A couple of years ago, when choreographer A’Drey Vinogradov heard the song “Clearest Blue” by Scottish synth-pop band CHVRCHES, he had images in his head of a group of young people hanging out, living their best life, having fun, being carefree, falling in love and just dancing. But that vision took a backseat. When Drew Phillip and Jenna Lyn of Celebrity Dance reached out to A’Drey to choreograph a project for their 2017 Senior Celebrity Crew, however, A’Drey didn’t think twice. And in just two days’ work (and in some hot Phoenix, Arizona, weather), the completely fun, dancey “Clearest Blue” music video was made.
“We ended up having so much fun creating it,” A’Drey reflects. “We had six hours of rehearsals to put a two-and-a-half-minute project together. Usually I like to ‘sit’ on a piece for a little while, just to see if I like how everything looks or I want to change or tweak things. But I knew I didn’t have that luxury going into this project, so I came with the full layout, choreography, formations ready so we could just focus on getting the style and the mood of the video right. When we dove into learning the first section of choreography, I think dancers’ initial reaction was something like, ‘What did we get ourselves into?’ I think they didn’t expect to move in the ways I asked them to, to twist their bodies, executing all these grooves and technical elements, while still dancing full out and being clean with the choreography, but they definitely rose to the challenge.”
In sync with the style of the CHVRCHES’ song, the dancers were dressed in ‘80s garb – high ponytails, neon colors, denim jackets, nylon track suits, high top sneakers. And the choreography was not only fun but also technical. They move with expressive arms, drop to the floor, spin and find a fifth position.
Perhaps it’s reflective of A’Drey’s own style and background. The choreographer, who grew up in a small town in The Urals Region of Russia, started dancing at eight years of age, training in mostly ballet, Russian folk and jazz. He admits he felt a bit confined in these very technical styles, but when his school hired modern choreographer Sergey Moiseev to set a piece on the students, A’Drey became enthralled by the artistic freedom the movement offered to the dancers.
“The whole thing looked so poetic,” he recalls. “It almost felt like we as dancers were ‘painting’ this beautiful vision on a stage with our bodies. After that experience, I got involved more and more with learning as much as I could about modern and contemporary dance.”
A’Drey says he was also influenced by the “MTV” era of music video dancing and would memorize choreography in videos by Paula Abdul, Tina Landon, Hi-Hat and Andre Fuentes. But even though this new way of moving seemed to spark something inside of him, A’Drey does say he believes his love of precision and clean movement, such as that seen in his “Clearest Blue” video, comes from his background in classical ballet and Russian folk dancing.
Today, he calls his choreographic style “contemporary fusion” but says that “you never know what you’re going to get when I’m creating. I create one piece and it’s very groovy, fluid and smooth; then I get to the next one and it is very aggressive, sharp and clean in delivery. But that flexibility of the style is what excites me the most – not having creative and technical boundaries.”
For “Clearest Blue”, A’Drey chose four different locations in which to shoot the dancers – places where kids would hang out, such as stadium bleachers, a skate park and an open warehouse ideal for a big group dance. Although he and the Celebrity Crew dancers were outside for four to five hours in blazing heat, dancing up a storm, A’Drey says the dancers rose to the challenge and faced the video shoot as an important learning experience.
“I didn’t hear one complaint from any of them,” he says, “and they were just dancing their heart out take after take. It was very important to me that even though we were creating something very specific and we had our deadlines, we would still have fun with it and enjoy the whole process. The great thing about all of the challenges was that the dancers got this very special experience that hopefully helped them realize what is required of them, as professional dancers, at times while on a job. You’re going to learn choreography very quickly and be expected to deliver it in the best way possible. You are not going to be comfortable all the time or dance in a studio with AC blasting. You never know what a project is going to require of you, so as a dancer, you should be able to take that experience and apply it to your future gigs.”
A’Drey adds that Celebrity Dance imparts a sense of family to its programs and the faculty, dancers and staff involved. “It feels like you are a part of this very special creative community in which everybody is so incredibly passionate about dance and, at the same time, so appreciative and supportive of each other, no matter how different we are,” he shares. “And that is an amazing environment to work in.”
Aside from his work with Celebrity Dance, A’Drey, who is currently based in LA, recently joined the faculty at Millenium Dance Complex, where he teaches his Contemporary Fusion class each Thursday. He is also working toward an idea for a visual dance installation in which the audience becomes a part of the piece. And with a newfound passion of directing and storytelling, he hopes to create more dance videos in the near future.
In other words, A’Drey is feeling inspired and making moves.
“I just want to dance and create as much as humanly possible,” A’Drey says. “That’s why I appreciate and give my all to every opportunity that comes my way, whether it is to create a visual or teach a workshop, mentor one dancer or perform in a music video. It doesn’t matter to me. With all the amount of work that I’ve done here in America and abroad, I am still considered an ‘up-and-comer’ in the industry, but I love that because it gives me drive to go for larger scale, more ambitious projects. So every time I’m done with one project, I automatically start thinking what’s next and how I can make the next one better. I don’t give myself even one day of rest, and I’m planning on staying that way.”
View A’Drey Vinogradov’s collaboration with Celebrity Crew in the “Clearest Blue” music video below.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.