As the choreographer of Legendary, Tanisha Scott’s job is to ensure every house’s moves look polished and ready to wow the judges. With only three days of prep with a house before the ball begins, she needs to make sure they are ready and up to the task.
Legendary is an HBO reality competition where ten houses from the ballroom scene compete in nine balls for a $100,000 prize. Each ball has a theme, like Animal Queendom or Hip-Opera, and a challenge where the choreography must highlight a specific specific element of vogue.
The competition is presented by Dashaun Wesley and judged Jameela Jamil, Leiomy Maldonado, Law Roach, and Keke Palmer. Each judge has something special that they are looking for in every ball, so Scott knows that each performance she choreographs needs to be clean, skilled, fashionable and entertaining.
DEADLINE: We only see you briefly in each episode, how long do you actually get with each house?
TANISHA SCOTT: I’m with them a lot of the time, but our turnover time between conceptualizing and making it onto the stage is so short. We’re looking at possibly three days, and on that third day, when they’re actually in performance mode to do that ball, we’ve already spoken about the next ball. You don’t know who’s gonna get cut, but we also have to already know what we’re going to do for the next theme. I always give them time at the beginning to figure out what they’re going to do – what their concept is, what kind of gag they need to do, what kind of elements… And then I come to them and I lay down the law. What are you trying to do? What do you want to say? What are your looks? What’s happening? And I basically help them formulate everything so that it’s good enough to be out there on the stage.
I’m the one that helps them realize what they can do, what they can’t do and also remind them of the things that the judges are looking for. Like, “In last ball they caught you on this, so you should make sure that you’re excelling in this area to show them that you’re listening to what they’re saying,” as well as, “Hey, this is the challenge within this, who is the strongest person to actually make that happen?” And then, “Is this enough?”
DEADLINE: What are the judges looking for?
SCOTT: So the judges definitely have four interesting perspectives. You have to understand who you’re speaking to and what it is that they’re about. For Jameela, when she says she wants “cleanness”, she’s just looking to see things in a proper order. So if you have four people on opposite sides of the stage, doing different things and moving in different ways, it looks messy. Even if you’re doing your choreography, your movement the right way, she just wants to settle in and zone in on one picture. She’s a picture person, and if there’s too much happening or if there’s too much freestyle, as good as it may be, it’s not gonna look like a full unit.
Leiomy, hands down, is about skill, superstardom, and choreography – she’s an icon, so she can do all three. Not only has she created different moves, she choreographs too so she knows what choreography should look like and she knows how dynamic things can be. If she’s done it, she expects you to be able to do it too. She knows pretty much all the contestants and, if she didn’t, she can tell very quickly their capabilities and what their strengths are. Law wants fashion, fashion, fashion, and he just wants to be wowed and bedazzled. He just wants to come in and watch a show.
And when it comes to Keke, she’s looking for the entertainment because she’s new to ballroom. She wants every ball to give her the same reaction she had the first time she was introduced to ballroom. For her, it’s the entertainment of it all, like give me movements and choreography. She just wants it all because she’s coming from a performer’s perspective. Jameela’s coming from an actor’s perspective, Law is coming from a fashion perspective and Leiomy is all around in skill.
DEADLINE: Each of the houses obviously has experience with dancing and ballroom, but it seems like there’s sometimes a disconnect when it comes to choreography for the whole house.
SCOTT: The thing with ballroom is, there’s so many different categories and not every house is a performance house, so it’s the details of it all. Some just walk Runway, some just walk Face… you have so many different categories. Just because you’re a part of ballroom doesn’t mean that you can actually perform as a house. Part of what makes this show so amazing is that it’s not comfortable. You’ll get somebody who walks Sex Siren, somebody who walks Face and somebody who does Vogue Fem all together, and they have to put this picture together and make sense of it all. They all have specific strengths and have been doing something so long that for them to start doing something new may be difficult. This is what I love about the show; everybody thinks they can do it and then when you get into it, it’s like, “Wow, okay. This is tough.”