DeW It Right Tap Mics. Last year, he added "composer" to his resumé with the release of Sax and Taps INTERSPLOSION!, the first tap dance and jazz album recorded at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club. One of the songs, co-written with jazz saxophonist Erica von Kleist, was a finalist for last year's Unsigned Only music competition.

"When you're invited to dance with a jazz band, it's always assumed that, as a tap dancer, you're going to be a feature. If you go all the way back to New Orleans' Congo Square, and even before then, dance was a part of the music. I wanted to stick to those roots and create an album where everything was intertwined."

He recently spoke with Dance Magazine about his collaboration with von Kleist and the creation of their album.

January 2021