The Choreographer :: Fatima Robinson
The scene in Public Enemies when Johnny Depp dances with his love interest. The goofy cha-cha actress Isla Fisher does in Confessions of a Shopaholic. Club kids dancing in the background of a Miami Vice scene. “All that is choreographed,” explains Fatima Robinson, who runs her own dance studio just outside of Hollywood. Robinson got her start in film when director John Singleton spotted her dancing in a contest and put her in Boyz N the Hood as an extra. “After that, I just kept dancing and choreographing. One day, Rosie Perez told me, ‘You have to call yourself a choreographer, and you have to charge for your services.’”
Soon after that, she landed her first big job: Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video. “Working with him was very exciting but also a lot of pressure. But he made it very comfortable,” she says.
Though Jackson had natural talent, Robinson also knows how to inspire actors with two left feet. “If I feel like we’ve pushed it to the point where I don’t think I’m going to get what we need out of them, I’ll put in a dance double—someone who is doing the same thing that they’re doing. Sometimes that kicks them to be better.”
Many of her clients, however, get it right away: She has worked on music videos for the Black Eyed Peas, was instrumental in putting together moves for Dreamgirls, and worked with Aaliyah on all of her projects. If you look closely, you’ll spot an A on her wrist. “It was the same A that Aaliyah had on her arm. I got that after her passing,” says Robinson.
She also has a tattoo to represent the time she spent in Jamaica living it up in the dance hall scene, and one of an Ethiopian warrior woman. “I feel like all my tattoos I got when I was young and free—now I’m a mom and I have to explain things.” But that doesn’t mean she’s done with the needle. “I’ve thought about doing something to connect them because they’re all sporadic and spread out. If I go there, I’m going to go really extreme with it. It’ll probably be me in Tahiti or somewhere where I just break down and get a whole bunch of tribal stuff.”