Fatima Robinson has choreographed everything from the Black Eyed Peas' recent world tour to performances in the award-winning film “Dreamgirls.” In her Guest DJ set, she talks about the music that inspired her to dance as a youngster and how that musical history influences stage shows across the world. Fatima also gives us a behind the scenes view of artists she’s worked with, like Michael Jackson’s particular way of counting beats to Sade’s effortless sensuality.
For More: /www.fatimarobinson.com
MS: Hi, I'm Mathieu Schreyer from KCRW and I'm here with choreographer and music video director, Fatima Robinson. She has choreographed everything from the performances in the movie, Dreamgirls, to the Black Eyed Peas' recent world tour. Today we will be playing excerpts of songs she's selected that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Fatima, what did you bring for us?
FR: The first song that I brought for you is Michael Jackson's "Rock With You". Because, I have to say, “Off The Wall” was the first time I saw an album and I was completely amazed by everything on the album -- the artwork, every song on the album. I can remember it playing in our apartment and I just remember staring at Michael and watching every music video intensely. And "Rock With You" was the song that kind of stayed with me.
FR: I always danced to Michael Jackson. I grew up with two younger sisters all over Los Angeles and my sisters and I would make up dance routines whenever my Mom would have guests over. I mean, there were moments of “Dreamgirls” where I felt like I was standing with my two sisters, making up a routine. It was really, really weird.
MS: Also, you got a chance to work with Michael on the "Remember The Time" video.
FR: I was 21 when I did that video, so it really set the precedent for my work ethic, in being around someone who was such a perfectionist and so great at the time. It was good.
MS: How was he really like in person? You got to work with him -- was he really just a normal person -- was he sweet or could you tell there was this kind of disconnection?
FR: No, he was really just a normal person, I mean, he listened to music in a different way. As a choreographer, you're so used to counting for an artist and Michael didn't like to count at all; he liked for you to kind of repeat the rhythm of a song. So, in a normal setting, I would count ‘Okay, here we go - 5-6-7-8 and 1-2-3-4,’ whereas Michael, he would like you to go, ‘Uhn-Ah-Uhn-Ah, Uhn-Ah-Uhn-Ah,’ and so you would dance to the rhythm of the song as opposed to counts because it made you feel the song more.
Song: Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”
MS: That was Michael Jackson "Rock With You." This is Mathieu Schreyer and I'm here with Fatima Robinson. What is your next song?
FR: I don't mean to drill the Jacksons into everybody's head, but it has to be the Jackson 5, "Can You Feel It."
MS: And there was a big difference between the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson?
FR: Well, I remember going to a concert for the first time, and I was going to Jackson 5. And now that I've put together concerts that are on that big of a scale…as a kid I remember the excitement of laying out my clothes a week before the concert, like sleeping on my bed and the clothes would still be on the side, you know? I remember getting dressed for the concert, I remember everything that I wore, to this day. And so I look around at kids at the concerts I do now, and I'm like ‘they probably do the same thing,’ and it's so crazy.
But, "Can You Feel It" was definitely… I mean, of course I was way, way, way, way up top …and when I am putting together a show and thinking about a show, I think about ‘how is this stage? And how can this performance affect that person who's way up there?,’ because that's where I used to be.
Song: Jackson 5’s “Can You Feel It”
MS: That was the Jackson 5, "Can You Feel It." This is Mathieu Schreyer and I am sitting here with Fatima Robinson. What's next in your crate?
FR: I'm going to go for Sade, "Love Is Stronger Than Pride." My mom listened to Sade a lot when I was growing up, so she was always in the house. Once I started looking at her videos… it was just so sensual and sexy, without trying. It wasn't contrived in any way.
MS: I know you worked with her, so how was it to work with her?
FR: She was probably the only artist I've ever worked with where I go ‘wow, I wish I could move like her.’ Instead of making them move like me.
Song: Sade’s “Love is Stronger Than Pride”
MS: Because all her songs are sexy and pretty much similar, why that song in particular? Does that song have a meaning?
FR: Love is stronger than pride -- I think that, as a kid, I didn't realize what that meant really. Later on, as an adult, I started to fall in love with men and have a few heartbreaks and things like that. I think that definitely, as a woman, you reach a point where you're in a relationship and I just remember being heartbroken and then listening to that song and going ‘wow, I know exactly what that means now,’ you know? So it was one of those things -- like I enjoyed the song as a teenager, but once I became an adult, it really resonated. I just…you know, you feel her pain in a way and you can tell that she's lived these stories that she's telling. They're from her heart.
MS: That was Sade "Love Is Stronger Than Pride." This is Mathieu Schreyer and I'm sitting here with Fatima Robinson. What's next?
FR: Next, I have Slick Rick's "Children's Story" because I remember listening to this song over and over and over and just really enjoying the storytelling behind his rap.
And I just love it, love it, love it and I have to say that "Children's Story" is just a song that, to this day when I hear it, it just reminds me of good times. It reminds me when I didn't know I was going to be a choreographer, that I just danced because I loved doing it, because my soul needed it. I feel like it's the kind of song that I'll listen to with my son in the car and be rapping every lyric and he's like, ‘Mom -- what are you doing? You're so corny!’ And I'm like, ‘Knock 'em out the box Rick, knock 'em out!’ And he's like, ‘Mom! Stop!!!’
Song: Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story”
MS: That was Slick Rick "Children's Story" and this is Mathieu Schreyer. I am here with Fatima Robinson. What is your last song?
FR: My last song is going to be from my favorite artist that I've ever worked with, and it is Aaliyah - "Rock The Boat."
FR: Yeah, this is a song that was Aaliyah's last music video that we all did together. And I remember her mother not really liking the song because of the subject matter. It was just -- it was a song that she loved and she felt like she was growing up and getting older and, you know, it was time for Mom to kinda cut the apron strings in a way, so it was like one of those. But we would always play this song. We loved the song. The video was a great experience and just working with Aaliyah was a wonderful experience.
Song: Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat”
MS: And this was "Rock The Boat" from Aaliyah and I'm Mathieu Schreyer, here with Fatima Robinson. For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject. Thank you very much.
FR: Thank you.