Last year, when Cardi B’s team reached out to the choreographer Sean Bankhead to help create dances for the “Up” music video, he asked if she had two months to dedicate to learning them.
As it happens, she did. Mr. Bankhead didn’t waste any time. The dance, with its lunges, jumps and squats, seems straight out of a high-intensity interval training class. “I pushed her, and that’s a really hard thing to learn the balance when you’re working with a high-profile celebrity like that,” he said. “You need to know how to push, but not overly push them off the cliff.”
Pushing has become one of his hallmarks. Mr. Bankhead, 32, is the choreographer behind some of the year’s biggest music videos — including Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” and Normani’s “Wild Side” — and he is in high demand, despite the time commitment he expects from his celebrity charges.
As soon as the video for “Up” premiered in February, people began posting themselves doing the choreography on Instagram and TikTok — many to the sound of Mr. Bankhead’s own TikTok tutorial, created with his co-choreographer Ahsia Janaé — helping the song stay at the top of the charts for weeks.
Mr. Bankhead doesn’t consider himself an emotional person, but seeing his creations turn into viral challenges can make him bawl like a baby, he said: “It’s been so heartwarming to see effort.”
The inspiration for almost all of his moves comes from the tightly choreographed music videos of the late 1980s and the ’90s. Listing influences including Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, Mr. Bankhead said he admires certain pop stars who were
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