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Home » 2 - Winter 06, DANCE, MUSIC

Smooth Operator: Choreographer Marty Kudelka

Submitted by on 19 Nov 2006 – 7:08 PM Comments
Marty KudelkaWhen the 2006 VMAs opened at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in early September, all eyes were on Justin Timberlake. He was gliding across the floor with precision and ease, riding the beat to his new single “My Love.” With contemporary flow and freestyle urgency, Timberlake hypnotized the audience. He has once again teamed up with choreographer Marty Kudelka, 32, to help make his performance nice and smooth. Kudelka has worked with everyone from Michael and Janet Jackson to Pink, Jennifer Lopez, and Christina Milian. This Dallas native, who now resides in LA, was always moving as a kid, playing basketball, football, BMX, and skateboarding. But it was the 1984 film Breakin’ which inspired him to become a dancer. We caught up with Kudelka, on the verge of choreographing and staging Justin Timberlake’s latest project, to see what keeps this freestyle king moving and grooving.

You’ve worked with some of the biggest stars in the world, what’s that like?

It’s cool. I never thought ahead of time, ‘Oh this is what I want to do, choreograph for celebrities.’ I think that’s what plays into what I do now. I’ve had great artists to work for and I’ve had artists like ‘Wow, I wish I would have never met this person.’ When people ask me who the best person I’ve ever worked for, I’d have to say Justin. He’s such an artist himself, who can sing, dance, produce, and everything else. I don’t have to water my choreography down. I can teach him what I teach the best dancers in the world. And he can do it. He’s the only person I’ve been able to do that with. That’s like a dream come true.

What can we expect from Justin this time around?

We are trying to be creative about the tour coming up. The tour is going to be a little bit more grown-up, which is how the album is. He’s becoming more of an artist instead of just a dancer. The music is insane. This album is going to be like Off the Wall. It’s the closest album that I can compare to that. You can listen to the whole album straight through. There may be a little less dancing on the tour, but the dancing that exists will be a lot more special. I’m excited to see it.

When you say less dancing and more special, what does that mean?

We just shot the video for the second single “My Love.” It’s going to be insane. It’s so simplistic, but it has so much stuff in it. It’s going to be really cool. People heard “SexyBack” and they didn’t like it at first, and then the video came out and they expected to see dancing. I loved it at first, but now I really love it after hearing it a billion times. (laughs) But once “My Love” comes out, I think everyone is going to forget everything else. This is what they want to hear and this is what they want to see.

You really choreograph for the music versus just creating a routine. What’s more important, the music or the moves?

I am inspired by some other dancers like Swoop and Rob Vincent, and some other people when I was coming up freestylin’. I would see them freestylin’ and they would do the song better than anyone. Better than someone doing steps and tricks. These guys knew the song so well. I was like “Wow, this is so cool.” I started doing that with choreography rather than freestylin’. Whether I’m in the studio with the artist or not, I study the song. I listened to “My Love” for almost three weeks before I ever choreographed one step to it. That’s one thing that I am confident enough to know that I bring to the table, compared to other choreographers. I will never ever just say, “Okay, I’m gonna make up a routine and put it to this song.” I’m the most humble guy in the world, but that is my strong point. I try to dissect the music. We dance because we like the music. I may as well know it as good as the artist. It’s just about the music.

Your choreography is very subtle. It’s almost like the dancers are hovering and gliding. How would you describe your style?

That’s just my style, which is about being smooth, floating almost. Other people might be funky or might be harder or sharper, cracking their neck all over the place. If I were to put on a song and freestyle myself, I think it’s more smooth, which gives it that floating feel. When I look for dancers, they don’t have to dance just like me, but I definitely need for them at some point to be smooth and floating. That’s how a majority of the choreography will be.

Who inspires you and your choreography?

There are people who tell me that I inspire a whole movement with my choreography, which is insane for me to think. But there are definitely people who I look at who are like my proteges, these 17-, 18-, or 19-year old choreographers who are insane. When I see them, I see some touches of what I would have done or that my peers would have done, but these guys are taking it to the next level. There is definitely so much style and they’re adding the technical aspects like four pirouettes into some breaking shit. It’s insane to me because they have the musicality as well. I could be inspired by someone walking down the street or a go-go dancer. It’s about their swagger. Anybody who’s dope, I want to see them.

Interview by Emil Wilbekin for movmnt magazine

First published in movmnt magazine “Army of Me” Winter 2006 issue

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  1. DANCERIFFIC.COM --- a dancer's blog and resource website. » Blog Archive » Featured Choreographer: Marty Kudelka says:

    [...] Found a 2006 interview on movmnt.com: http://www.movmnt.com/smooth-operator-marty-kudelka_0025.html [...]