Published: June 8, 2009
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LET'S ASK THE INSIDER...
HAROLD VAN BUUREN

Harold van Buuren is a South African dancer, dance instructor & choreographer fully trained in classical and Modern Jazz. He is best known as a competitor on two seasons of the South African dance reality television competition Strictly Come Dancing. He has also been Lead Dancer, Artistic Director and Choreographer of 'Le Paradis Latin', in Paris and along with doing numerous shows with international stars, he has directed and choreographed shows in Spain, Las Palmas, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Korea, Japan, always returning by popular demand to these venues.
We interviewed SBF Member Harold to find out about his career & choreographing the Benidorm Palace production of Crescendo...
Harold van Buuren

  • Quote Every venue or theatre has it's own taste in entertainment and the challenge is to create a product that is excellent and suits the venue. That is very exciting for a choreographer, because I then get to express myself in so many different ways.
    Your career has covered classical, contemporary, ballroom, Latin American, modern and jazz. Do you have a particular style that you prefer and why?
    Harold van Buuren: My favourite dance genre is Latin American Dancing because of the incredible technique required and it is a genre all about passion, that is me to the core!
  • As well as your many accomplishments, for two seasons you were a professional dancer in the South African version of the reality dance competition "Strictly Come Dancing" and you are also the Head Judge of the South African "So You Think You Can Dance" and the Judge of the NBC "Superstars Of Dance". How does it feel to be on the other side of the table?
    Harold van Buuren & Michelle Garforth sparkle in 'Strictly Come Dancing' HvB: I have caused quite a bit of controversiality since my very first season of 'Strictly Come Dancing'. It is not because of being on television that I change the way I think, talk or work. My dance partners were drilled to perfection and I am 100% honest when speaking to the dancers, never settling for anything less than what I believe to be their best. I never criticize a dancer disrespectfully and I always do my best to give them advice on how to improve. I really do enjoy being on the other side as I know there are thousands of aspiring dancers out there who are learning. Even more importantly, it is creating an incredible awareness of our industry which of course generates an incredible energy and passion.
  • You are also the coach of World Exhibition Dance Champions, namely Victor Da Silva and Hanna Kaarttunnen. Please tell us more?
    HvB: I am very proud of what we have achieved as a team. At Victor and Hanna's level I like to think of us as a team because they have to ultimately make it happen. The expression, "Blood, Sweat & Tears" is no exaggeration! Hours everyday and the better it gets, the more we work, because I always see possibilities to develop their routines to the next level, always raising the bar! When I sit in a venue in a city of the world watching them compete, far from the studio we work in, it is almost impossible to imagine that I could be part of the flawless beauty they achieve in their performance, so close to perfection and when the audiences jump to their feet I always have tears in my eyes.
Harold in 'Strictly Come Dancing'
  • Which style do you choreograph in, or do you use a mixture of styles?
    HvB: I definitely tap into all the styles of dance which are familiar to me. When music plays, it speaks to me and automatically touches a style within me. It is all about the interpretation of a theme or the music that depicts to me which style will be predominant.
Quote My favourite dance genre is Latin American Dancing because of the incredible technique required and it is a genre all about passion, that is me to the core!
  • Over the last five years you've choreographed five productions at the Benidorm Palace. Where do you get your inspiration from?
    HvB: My inspiration for each of the five productions comes from my love for my art and the artist! Each time I step into rehearsal and start working with the dancers, their love and respect for my work is so fulfilling and during the rehearsal period we develop a bond and become a family. It goes further than just the dancing, I am entrusted with the responsibility of taking a group of people on a creative journey, always making sure I get them to grow as a team. We work very hard and you ask anyone who has worked with me: "ONE MORE TIME" are words I am famous for. It would be so easy to go into rehearsal with prepared routines, but I would hate to do choreography that does not suit or challenge a cast, so I need to see it over and over to make sure it suits them, if not I have to be able to change it. When they start rehearsals some of them are complete strangers and by the time opening night comes along they are friends. It is wonderful to think I am a catalyst in this process.
  • When choreographing a show, such as Crescendo at the Benidorm Palace, are you free to express your creativity or are there set rules to follow?
    Harold & Svetlana Tishina HvB: Every venue or theatre has it's own taste in entertainment and the challenge is to create a product that is excellent and suits the venue. That is very exciting for a choreographer, because I then get to express myself in so many different ways. A good example is that when I finished choreographing Crescendo, I started choreographing the very next day for a classical & contemporary dance company and the opening number was a classical number sur-pointe with a surprise entrance by Victor Da Silva on his Harley Davidson, then doing the most amazing acrobatic lifts with each of the girls! My whole approach was to bring together different forms of dance on the same platform, almost doing it from a political angle, demanding that we open our minds and accept all forms of dance. I see a parallel with acceptance of race and culture. The show went from classical to finishing with a latin finale! We played to packed houses of screaming audiences and the fantastic thing is that it was incredibly well received by the critics and what I really liked is that THE critic notorious for her harsh criticism started off by saying: "The man practises what he preaches".
  • There are three other choreographers involved in the production of Crescendo, Patricia Murray (Celtic Choreography) and Antonio Perea & Irene Rodriguez Gomez (Flamenco Choreography). Did you work on individual numbers or do you interact and collaborate with each other?
    HvB: Each choreographer worked separately for the montage of Crescendo. I definitely believe this is the only way to work for me. I treasure my time in the rehearsal room and I always work in an atmosphere of love and respect. Not everybody works like this, I do not want to be involved in any negative energy. By saying this I am not saying my way is the right way, but it certainly has worked for me thus far.
  • You've worked with many famous stars, such as Ricky Martin, Boyz II Men, Joe Cocker, Gloria Gaynor, Harry Connick Jr., East 17, Kylie Minogue. Who would you single out to be the perfect performer for your choreography and why?
    HvB: I must say two artists stick out for me, Ricky Martin and Kylie Minogue. Each one so different but equally powerful as performers. Their sheer mesmerizing charisma and awe-inspiring presence onstage makes it so easy to get them to look fabulous. Ricky would the gorgeous, high-energy Latin God, with the ability to do amazing choreography and Kylie would be the subdued but oh so devastatingly sexy diva, moving like a panther!
Harold
  • What would you say has been the highest moment in your career, so far?
    HvB: I am not sure how to answer what the highest moment in my career is. Head judge of the best dance reality programme, discovering America by being invited to judge on the first ever international dance reality programme, being the coach of world champions.
  • If you had the chance, who would you thank for what you have achieved?
    HvB: I definitely dedicate my entire career to my mother and although she has passed on, I feel her so present in every step of my life. She was the one who made all this possible for me, always believing in me, always being there for me, no matter what! I love you Ma.
  • What do you think of ShowBiz Friends?
    HvB: Showbiz Friends is nothing short of being a fantastic concept. Soon, it will become a vital part of communication for people all over the world. It is specifically aimed at entertainers and our industry, not excluding those who have moved on in their lives. By doing so, you are creating a community with a profound humane approach. So, beside being a very efficient means of connecting professionally, you are connecting long-time friends. It is also very clear that you are always developing ways to improve an already amazing concept. I salute you for your amazing brain-child.

    Thanks Harold for giving us this fantastic interview!