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The Man Who Gets Beyonce in Formation: How JaQuel Knight became Queen Bey's right-hand man.

They say your life can change in a moment. For JaQuel Knight, it took precisely three minutes and 18 seconds. That's how long three leotard and-high-heel-clad women spent on-screen, strutting in perfect unison and becoming an instant video sensation, one that would go on to garner more than 600 million views on YouTube.

The women, of course, were Ashley Everett and Ebony Williams--and Beyonce. The video was "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," and the co-choreographer was 19-year-old Knight, along with Frank Gatson Jr. "I went into that hoping it could be the gig of a lifetime," Knight says. "I knew it was my one big chance--'Don't screw it up,' I kept telling myself. I guess I played my cards right." Now, nearly 10 years later, Knight is one of the most sought-after choreographers in L.A.

That wasn't the plan, though: Knight, who grew up in Atlanta, hoped to become a professional dancer. He learned to move by watching TLC and MC Hammer videos, and started taking classes at 14. By 18, Knight had begun auditioning in L.A., where Gatson, Beyonce's longtime choreographer and creative director, spotted him. Although he didn't get the dance role, Gatson liked the way he moved and asked Knight to come up with some choreography. They worked together on a Michelle Williams gig, and a few months later Gatson called and said he had a job with Beyonce that he wanted Knight for immediately. "If Bey likes you, you'll stay. If not, we'll figure something else out for you," said Gatson. Knight flew to New York City that night--and Bey liked him, so he stayed.

After "Single Ladies," Knight was a choreographer for Beyonce's I Am ..., The Mrs. Carter Show and Formation world tours, plus many of her music videos, including her 2016 Lemonade visual album. "She knows what she wants to do and how she wants to present herself," he says. "We do our very best to make sure that vision happens for her."

If Beyonce and her dancers always look perfectly polished onstage, that's thanks in part to the star's desire to "always get it right," says Knight. "Our rehearsals are super-intense," he says. "We're very hard on the dancers because we have such a high bar to maintain. And when Beyonce comes in the room, the dynamic doesn't change much. She doesn't come in like, 'Okay, The Queen is here!' She's just hoppin' in with the dancers."

So what's next for Knight? He's interested in developing movie screenplays and television shows. "I want to bring back those big musicals--Sweet Charity, Chicago, West Side Story," he says. "And my first script is on its way!" He also wants to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at Beyonce's dancers--and what it's like working with the world's biggest superstar. But even when Beyonce is on hiatus, Knight isn't. "Downtime is just time thinking of the master plan."

What He Looks for in Dancers

"I see dancers the minute they walk into the room. I watch how they interact with everyone, and I see if they're respectful to my staff. I'm looking for heart, passion and fire. It's not so much about

Beyond Beyonce: When Beyonce is working on a tour, video or live performance, Knight is with her. But during Bey downtime, he has worked with Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Tinashe, Jennifer Hudson Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys. He has also choreographed for "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars," "American Idol" and "The X Factor UK," and is on faculty with the Monsters Dance hip-hop convention.--AF the steps--it's about making me a believer. Are you a great messenger? Am I having a good time watching you? I need dancers who are professional, people I can trust and put next to a superstar. I need you to uplift my client, whoever I'm working for at the moment."

Caption: Knight has been behind some of Beyonce's most talked-about videos and performances.

Caption: Knight at the BET Awards with Beyonce's dancers
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Title Annotation:your career: SMART MOVES
Author:Feller, Alison
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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