Beyonce, the triple-threat singer-dancer-actress whose music videos and Super Bowl halftime shows can rock an audience, has her own style and signature moves. Isolate them, imitate them, use them for inspiration. Beyonce's choreography may be one-of-a-kind, but everybody's doing it - and so can you!
Run the World (Girls)
The video for Run the World (Girls) collects the best of Beyonce in choreography from many of her earlier music videos, blended with major attitude and a strong narrative. Master these shakes and shrugs and you'll be killing it on the dance floor.
- Start at the top: the Head Toss takes several forms. It works most dramatically with long loose hair that whips around to the beat. Put your hands on your hips, toss your head from side to side, dipping forward at the low point of the arc, and "hop" your shoulders up and down to the music as you do it.
- The Overhead Fist Pump is pure girl power. Face front, place your weight on your left leg, left hand on left hip, relax your knees, and open and close your legs, touching knees together. Push your free leg far open to the side each time as you thrust your right arm overhead with a clenched fist.
- The Bust Thrust is exactly what it sounds like. Pop your chest forward sharply on the beat. This is often combined with a Double Sidestep or performed in profile for greater impact.
- The Double Sidestep is on-beat, foot-stomping, knee-knocking, butt and bust thrusting that gets the entire body in explosive motion with powerful popping moves synced to the percussion.
- The Booty Roll is a snake-like curving move that starts at the shoulders and ripples down the torso in an "S" curve. It essentially combines a bust thrust with a booty and pelvic thrust. It's harder than it looks.
- The Spread Eagle is where things really get physical. This is a wide-legged squat with the knees fanning in and out while the torso is upright and lowered close to the floor. Try it only if you are in peak form - it's a thigh-killer.
- The Gyration is a wide-legged, bent-knee pelvic isolation in which the weight shifts back and forth sideways as the hips make exaggerated circles. Add loose arms, clenched fists and shoulder shrugs for attitude.
- The Sashay is a bit Fosse with a lot of sass. One hand sits on the waist, thumb front, fingers and elbow pointing back. The other elbow is bent at the waist, wrist bent with palm flat down. The body weight shifts from leg to leg with strongly exaggerated pelvic thrusts to the side at each shift. As the weight shifts the knee straightens on the weight-bearing side and the toes swivel in to create a slight pigeon-toed effect. Hair toss optional.
- The Air Kick is a low jump, landing with soft knees, weight on one foot, the other foot rapidly tapping behind, then rising in an explosive double kick to the side before touching down. The air kick is typically part of an in-place march.
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) won the 2009 Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song. The spare black-and-white music video is a classic: three dancers, six main moves, lots of J-Setting with its pop-locking arms, and iconic Beyonce sass.
J-Setting, the dance form developed in the 1970s by majorettes at Jackson State University in Mississippi, went viral in this video, which uses many of the iconic J-Setting moves. The choreography is a kind of mash-up of hip-hop, crumping, ballet and jazz that blends easily into Beyonce's signature style.
Many of the moves here are based on or the same as the ones found in Run the World (Girls). Look for the following moves in the official Single Ladies video:
- Beyonce's powerful Fist Pump
- The Head Flip ("hairography" that takes some expertise to avoid dancing with a face full of long locks)
- The Spank (smack your booty)
- The Hip Shake (like the Booty Shake, only from side to side)
- The Pussy Cat Crouch (a sideways squat with mad swivel hips)
- The Pump Walk (a forward-tilted, head-down race walk in heels with pumped fists)
Beyonce toned down the lyrics and turned Formation into a killer routine that rocked the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime Show. She put all her favorite moves on display. From twerking to head tossing to a thigh-defying deep full squat and hop backwards, the choreography is pure, heart-pumping hip-hop with attitude.
Some tutting is incorporated into this routine, using 90-degree arm angles, overhead pyramids with palms touching and head wagging from side to side, and the bent-elbow, palms-up, open-armed pharaoh pose copied from Egyptian tomb paintings. Tutting segments shift smoothly into sexy hip-hop, with feet planted wide on the floor for added grounding and strength.
The official NFL video for the 2016 Halftime Show is available to view directly on YouTube, so watch it there and dance along with Beyonce and her ladies.
Love on Top
Love on Top features Beyonce and her back-up male dancers tailoring some classic jazz moves. Here are the opening moves from the music video.
- For Snap Isolations, start your own session with wide legs, facing away from your audience or partner, arms long and strong down at your sides. On the beat, isolate a hip move from side to side by bending your right knee, raising it slightly and then stepping down, knee straightened, as you bring your right arm across your body and fling it out to the side, snapping your fingers.
- To Pivot towards your partner or audience, step back with the right leg, swiveling around on the left foot, arms straight at your sides. Jump lightly, landing on the left foot, left knee bent, right foot flexed, tapping the ground behind you. At the same time, raise your right shoulder, elbow bent, arm across your chest, palm up, and open the left arm out to the left side. Your head looks and tilts in the direction your arms are pointing. Your torso will naturally curve left to accommodate the move.
- Then Move It Up by flinging your right arm up and wide, facing front, circling your right hand overhead, and begin stepping calypso-style as you move forward. Freestyle your arms to make it personal. Here's the simple trick to rock the move: On each step forward, bend the knee and lift the back leg, tapping the toes once on the floor. On the toe-tap, swivel your weight-bearing front foot once from side-to-side. Then fling the back foot forward for the next step, almost a tiny kick, setting the heel down first and pushing through to land the whole foot on the floor as you begin to bend the other leg and repeat the sequence. It sounds complicated, but it's really just rhythm and muscle memory. Once you get the hang of it, you can do it without thinking, bouncy and sassy.
Where'd She Learn to Shake That Thing?
Beyonce was a shy kid growing up in Houston, Texas. When she was seven her parents signed her up for a dance class, hoping she would make friends. Instead, she blew everyone away with her onstage exuberance. From then on, Beyonce studied dance and sang with girl groups, most notably Destiny's Child. Destiny's Child made her a star but going solo made her a superstar.
Her debut solo album Dangerously in Love featured chart-topping hip-hop dance tracks that got everybody out on the dance floor. She's spawned an industry of Beyonce dance and exercise classes and features danceable moves in her music videos for every new album. Beyonce works out daily to stay in shape for grueling rehearsals and routines. She collaborates with several choreographers for her new releases and world tours, mixing hip-hop with elements of African traditional dance, blues and funk.
Watch and Learn
Beyonce is one singular sensation but her boss moves and girl-power style make any club scene or dance party a shake-your-booty challenge. You need to be fit to pull off a Beyonce routine: there is some cardio in that choreography! But close observation of her many videos, and enough practice to coordinate the shoulder shrugs and the sexy squats, can put you in the game. Most of the moves get repeat action in her new videos. Once you master a single dance, you can freestyle it into your own original dance-floor cover.