Brian Friedman’s Twitter profile reads:
“I’m a workaholic with a severe passion for the arts, love, food & fashion… Get into it!”
Inspired words from one of the greatest commercial choreographers of our time!
Brian is the US-based Director and Choreographer to Celebrities such as Britney Spears, Beyonce Knowles, Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber, who has successfully transitioned to the roles of Creative Director on The X Factor UK and Creative Director/Producer of America’s Got Talent.
I had a chance to Skype with Brian not long ago and follow his journey from Dancer to Choreographer, Creative Director and now Director and Producer. Brian also shared some very exciting news about a number of personal projects he is currently working on.
ENJOY DANCELIFERS! …
What are you up to at the moment? You’ve been working with America’s Got Talent and X-Factor, are you still doing that?
“I actually have taken a year off from America’s Got Talent, with their move to the East Coast, I decided not to go. I wanted to stay on my side of the world and enjoy life. So that is what i would normally be doing right now, so it’s unusual to have the time off. It’s something I’ve never really experienced. I get to be a normal person and do activities that ‘normal’ people get to do. I’m really enjoying it!”
What are your projects at the moment? Are you doing anything in particular?
“Yes! I’m working on my clothing line which I have had on the back burner for several years. I see my clothing, not just for dancers, but for everyone. The line will be out this winter.
“I’m also finishing up working on my app which is another project I had to put on hold due to my work load. I’m aiming for a winter release. It’s the first ever interactive dance app that actually trains you, not just in dance but it gives all the tools dancer’s and non dancers need to have healthy and strong bodies for any physical activity”.
Have you been choreographing for any Celebs lately?
”I just finished working with “Justin Bieber” and “The Wanted”. I had a great time working with Justin… 3 months of madness! We toured the world and he performed in 14 countries in a matter of 2 weeks! It’s amazing how big he actually is around the world. It was a bit of a shock because I was older when he became famous and I guess you don’t really pay much attention to the younger stars when you’re older, they can creep up on you. For me it was reminiscent of Britney Spears. I was there watching her fame grow so it wasn’t a surprise how big she got. Now, Justin just came up out of nowhere, but he is definitely here to stay”.
What is Justin Bieber like as a person?
“He is very talented but he is after all just an 18 year old boy. He acts his age and loves to joke around. He’s trying to balance that and his career which he is doing very well”.
You’ve gone from being a Dancer, to Choreographer to Director & Producer – how did you make that leap?
“When I was a younger dancer, I wouldn’t accept being told that I was ‘just a dancer’ – even though in fact I WAS just a dancer. I thought that dancers were always so much more and thought that they deserved a lot more respect, they were the SPARKLE in every production, what made it better – and I felt like they were treated like they were at the bottom of the totem pole. So for me it was always my ambition to be noticed and recognised which helped propel me and transition into choreography a lot easier. I was not a quiet ‘fly on the wall’ type of dancer. And before social media took over I was always very good in marketing and networking and making my branding known so people knew who I was.
“I landed a job on So You Think You Can Dance when it started in the US for the first couple of years and it was, I think, being on that show which opened up doors for me as a visible celebrity choreographer. That got me other auditions and I was called in by Simon Cowell to do a show of his in the UK where I was judging a singing competition. After judging that show I was offered a position judging the X-Factor in the UK.
“From that came the Creative Director / Choreographer position on the show which had never really been done before. Creative Directors were just used for the stage world, not for TV. It was new to bring someone on to say ‘we want you to change the aesthetic of the show’. For me it was a new challenge, having to come up with 12 to 16 different concepts per week – to have the weight of the show on your shoulders. There was really nothing to compare it to. They hadn’t done a show of that calibre. You would see it in award shows which was the kind of template that Simon wanted it to look like on X-Factor, but that’s normally 15 or so different people coming together with two weeks rehearsal period whereas we had to do it in 4 days every week for 10 weeks; and I had to do it alone. So I learned a lot during that process as I was going about production and being in the TV world and producing for reality TV.
“After years of doing that, they offered me the job on America’s Got Talent to come in as Creative Director and the only way I would do it was if I came on as Producer as well. So that’s how I came to be in that world and working behind the scenes as a producer on TV.
“So I think ‘Never stay in a box’ would be my advice. Always think ‘where is the next place I can go’ and setting your sights on something and not giving up until you get it. Walking through doors you didn’t necessarily know you wanted to walk through!”
Do you follow any Aussie choreographers?
“We’ve never met, but I know Marko Panzic through social media – we both follow each other on Twitter and Instagram and he posts videos to show to me and I do the same. I love it because I LOVE his work and it’s great to be connected to people all over the world that are like-minded.”
Your clothing line is due out soon – is everything designed and ready to go?
“Yes, we’re now in “sample-mode.” We’re about to get the samples made and test out fabric and iron out all of the issues that may arise and if all is said and done we’re going to get the clothes out there in small doses. But yes, everything is designed.”
Is the line for male, female or unisex?
“There are a lot of unisex pieces but there’s also stuff designed specifically for a man and a woman. It’s all dance-able. The fabrics are moveable/breathable/stretchable … but if someone wants to rock a great pair of heels and layer the pieces and mix ‘n’ match, they can, being that they’re all interchangeable. They can work for evening or day wear. Dancers don’t necessarily get the option to wear fabulous clothes when they’re dancing. I want the technical dancer to put on my clothing, feel fabulous, look amazing and still be able to dance and not hinder their movement.”
Do you have any plans to come to Australia?
“I haven’t been to Australia since about 2001or 2002. I was there with Britney Spears – she was doing a tour that I choreographed – but that was the last time I was there. I would love to come back … it just hasn’t been the right timing I guess. You know, I’ve been working in TV now for almost 7 years…it tends to consume my life. This would have been the time right now to go but I’m enjoying being at home.”
Brian’s projects are due to hit the market in the Australian Summer … WATCH THIS SPACE FOR UPDATES ON THE LAUNCH OF HIS FASHION WEAR AND NEW APP!