Think all those shimmies and dance moves you see at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show just happen? Think again. The movements behind the world's most famous catwalk come courtesy of Jermaine Browne, who has worked with brand for the last eight years. Browne, who got his big break courtesy of "mentor" Darren Henson of Darren's Dance Grooves fame, recently stepped beyond the sparkle runway to choreograph a new short film, helmed by director Lucia Martinez, which explore the artful side of pole dancing, debuting exclusively on W.
"When I first thought of this film my main goal was to incorporate pole dancing as an art form, such as other dance routine," says Martinez. "I wanted to mix the most artistic side of pole dancing by collaborating with America’s pole art champion and bringing one of the most successful dance and fashion choreographers such as Jermaine, to create something unique together. My inspiration has been women and the woman’s body and how we are seen in certain circumstances. Sometimes because of the beauty and sexiness of our bodies we are portrayed as objects however with this film I wanted to empower women to feel proud for who they are and what they do."
Here, Browne talks about the project, as well as working with Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, and more.
When did you first become interested in pursuing dance?
When I was in school, I was in a talent show that they have every year and that kind of sparked my interest, but I always used to dance around my house, though I didn’t know that I was going to be a dancer. One day, a friend of mine was auditioning for a TV show, and he said I should come with, so I auditioned and got it, and he didn’t. After that, I met a guy named Darren Henson who choreographed a lot of stuff for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and ‘Nsync. He became my mentor and I started studying with him, and he got me choreograph for Christina Aguilera, so I choreographed “Genie In A Bottle” and her first tour. From that, different things started happening.
How does fashion factor into your job as a choreographer?
I love fashion. Dance is an expression, it’s my voice; and I think some people would say that fashion is the same thing. The lines are very much intertwined. One of the favorite works that I’ve done was the Move fashion film for Rachel Roy, which won words at the La Jolla Film Festival. It was not about the fashion or the dance, but the feeling that you get from wearing a certain garment.
How did you first get started working with Victoria’s Secret?
I actually started as a dancer. I think the performer was Shaggy - it was years ago. We basically had to go on stage, put down chairs, and leave the stage. I remember being in Mexico a year later, watching it, and it just cuts straight to the chair. My whole dream of being seen on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was cut. A few years later, a colleague of mine was choreographing and he was looking for someone who understood the pop genre, because he had to choreograph “Sexyback” for Justin Timberlake. As we were working, I was like, “Thank you so much for having me as your assistant,” and he said, “You aren’t my assistant, you’re the co-choreographer.”
That is incredible. Do you work with the Angels directly, as well?
I don’t show them how to walk; those girls certainly know how to walk. But, if someone has to interact with a singer or do a little dance, then I would help to choreograph how that would look. If there’s something special beyond just walking, or some intricate staging, then I’m called in to be a part of that.
What have been some of your favorite moments?
I loved when Katy Perry was on. That was a really nice moment. And when Behati [Prinsloo] opened the show, that was another favorite. Last year, in Paris, there were so many great moments. Seeing Bruno Mars take the stage, and when Gaga performed that first number, which was so emotional and elegant. She’s so professional and such a warm person to work with; you’d think someone of her stature would be a little diva-ish, but she was nothing like that. And of course, hanging out with the girls backstage, those are great moments.
Tell me about this pole dancing video. How did it come about?
Lucia e-mailed me, and told me the idea of this film. She wanted to do something with pole and make it fashion… I wanted to make [the dancing] about graphic shapes, which is what Lucia wanted, as well. I wanted to make these two girls look almost mannequin, doll-ish. They have moments of looking feminine and sexy, but its not driven by that. It’s about the interesting colors of black and white, their body shades, the fact that their hair is cut exactly the same. It’s about the timing of the moment. You have these beautiful girls doing pole, and it becomes about the athleticism on pole and the artistry of the pole. All of that together really interested me.
Did you have any prior misconceptions about pole-dancing before doing the video?
I knew that it’s a lot harder than people think. I’ve learned that it's very physical. There are a lot of counts of balancing, and tricks about the technique of how to hold yourself. It’s very interesting. I believe there is a possibility of doing something really elegant with pole. Some people still have this stereotype that it's this or that, but it's all about the approach.