Viral Video Maker Tanisha Scott Conjures Iconic Moves for Major Artists

February 5, 2021

If choreographer/creative director/movement director Tanisha Scott has any one specialty, it’s making dance moments that stay memorable long after going viral. Award-winning videos like Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” Cardi B’s “Money” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” came to life under her watch.

“You don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain what we did in the ‘Hotline Bling’ video,” she says. “I can’t figure it out! It’s not like Director X and I set out to make it the video of the year. The other time that it’s just felt right, like magic, was the first video I choreographed: ‘Gimme the Light,’ for Sean Paul.”

Her movement style:

“Because I’m of Jamaican descent and rooted in my culture, my heritage comes out in most things I do, but specifically dancehall or soca.”

Making musicians move:

“Movement coaching is actually the easiest work for me. I have a knack for empathizing with nondancers because I wasn’t a trained dancer. I’m not telling anybody to do something they can’t already do, or anything outside their comfort zone of technical capability. Rather, I’ll push them to their greatest potential. I’m not creating something—I’m helping the performer understand a template that’s already there.”

The benefit of being self-taught:

“Early in my career, I got jobs because I was a strong freestyler. I’ve done over 70 music videos. Because I’m self-taught, I hear the bones of music, different beats that other people miss. Being self-taught also allows me to create faster and under pressure.

“I love and appreciate all forms of dance. When you’re freestyling, you have to pull from so many different places. It can’t be one note because you don’t know who you’ll battle, and half of a battle is trying to throw back to somebody what they’re throwing to you.”

When she’s stuck:

“The best way for me to handle choreographer’s block is just to walk away. Anything I force after that point is not going to feel right.”

What she’s learned from dancers around the world:

“From touring, I’ve been able to travel the world. No lie, I’ve been through four different passports! In each place, there’s a reason why people dance the way they dance. I visited the Maasai, who are known for high jumps, when I went to Kenya. We had a bonfire dinner, with a ceremony where they jumped so high, over and over. It was surreal. It taught me that not everything has to be a thousand steps. There’s power in repeating one simple thing and really owning it.”