Wherever there is a pop diva performing, chances are Jamie King is backstage.
A choreographer by trade, King has become the go-to guy for many artists including Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Brittany Spears. And it’s not just dance lessons they want but rather the multihyphenate’s direction for their live performances and videos.
In recent years, King has outgrown his dance shoes and morphed into the Jerry Bruckheimer of tentpole concert tours. Under King’s eye, Madonna’s latest tour, Confessions, racked up $200 million worldwide, outstripping his previous Material Girl gig, 2004’s Re-Invention ($125 million), and set an all-time high for a female touring artist.
King’s other tour helming credits include Aguilera’s Stripped, Brittany Spears’ Oops I Did It Again, Ricky Martin’s La Vida Loca and Pink’s Try This. He’s now in the midst of Aguilera’s old-school Back to Basics tour, in addition to being the maestro behind the upcoming jaunt by Rain, Korea’s biggest pop star.
What makes King highly coveted is his ability to project the essence of personalities who tend to be larger than life, giving them a human scale amid all the high-octane glitz and theatrics.
The fluid motion of musicians, screens and dancers onstage is inspired by King’s dancing roots. His style can be overt, even controversial — Madonna sacrificing herself on a disco cross for African AIDS victims in Confessions — or stripped bare, as with Aguilera capping her Stripped show with the ballad “Beautiful” sans effects and dancers.
“The music and the storyline always lead me,” says King. “All I’m really doing is extracting from that artist who they are and showcasing it as well as the parts of their personality.”
King credits Debbie Allen and Prince, for whom he served as a backup dancer and eventual artistic director, as primary influences. His working relationship with Madonna spans 11 years.
“Labeling Jamie as a choreographer doesn’t do him justice,” says MTV entertainment prexy Brian Graden. “He thinks in three-dimensional entertainment. What Jamie does is theater.”