What It’s Really Like to Dance in a Music Video

March 25, 2018

When you ask successful commercial dancers why they started dancing, you tend to hear similar stories: Their 5-year-old selves turned on MTV and obsessed over “Thriller” and “Vogue,” and they ended up dancing for hours in the living room, mimicking the iconic choreography and falling in love. Music videos were so many dancers’ first inspirations.

But what’s it really like to dance in a music video? Ysabelle Capitulé, who was featured in Bruno Mars’ retro-chic “Finesse” vid, shares her experience fulfilling those living-room dreams.

Hurry Up and Wait

From start to finish, Mars’ “Finesse” video took only three days to make. “It was definitely the fastest job I’ve ever been hired for,” says Capitulé. The project consisted of two nine-hour rehearsals and one 15-hour shoot.

Arriving in the wee hours of the morning, dancers were rushed into hair and makeup and hustled off to wardrobe. And then…they waited. “I like to call a day on set a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation,” says Capitulé, laughing. Once the dancers finally got called to set, they sometimes filmed for 5 minutes, sometimes for 5 hours. That unpredictability means music video dancers have to be not only patient, but also prepared for anything.

What does preparedness look like? Capitulé’s must-haves on set include her laptop, makeup bag, makeup wipes, extra comfy clothes, and her slides. “And don’t forget your chargers!” she says. “It’ll be a long day.”

Capitulé (center) working hard on her craft (courtesy Capitulé)

Having Fun

All that said, dancing in a music video is definitely a fun job. “We knew when it was time to work hard, but with Bruno we all had our moments of goofiness,” Capitulé says. “It didn’t feel like work.” She and the other dancers were excited that Mars was so fully involved in the process, making it enjoyable and unforgettable.

Capitulé specifically remembers Mars not wanting it to look like he was the star backed by supporting dancers. Instead, he wanted it to feel as if they were all in one crew together. “I don’t think I’ve worked with anyone as down-to-earth as Bruno,” she says. According to Capitulé, working with major celebrities is usually the same as working with anyone else: As long as you’re professional, everything should go smoothly.

The “Finesse” music video is an homage to the ’90s TV show “In Living Color,” and for the dancers, it was an honor to emulate the show’s iconic Fly Girls. “The set looked just like the show and the costumes were amazing. It felt like the real thing!” says Capitulé.

Tips for Living Room Dreamers

Ready to take your moves to the small screen? Capitulé recommends getting familiar with being in front of a camera (creating dance videos with your friends is a good place to start) and auditioning as much as possible, so that you get used to performing under pressure. “You have to be able to learn quickly in rehearsals, have a good memory to correct notes on the spot, and your dancing has to be on point whether it’s 4 p.m. or 4 a.m.,” Capitulé says.