interview | sean bankhead

handpainted coat. ANNAKIKI
shoes. Angela Mitchell
armas choker. Karo Koru
socks. Falke

In recent years Sean Bankhead’s choreography has been a part of multiple viral moments, gaining a reputation for infectious routines you can’t help but attempt —while contributing to the replay factor of many of your favourite music videos. Although the general public began to sit up and take note of the director/creative director in 2022, “that’s when the world really started to notice my talents,” Bankhead is anything but an overnight success.

With a work ethic that has seen the choreographer go from viral passion projects to creating choreography for legends like Missy Elliot, Schön! talks to Bankhead about the drive behind pursuing his goals, going viral, performing with Usher at the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show and more.

full look. AMIRI
armas choker + flower sulo brooch. Karo Koru

Over the past few years your name has pretty much been cemented in pop culture, but how would you describe what you do to someone who is completely new to your world? 

I believe my recent contributions to pop culture have brought the same excitement you used to feel as a young adult fan of music, when pop culture, pop stars, and especially music videos and performances were magnificent spectacles. People have told me I remind them of the nostalgia from those years that inspired me as a kid. I aim to bring that very same feeling, work ethic, and energy to all the projects I create today.

Tell us how you got started 

Like many artists and musicians, I got my start in church. I was always creative, playing instruments and wanting to create shows with my brother and cousins. In high school, I was the captain of my dance and step team and played on the drum line in the band. Eventually, I started my own YouTube channel back when there weren’t many choreographers making a name for themselves there. Everything took off after I created several viral dance videos, which surprisingly made me a household name all over the world.

shirt + shorts. Versace
shoes. Angela Mitchell
leather cowboy hat. Alabama Blonde
socks. Falke

We watched a throwback video clip where you seem to predict your current career — where would you say this drive to meet your goals has come from, and how has it been watching yourself hit milestone after milestone? 

That’s a great question because I never imagined this would actually be my reality. However, I’ve learned the power of words and that with hard work and faith, you can achieve anything you speak and write about. I was always ambitious, but unfortunately, it stemmed from a desire to prove my talent to those who didn’t believe in me. Once I started setting goals, I took off running as fast as I could and never looked back. This year, I’ve slowed down tremendously and have begun to appreciate the recognition I’ve received, sitting proudly in what I’ve accomplished over the past two decades.

Speaking of milestones, you performed with Usher at the 2024 Super Bowl, you mentioned it was a great experience to be on the other side of the table and getting to dance someone else’s choreography – can we look forward to seeing you do more performances like this?

[Laughs] Definitely not! I have gladly retired my dance shoes. I much prefer creating the vision now. I’m not conditioned like that anymore! The only person who could bring me out of retirement is Janet…*fingers crossed*

How would you describe your signature dance style?

People always ask me this, and it’s hard to put a name to it or fully describe it. I think others can pinpoint my style as soon as my videos start. There’s always a level of groove that permeates the entire piece of choreography. This, combined with my musicality and how I dance through musical “isms” I hear, creates a unique flow. I also create my own musicality within the pockets of the music. I’ve heard it also just looks really cool and fun to try to do.

overcoat. BTFL Studio
orange blazer suit. Byblos
shoes. Angela Mitchell
belt. Uniqlo
suit. Brooks Brothers
shirt. Eton Shirts
shoes. Angela Mitchell
glasses. Elisa Johnson
tie. Stile Latino Napoli
rings. Pyrrha

Your choreography has been a part of so many viral moments, what has it been like being pushed into the spotlight while doing a job that is usually behind the cameras? 

I’m not going to lie, it was very surreal and uncomfortable at first. I felt safe and protected behind the camera and was content in that position. But when my voice started going viral for how I would scream and hype up the dancers and artists on set, it turned into something completely different. Lightning hardly strikes more than once in the same spot; you don’t go viral repeatedly without it being a sign that maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing — being more in front of the camera. Allowing the choreographer to be just as popular and known as the dancers and artists I work with now feels like a dream

You’ve worked with a lot of big artists, which usually means a lot of stakeholders involved. How do you keep a balance between the creative nature of your work, alongside the business side of things? 

