You'll hear Sean Bankhead using the word "iconic" when talking about Fifth Harmony a lot, but in reality, "iconic" has become the best describer for his own work. The choreographer has teamed up with some legendary pop ladies (read: Beyoncé, Janelle Monae, Britney Spears), and he's THE mastermind behind all of Fifth Harmony's moves—from "Worth It" to the most recent "All In My Head (Flex)"—all while in his twenties, by the way.
Even though he's constantly on the go with other artists, or teaching classes at Dance 411 studios in Atlanta, Georgia, he had to buckle down with 5H when it came time for their 7/27 Tour, which kicked off its North American leg on Wednesday nigh. And if you were at the first stop in Manchester, New Hampshire, you might've seen Bankhead with a headset, chatting to the ladies through their in-ear pieces and looking a little nervous.
We hopped on the phone with Bankhead after he touched down in Los Angeles, and he told us all about how the tour came together and how he loves seeing Harmonizers do his choreography.
Fuse: How did the first two days of the tour go?
Sean Bankhead: Oh wow. The tour was amazing actually. I've been working with Fifth Harmony since the beginning of their performance days, and they have never had a show like this, so I'm excited and I know that fans are gagging and they're loving it.
I saw all your Snapchats from last night. Looks amazing.
It was lit.
How is this tour different from all the other Fifth Harmony choreography you've put together?
Well, this tour we actually had a bigger production. We have a much better stage, but we gave the tour a theme. The theme was basically The Takeoff of Fifth Harmony. Basically, the girls started on 7/27 and the 7/27 rang a bell in the creator's head of like a 727 jet. We were like, it would be really cool if the girls told a story about traveling through the start of Fifth Harmony and then landing in these different worlds. So we have five acts. The first world is the Takeoff. The next one the Fantasy Wonderland, which is like our fun, pop section. and then we land into Mystery Island, which is like our moody, slow-jams, R&B stuff. And then we go to the Red Light District, which is our sexy, sultry district. And then we land in the fun island, which is like our female, United Nations. It was really cool to kind of pull the storyline together and choreograph each section and put the feels and vibes in each world. It was really cool.
Are they still using the choreography from the well-known dances, like the "Worth It" dance, or did you redo the choreography for the tour?
All that stuff, for them, is iconic. All their fans know all their steps, so we really didn't change much of the big singles. We just had to put it on the stage, 'cause we have a lot of levels and there's stairs that flank the stage. All the new songs definitely got new choreography.
Do you ever see the fans dancing to your choreography?
All the time. And it's so cool. And not only do I see them in the audience, but there's several fans who Snapchat me doing the choreography, and it's the best thing in the world.
I saw that you mentioned that this took three days for this to come together. Is that true?
Yeah. We literally had three and half days, and the half day was literally us running the show. The girls, they're at such a big point in their career that they have no time. They just finished the South America leg of the tour, and we had no time to rehearse this tour, so myself and the creative team had to do a lot of pre-planning before we started. When the girls got to rehearsal in Pennsylvania, I had to teach them three or four routines a day. So, they're troupers. They learned everything, the staging and the choreography and the timing and the flow of the show. They put it together. I don't know how, but they did it.
They must be fast learners!
Since we've been working together for a long time, they know my style and I know what works best on their body, each of their skill levels and comfort zones. They knew that they had a lot to learn, so they came in with their game faces on. They buckled down, and they're slaying right now. I'm really excited.
What is the biggest thing that you've learned about Fifth Harmony over the years?
They all have different skills and they all different talents and abilities, so being able to find choreography and staging and movement that works for all different body types—I mean, we have tall-short, some have dance backgrounds, some do not, but they're all vocalists, and that comes first. Having to mesh all those styles together and make them look unison and unique and iconic. I've learned a lot. But they're sweet girls and they work their asses off. And they love each other to death. You know, it's like teamwork. They'll pick each other up, and they'll go over stuff with each other when I'm working with one of them, so it's been a huge learning experience for me. I've worked with girl groups before, but not a five-girl girl group. I've learned several different things.
What's the vibe when you get into the studio with them?
It's usually either eating or sleeping. I have to wake them up or take the food out of their hands. but you know, rehearsal for us is fun though. I think that 'cause they're working so much and traveling so much, that they get to let their hair down, relax and dance, and stretch. I'm always playing hood music. They love hood music. They love to twerk and have fun, and just be young girls. But when it's time to get serious, they focus, and I see them pull it together. And then when they get onstage, it's like, 'You guys scared me half to death in dress rehearsal, but I keep forgetting that you guys are stars, and the moment you're on the stage, you turn on.'
You said that you were nervous a little bit, right?
I was so nervous. Yes. We didn't have a lot of time. The girls, they worked their butts off, but on my end, I wanted to make sure that the show and all the fans received it well and that people got it and were into it. The first show I had a microphone and I was talking in their ear, like 'OK, we gotta leave right now, or there's gonna be a blackout now, or the video's not working so stay out and talk longer.' The first show was pretty rough, but the second show, they nailed it. It was incredible, and I'm so proud of them.
Did you teach them how to twerk?
Of course I did! I did and my assistant Diddi. She's the one with the big ass, so I give them all the grooves and stuff, but my assistant Diddi is the real twerker of the group. But they already knew how to do that stuff! Those girls knew how to do that stuff already.
What's the deal with Dinah stealing your shoes all the time?
She's just crazy. She's like my closet sister. We always switch clothes. She comes in with a jacket, I put it on. She always takes my hats and my shoes. We're just quirky like that.
Check out when Fifth Harmony are coming to your town here, and then peep these photos from the South American leg of the 7/27 Tour below: