Lockdown has been stultifying and depressing in its sludgy predictability for many of us – but for others, it has proved uniquely creatively fulfilling. Take Parris Goebel, who spent two months earlier this year working with Rihanna on the next instalment of the fashion mogul’s ground-breaking Savage x Fenty show concept.
Airing on 2 October on Amazon Prime, it’s the most keenly anticipated fashion show of the month, promising to reboot a spring/summer 2021 season that has been largely defined by playing-it-safe collections and lacklustre presentation formats. Here, the New Zealand choreographer and hip hop dancer behind some of Rihanna’s most epic entertainment moments talks to British Vogue about how the show came together under difficult circumstances, and why it’s poised to move the dial on diversity and inclusion once again.
How do you follow up such a success like the first Savage x Fenty show?
When it comes to breaking the rules and destroying the stereotypes in fashion our work is never done. When you’re working with such a fearless boss like Rih, who has such a powerful message, it’s easy to find inspiration and new ways to empower the world. I also think creating this in such a dark time inspired us all to create a show that would make people smile and feel good.
What did you want to achieve with the choreography this time around? What were your references?
This is my third time creating for the Savage show and every year I approach the project from an extremely personal place. I feel my work is most powerful when I can share stories from my own journey and the amazing dancers that I work with. This year, I wanted to push the envelope and show the different sides to a savage, from strong and sexy to vulnerable and curious. We had the time and space to create more intimate moments with the amazing cast and I think that makes this show extra special. I hope anyone that gets to experience the Savage show will walk away feeling uplifted and empowered to really love themselves unapologetically.
Goebel performing in the Savage x Fenty 2019 show.
© JP Yim
The casting is as incredible as always – what was it like working with people like Demi Moore and Paris Hilton, who aren’t trained dancers?
It was amazing and everyone was so sweet. My job is to make everyone feel comfortable and confident. It really is so much fun to be able to create special little moments with everyone. It’s always a collaboration.
Do you have a favourite vignette or moment in the show?
I would say my favourite overall scene is the “Garden” scene. To be able to create and share something so honest and free in a fashion show is truly beautiful. I wanted to express beauty, pain, and love all in one scene and I think you really feel that.
What was the most challenging element of working on this and filming during lockdown?
I would say having to dance and create with a mask on was extremely difficult. The dancers especially found it hard to breathe while dancing and they did such an amazing job pushing past that.
Diversity was a big talking point of the first show – and it feels even more urgent and important here. Do you think the first show helped to move the dial?
Absolutely. Rih just gets it. It’s never forced or over calculated, it’s just who she is and what she stands for. Everyone was so moved and excited by the first show because people all over the world, like myself, have been waiting to see themselves represented and celebrated in the fashion world.
What keeps you feeling fresh and excited about the future?
Love and art. Love keeps me grounded and art keeps my spirit free.
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