Lady Gaga Choreographer Richy Jackson Talks Creating ‘Risque’ Dances for JoJo Siwa: ‘I’m Excited!’

JoJo Siwa‘s edgy new era might be all about charting a new path forward, but her “Karma” is bringing along some key players from her past. In a conversation with Billboard News, renowned choreographer Richy Jackson details how his approach to choreography has evolved since he first worked with the pop star more than a decade ago.


“I met JoJo on a show I was judging called Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” he recounts. “I think she was nine years old. Later on in her career, she was with Nickelodeon, she began doing Dance Moms with Abby Lee [Miller] and she started doing music on YouTube. I hadn’t seen her since that competition show, and I happened to run into her and her mom at Studio City, and her mom was like, ‘Would you ever wanna choreograph for JoJo?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes!’”

Siwa placed fifth on season two of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, and appeared on seasons five and six of Dance Moms from 2015 to 2016. In 2017, the multi-hyphenate signed with Nickelodeon, under whom she acted in various programs, released several children’s songs and starred in her own feature film, The J Team, which earned her a pair of Children’s and Family Emmy nods. On the Kid Albums chart, Siwa has logged three entries, reaching as high as No. 12 with 2019’s Celebrate.

“She was 13 then. Chroeographing for her then … she was very young, the songs were for kids, it was with Nickelodeon,” explains Jackson. “There [were] certain dance moves I could do and not do, certain hip moves couldn’t make it into the choreography because it was for kids. But now, that she’s in her ‘adult pop star’ era that we’re about to get into — now, it’s like the game is open. We’ve been laughing, ’cause I’m like, ‘Ah, now we can do this move and do that move!” It’s more risque, so I’m excited. She’s just one of those artist that I feel is the next generation’s big pop star, and she just goes for it, and I love that about her.”

Jackson, of course, is no stranger to helping pop stars express their risque side through dance. His credits include the bulk of Lady Gaga‘s acclaimed videography — including 2009’s VMAs-sweeping “Bad Romance” and 2017’s headlining sets at Coachella and the Super Bowl Halftime Show — as well as Katy Perry‘s “California Gurls” and, now, Siwa’s “Karma.”

Siwa launched “Karma” with a flashy, choreogrpahy-packed music video on April 5, with the intent to achieve a rebrand similar to that of Miley Cyrus during her controversial Bangerz era back in 2013. “The last song JoJo played for me was ‘D.R.E.A.M.,’” says Jackson. “It was very young, very kiddie. Once I heard [“Karma”] I was like, ‘Yes!’ It was so unexpected … to hear this vibe on her, I loved it.”

In his chat with Billboard News, Jackson also reflects on his experience bringing Gaga’s iconic dance moves to the gaming landscape via an A.I.-utilizing Fortnite collaboration, recalls learning that he would be choreographing the Super Bowl Halftime Show and discusses the impact of TikTok on the contemporary dance scene.

Watch Richy Jackson’s full Billboard News interview above.

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