That is the hardest part of being a choreographer. Believe me, the higher you go and the more artists and jobs you juggle, the more challenging it becomes to focus solely on being creative. I’ve learned a lot and always try my best not to let my ego interfere with what I’ve been blessed to do. Talent is one thing, but if your business isn’t handled properly, you lose the platform to continue being great. You risk muddying your name in the industry, which can damage your chances of maintaining your momentum and reputation. It’s a test that not a lot of people pass.

How do you keep yourself inspired in regards to new choreography? 

As long as the music is funky, I’ll always be inspired. As long as I have a cast of phenomenal dancers, I’ll always be inspired. As long as I work with artists and teams that allow me to just do my thing, I’ll always be inspired. After doing this for almost 20 years, I can confidently say that the easy part for me has always been to just dance.

hollywood nights kimono. Henelle
shoes. Angela Mitchell
necklace. Alejandra de Coss
socks. Falke

TikTok has become synonymous with dancing through dance challenges, how would you say TikTok has affected your industry/the dance community? 

I’ve always said it’s been a blessing and a curse. During the pandemic, the world saw just how important and viral dance was to the music industry and social media. However, the ‘TikTok” style of dance wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly challenging, especially when compared to real dancers who have trained in various styles for years. It can be disheartening to see simple arm movements go viral while more complex routines are overlooked. I’m fortunate to say that most of my dances that have gone viral are more challenging, and I believe they help keep the art of well-choreographed routines alive. This isn’t to throw shade at those just having fun on the app, but we need to remember that great choreography still exists

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a professional dancer? 

Do you, eyes on your own paper. Create your own lane. It’s ok to see what others are doing but make sure to follow your vision, style, and gut and create the art that’s missing… not art that already exists. Work harder every day towards your dreams. Even if you don’t see things changing or advancing yet, they will. Sometimes it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.

What is your go-to outfit to teach/train in? 

All black, it makes me feel slim and sexy…lol

What can we find you wearing when you’re off-duty? 

In my everyday life, I’m quite the bum. Because I’m always ‘on’ around so much Hollywood life, celebrities, and being in front of the camera, I prefer to be lazy, cosy, and comfortable in my dressing when I’m off.

trousers. Lee Jeans
armas choker + flower sulo brooch. Karo Koru
overcoat. BTFL Studio
orange blazer suit. Byblos

If you had to choose, what would you say are the three standout moments in your career so far? 

I’ve had so many memorable moments, but 2022 stands out as a huge year for me creatively. That’s when the world really started to notice my talents, and everything I produced that year was high-level choreography. Another highlight was choreographing Missy Elliott’s performance for the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Anyone who has known me since I was a kid knows how much Missy’s music videos and music inspired my groove, pocket, and creativity. Working hard enough to come full circle and pay tribute to her at the VMAs was an absolute dream. 

Another significant moment, though I don’t speak about it as much, was choreographing my viral YouTube video to Who Run the World.” That video changed the landscape and trajectory for dancers and emerging choreographers who couldn’t break into the industry. It became a blueprint for getting themselves noticed, and dancers are still using that formula today.

You’ve mentioned that you’re looking forward to dedicating more time and energy to yourself this year, what does that look like and can you share any projects we can look out for?

Saying no has been amazing. It looks like setting boundaries and prioritising my well-being and creative vision. By the time this interview comes out, I’m sure the world will have already seen Victoria Monét’s new music video for “Alright,” which I choreographed. I couldn’t be more proud of it!

shirt + shorts. Aknvas
shoes. Angela Mitchell
socks. FALKE

photography. Ben Duggan
fashion. Karolina Frechowicz
talent. Sean Bankhead
grooming. Shideh Kafei
photography assistant. Dawn Lu
location. The Ivory Space
interview. Jade Thompson

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