Get to Know Commercial Dancer Will West, a “Once-in-a-Generation-Talent”

June 26, 2024

Featured in two of the past year’s most viral music videos—Jungle’s “Back On 74” and Ariana Grande’s “yes, and?”—Will West transitions seamlessly, sometimes instantly, from style to style. He can accelerate from total stillness to a full flare in a split second, then downshift to a Fosse frug before coolly strolling out of frame. The young Brit spoke with Dance Magazine while shooting a Verizon commercial in Mexico City before continuing south to another gig, in Santiago, Chile. Part of the live-action remake of Disney’s Alladin in 2019, West returns to the big screen this fall as a dancer and stunt performer in Wicked, which stars Grande as Glinda.

Company: Independent artist managed by Shannelle “Tali” Fergus

Age: 26

Hometown: Birmingham, England

Training: Urdang Academy

Origin story: “I was quite an athletic kid,” says West, who started with gymnastics and martial arts. “I watched all of the Jackie Chan films.” After b-boy Jovan Rumble came to West’s high school to guest-teach a Boys Dancing class, “he invited me to train with his crew, called Lab Rats, and, from there, I just fell in love with the energy of dancing itself.”

a male dancer wearing a black tank staring straight on towards the camera
Photo by Daniel Filipe, Courtesy West.

Turning point: In 2017, West had just booked Thriller Live, a long-running Michael Jackson revue on the West End. “I was excited about that, but my spirit wasn’t in it—it wasn’t my lane, it wasn’t my realm.” Without knowing that West was already committed to Thriller, Fergus saw West at an audition to perform with pop group Years & Years. “I was a huge fan of Tali’s when I came to London,” says West. “I watched all of her videos. I was obsessed, like, ‘Who is this human?’ ” Now West’s mentor and manager, she helped him get out of the Thriller contract so that he could join the Years & Years tour. “It was wild—a complete shift in my trajectory,” adds West. “Everything changed.”

Pressure cooker: Filming Jungle’s 50-minute visual album Volcano was a whirlwind. “We rehearsed for four or five days, got two days off, and then we shot 14 films in two days. But I love the thrill of being thrown into the deep end like that.”

West on Volcano choreographer Shay Latukolan: “When someone’s performing movement that genuinely feels good to do, it transcends the screen and the viewer gets to secondhand-feel that way, too. That’s the nature of Shay’s choreography.”

What his mentor sees: “I genuinely think that Will is a once-in-a-generation talent. He has a way of reaching past himself to people,” says Fergus. “That is true of him as a performer and a creative, but also as a human—and I think if he wasn’t inclined that way as a human it wouldn’t read in quite the same way.”

Finding his voice: Inspired in part by meeting Jungle’s J Lloyd and Volcano singer Lydia Kitto, West shares that “I’m looking for a vocal coach. The fact that I’m working on music is no secret.”

Wish list: West “would drop everything to work with some people” across the performing arts spectrum. “If you see Tyler, the Creator on the street, tell him I’m coming. I’d love to work with him—and with FKA twigs. Kojey Radical is incredible. Oh, and Daniel Caesar: That’s my guy. I listen to his music, like, every day. Jordan Ward is amazing. I want to be in a movie with Zendaya. LaKeith Stanfield.”