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Charm La’Donna on Choreography Process and Inspiration

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Charm La’Donna on Choreography Process and Inspiration

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Charm La’Donna has been passionate about dance since she took her first class at age 3. La’Donna would practice for hours on end until she got it down right, becoming one with the music, and she landed her first major audition at the mere age of 10. Although she didn’t end up booking the music video for artist Ma$e, it didn’t deter her from pursuing her dream of being a professional dancer. At 17, she became the youngest dancer on Madonna’s 2006 Confessions Tour, and as they say, the rest is history. For La’Donna, all those moments led her to where she is today — in which the gift of dance has provided her the opportunity to travel the world, collaborate with some of the world’s top artists, and creatively tell stories.

La’Donna is one of the industry’s most sought-after choreographers, having worked with artists such as Selena Gomez, Meghan Trainor, Rosalía, and more. She’s choreographed amazing events like The Weeknd’s Super Bowl halftime show, a Louis Vuitton Fashion Week show, and Kendrick Lamar’s most recent world tour. She also choreographed the music video for Dua Lipa’s Oscar- and Grammy-nominated track, “Dance the Night,” from “Barbie.”

But underneath all the accolades lies the same Compton, CA, native whose big dream was to define culture through the art of dance. In each of her projects, you will find La’Donna’s high-energy, precise, expressive, and stylized choreography, complete with intricate formations. She utilizes various dance genres and allows movement to guide the storytelling; authenticity and improvisation are at the center, harkening to the distinct sub-culture of LA street hip-hop.

And she’s not done telling stories through art. In between her busy travel schedule, the multihyphenate spoke exclusively with PS about all things dance and what’s next for her career.

PS: What does dance mean to you? What inspires your creativity in dance?

Charm La’Donna: Dance is my therapeutic safe space, allowing me to express myself freely. I draw inspiration from everywhere because I am constantly learning. Being classically trained, I can add some ballet movement, street dance, jazz, or African dance in spaces where people may not expect it. Experimenting with movement is not only fun, but it also takes me out of my comfort zone. Having studied various genres of dance allows me to blend different styles to create something unique each time.

When working with artists, I always start by studying their movements from previous performances. Once I understand how they move, it makes creating easier, and I can insert my experience, expertise, and creativity into the piece or pieces I am creating.

PS: What sparks your creative process when starting new choreography?

CL: The artist and the music spark the creative process. I don’t start the creative process until I have a discussion (sometimes several) with the artist or the creative team to get their vision. After I have a thorough understanding of what they want, I live with the music and begin to create movement that matches the vision.

PS: What has inspired your choreographic style and creative direction?

CL: My influences come from everywhere. If I have to name a few, it would be my mentor Fatima Robinson, Louis Johnson (of the film version of “The Wiz”), Bob Fosse, and Don Martin, who taught the Horton Technique at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Those are classic choreographers whose work still has an impact on me.

I have also always been inspired by the iconic music videos and choreography of Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Aaliyah, and Mya, to name a few.

“Representation always, always matters.”

PS: How did attending the University of California at Los Angeles shape your experience as a creative?

CL: My time at UCLA allowed me to open up and gain a world perspective. It opened me up to new cultures and gave me the opportunity to explore and absorb new influences. Of course, I was always dancing and working, but I had a space to find new influences and grow my craft.

PS: Speaking of UCLA, we’ve seen dance being given a platform through other realms: Black gymnasts such as Chae Campbell, Nia Dennis, and Margzetta Frazier received attention for their creative floor routines. Any thoughts on this and the importance of representation?

CL: Representation always, always matters. Seeing people who look like you and doing what you want to do is inspiring. It takes the feeling of impossibility away and that’s really important, especially for the generation that follows. Once we believe there is a place for us, we are more willing to go on the journey to follow our passions and live our wildest dreams, and that is a beautiful thing.

PS: What artists have you enjoyed working with? Do you have a favorite? Are there any artists you would like to work with in the future?

CL: As for favorites, I don’t have any, because I have special connections to each of them. No two artists are alike. Our collaborations are experiences that I am proud of from beginning to end, and each relationship is unique. For the future, I am open to working with any artists across genres because I really enjoy leaning into new visions and seeing how an artist takes to dance.

PS: As someone who was a dancer, and now a choreographer, what is your approach in working with dancers?

CL: I tell dancers to show up in every room as their best selves and be confident, and I mean that. My goal is to execute the perfect vision every time. I am a bit of a stickler in rehearsal, so we are definitely going to get there.

But I also want to have fun with it. This movement and these moments we have to enjoy, because we will never get them back. I want them to walk away feeling on top of the world and ready to take on what’s next.

PS: You’ve had such a successful career. What’s next for you?

CL: I do want to move into choreographing and creative directing in film because I feel like that is a challenge I have yet to fully take on and it’s definitely calling me. I’d love to see more stories about dance being highlighted on the big screen.

Ralinda Watts is an author, diversity expert, consultant, practitioner, speaker, and proven thought leader who works at the intersection of race, identity, culture, and justice. She has contributed to numerous publications such as PS, CBS Media, Medium, YahooLifestyle, and the Los Angeles Times.

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