You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beyonce Will ‘Switch Up a Couple Things’ for Second Coachella Set, Dancer Says (EXCLUSIVE)

While Beyonce’s stunning performance at the Coachella festival last weekend took months of planning and rehearsals, one dancer says there will be some surprises in store for the singer’s forthcoming set Saturday during Coachella’s second weekend.

“Yeah, we’re switching up a couple things, so there could still be a wow factor,” teased Jo’Artis Mijo Ratti, who served as one of Beyonce’s dancers during her weekend-one performance.

Variety spoke exclusively with Ratti about preparations for the complex and meaning-laden performance and what it was like to work with Beyonce herself. (Note: While the first weekend’s performance was livestreamed, the second will not be, a YouTube rep confirmed. Presently there is no site legally streaming Beyonce’s performance, nor are there plans to re-air it, a rep for the singer told Variety.)

“She kills the moves just as hard as the best girl that’s doing the choreography,” Ratti, who has also worked with Madonna and Kelly Rowland (and was the first shirtless male dancer in Beyonce’s show’s middle segment), recalled of the rehearsals. “It makes everybody in the production as a whole want to step their game up.

“You can always tell when someone is prepared,” he continued. “We did like 10-to-14 hour days. That was very similar to the Madonna situation and really coming to work fully prepared to dance. Some jobs you might chill — craft services, read a book, hop on your phone — for a couple hours, but not while we were there [with Beyonce]. We were getting put to use with ideas, fitting, wardrobe, video blocking. It could be really overwhelming, but luckily, it wasn’t my first rodeo.” He also mentioned that Beyoncé’s “army of female dancers” were the best he had seen in his career.

The performance was not only wildly exciting to watch, it was loaded with deep references to black culture, particularly the Greek culture at the country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities — a reference that was further solidified by the singer’s announcement Monday of $25,000 awards to four HBCUs. As a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Ratti also revealed that he “never” expected to be presenting black Greek culture on such a big stage.

“To come in on my first day [of rehearsals] in March and see that the concept was dealing with HBCUs? That was a bit of a process,” said Ratti, whose audition took place in December. “Every day, I took time to be thankful for this opportunity. We’re in America and we already know what we’re dealing with [as African-Americans and in the current political environment], which is why the Divine Nine was built. So to see it presented at Coachella, I was like, ‘Woah. These people have no idea what’s about to happen — they won’t even understand it.'”

The Divine Nine is a collective term used for the nine black Greek-letter organizations that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which was established in 1930 at Howard University. Unlike most intercollegiate fraternities and sororities, the NPHC organizations are a lifetime commitment for its members and even have membership intake after college.

Joe Brown, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, was one of the main choreographers for Beyoncé’s Greek tribute in the show.

“That’s why you see a lot of the Alpha vibe [in the segment] — I’m the only [Omega] bruh dancer that’s rocking with the camp, so of course I wanted to put my two cents in,” Ratti joked. “But the fact that they are even celebrating this, I’m like just make sure that this sh– is tight and let’s stay as true as we can.”

Ratti said it was obvious that Beyoncé had done her research, adding that she wasn’t afraid to ask Greeks for their input.

“The ‘make me laugh’ [segment during the performance, where Beyonce and the female dancers were unimpressed by the male “Bug a Boo” dancers’ attempts at humor] — the attitude of that lets me know that she had to ask some in-depth questions to even get those types of characteristics,” Ratti said. “The feel of that was right on the nose” in reflecting the black Greek pledging process.

Ratti noted that Beyonce made it a point to incorporate elements of black excellence from all across American life, not just campuses. Ratti is an originator of Krump dancing, a style created in his hometown of Los Angeles and later popularized by Chris Brown. Saturday’s performance also featured the dance originator of Flexing, a street style dance from Brooklyn.

He added that Jay-Z attended practices frequently and even hyped up the dancers. “I’m an underground man, so I never thought that I would be at rehearsals busting a move, and Jay-Z is out here hyping me up,” Ratti recalled. “That’s crazy, I would have never thought it was a regular [occurence] at her rehearsals.”

Ratti also asserted that Beyoncé’s was completely hands-on and nurturing throughout the entire process. “She’s like an auntie,” he said. “Super-kind and very particular about what she wants. It made me do even better because I understand that she’s a real artist. She’s not just letting somebody take over her vision.”

He said she was equally focused on how the performance would render on the livestream. “We spent so many days just blocking for camera,” he recalled. “There were so many people from cinematography coming in, rigs, the camera work was incredible. Their post-production is just as important as the on-stage performance, and they really took time to figure that out.”

Ratti doesn’t remember specifically how Beyoncé introduced the concept to everyone on his first day at rehearsals, but he does have a take on her goal for the epic production.

“I believe the majority of black artists want to celebrate African-American history, invite people to a culture that is not exposed to the majority — to continue to push equality and fight for a cause that is now, kind of, not so subtle,” he said. “That’s what I believe she was trying to do.”

Beyoncé returns to headline Coachella on Saturday, April 22.


More Music

  • Jussie Smollett court

    Jussie Smollett's Attorneys Say He Was Victim of Police 'Spectacle'

    Jussie Smollett’s legal team issued a defiant statement on Thursday night, saying the “Empire” actor feels betrayed by the justice system and hinting at a political motive for his prosecution. Smollett was arrested early Thursday on a felony charge of filing a false police report. He was released after a court hearing on $100,000 bond, [...]

  • Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat Is

    Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat to Skip Oscar Ceremony

    Best score nominee Alexandre Desplat will be unable to attend Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies because of recent throat surgery, a rep for the composer confirms. The French native, already a two-time Oscar winner (for 2014’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and 2017’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated this year for his Japanese-flavored score for Wes Anderson’s “Isle [...]

  • Credit: Photo by Adela Loconte/REX/Shutterstock (9788964b)Gary

    Gary Clark Jr. Finds the Right Words, as Well as Solos, on New Album

    From the scorched earth rock and anti-racist (and anti-Trump-ian) howl of its title tune to the pounding country-blues of “The Governor,” with its cynical take on social justice issues, Gary Clark Jr.’s third studio effort, “This Land,” does what none of the 35-year-old singer-guitarist’s albums have in the past: it puts his mouth where his [...]

  • Heather Parry Live Nation

    Heather Parry Fired From Live Nation Productions

    Live Nation Entertainment announced Thursday that Heather Parry will leave the company following a Variety investigation into allegations of workplace bullying. Parry ran Live Nation Productions, the TV and film arm of the touring conglomerate, for three years. In December, Variety reported that Live Nation’s human resources department had been repeatedly warned that Parry was [...]

  • Maxine Waters

    Maxine Waters Reacts to Jussie Smollett Arrest: 'I Would Be Disappointed' if It's a Hoax

    Maxine Waters said she “would be disappointed” if it’s proven that her friend Jussie Smollett staged his own attack. Speaking with Variety‘s Marc Malkin on Thursday at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Awards, the U.S. representative from California said, “If in fact it’s a hoax, of course I would be disappointed.” Smollett faces one felony [...]

  • Beck House

    Beck Lists Updated Vintage Traditional in Los Feliz (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mononymically known indie music iconoclast Beck, who took home his sixth and seventh Grammys earlier this year for his 13th studio album (“Colors”), has put one of the three homes he and wife Marisa Ribisi own along the same, gated street in a coveted neighborhood of L.A.’s Los Feliz area for $2.45 million. The couple [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content