Choreographer Dave Scott danced his way “straight outta Compton” and straight into a high-profile Hollywood career spanning music, film, television and commercials.
A self-taught dancer, Scott is the man behind the moves in blockbusters such as “You Got Served“, “Stomp the Yard” and “Step Up 2 The Streets” and small screen hits “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Step It Up and Dance“.
Scott began imitating the moves he saw in videos and films when he was a teenager. The six foot four LA native was on a basketball scholarship when he got his first break after a local dance troupe set to perform a 10-minute show during a rap concert invited him to replace one of their dancers. It was his first public performance and the rest is dance history…
Clutch: How long have you been dancing for and how did you get in to it?
Dave Scott: I’ve been dancing for fourteen years, semi-professional, off and on. It was a hobby. I started off as one of those kids who came in in the breaking era. I got my crew together and we used to rehearse in the garage and battle down the street with other crews and it was a hobby and I didn’t take it like I could make a career out of it. Then I just kept it up until one day I was asked to perform in a show to replace someone and I took the offer and from there I just pushed forward and started to pursue choreography.
Clutch: What did your parents think?
Dave Scott: They were the main ones who said I couldn’t make a career out of it! They were like, “No, what are you doing?” Cos I was in school and they were like, “No, you need to finish school” and there was a lot of pressure. So I ended up getting an associates in business but I was mostly finishing that for them then I realised I needed to do that anyway. But now ask them about what I do and they’re like, “Oh, my son is this!” (lol) Really proud.
Clutch: So where do you get your dancing ability from? Is it a family thing or were you just naturally gifted?
Dave Scott: Nah, my parents suck lol! My pops has got this crazy dance called The Point, I’m like, why do you do that? (lol) But I loved watching TV. I used to watch different videos and old school musicals – the Nicholls Brothers, Danny Kaye and Fred Astaire – and I always wanted to perform so I used to mimic them and I just taught myself how to dance.
Clutch: You grew up in the notorious Compton area in the 80’s. What was that like?
Dave Scott: It was a lot of different challenges, especially coming from the street and different things with my family. You had to make your decision on your own. There were a lot of things thrown in your face, a lot of temptation, a lot of bad stuff. It was real challenging but I don’t regret it because it made me a strong person.
Clutch: How did you manage to avoid falling in to these temptations?
Dave Scott: Early on I developed an irritation to dumb stuff and I just wanted to separate myself from all those things. I liked the camaraderie and brotherhood of the gang stuff but to be around it and involved in it is something I never wanted to do. I went a different route. I always wanted to do other stuff totally from the left of that. I saw things happen to my cousins and my friends and I just didn’t want that.
Clutch: How did you go from your first break to your big break, working in films and choreographing for top artists?
Dave Scott: Through my first break I got to know a lot more of the dance community. I developed relationships and then I was always a creative person behind the scenes. I learned by teaching myself and watching videos but also change up the video and put in what I thought should go there. So I used to create stuff and then I started teaching and putting my choreography out there. A lot of groups started coming to my classes. A lot of artists started seeing my stuff and I started off doing a lot of artist development for new acts and then it just pushed further from there. And then the whole movie thing, I created B2K and put them out there, it was like a no-brainer. Let’s do this movie and put them in it and it just went from there. Then all of a sudden I became the movie guy.
Clutch: Do you think it’s possible for a mainstream R&B group to be successful if they can’t dance?
Dave Scott: I think it’s possible for them to be successful… I think they would have to be old though lol! Either older or playing instruments, but they have to move.
Clutch: Why do you think dance has become so popular through TV show competitions and every band seemingly having to dance?
Dave Scott: I think it’s because it makes people feel good, it’s a feel good thing. And with everything else going on in America it’s like anything that makes you feel good is a winner. And in terms of health and fitness, what better way to stay in shape than to move.
Clutch: You said much of your dance education has been self taught. Have you ever had any kind of formal training?
Dave Scott: No, the only kind of formal dance training has come from friends who’ve taught me different things. My assistant is technically trained in everything and she’s been with me for years and she’s showing me tap right now and it’s the hardest thing in the world. As I go along I learn different things. I have a friend who taught me salsa and different Latin forms of dance so I have friends who teach me different things that I ask but I’ve not really had courses. I just sneak up on it.
Clutch: How inter-related are all these different dance forms and do you try to incorporate them in to street dancing?
Dave Scott: Hip-hop is a melting pot of a lot of different styles. My particular dance style is like gumbo, there’s a bit of everything in there. It’s whatever I feel is hot and I like to keep it intense. I think all of the dance styles have a big impact on hip-hop.
Clutch: What are you working on at the moment?
Dave Scott: I have a movie coming out on February 6th with the Wayans brothers. It’s a spoof film of all the dance movies like Footloose, Flashdance and Fame and all the new ones and the ones I’ve done. It’s hilarious. At the moment I’m in pre-production with another film called Fresh. It’s a Polynesian and hip-hop mix film. It’s aggressive and really, really good. I’m also working on a stage show with Jimmy Ortega who did High School Musical American Dance.
Clutch: You teach as well as choreograph. Do you get more satisfaction from working with amateurs and seeing them improve or working with professionals?
Dave Scott: I prefer to work with professionals but there’s definitely a satisfaction – period – in seeing one thing go from one level to the next, to see somebody come in here who couldn’t even bop their head and then all of a sudden you see them on stage and people are like, “Wow!” It’s a journey but you can’t be afraid of work.
Clutch: What’s your favorite film that you’ve worked on and why?
Dave Scott: That’s hard. Each one did something different for me… I would say You Got Served was one of the best because it was a lot of my peers, a lot of my friends and a lot of other choreographers, they all were willing to dance in it and they put everything aside and said, yes, I want to be a part of that, a different crew. Everyone together was amazing. We just used to come early in the morning and everyone was just dancing until it was time to shoot. It was an amazing feeling.
Clutch: How did your partnership with Debbie Allen come about and what’s it like working with such a legend?
Dave Scott: Debbie Allen is amazing! Amazing! She’s one of those women who just knows what she wants, she knows how to get it done and she gets it done in the snap of a finger. She sought me out because of my work and she wanted me to be a part of her academy. I was a behind the scenes type of person, choreograph here and walk away, but she, as a mentor, will tell you to get your ass out there and show your face so people know who’s doing this and she wanted to help me do that and I said OK! And from there we started doing a lot of different things together, developing different partnerships together and it’s just an amazing connection. It’s like we’ve known each other for years.
Clutch: You’ve achieved so much now. What’s your inspiration, what keeps you going?
Dave Scott: I stay hungry. I always want to do different things. My motivation is when I go teach and I see all these different kids and I see all this talent, I’m like, “Wow! You’re just six years old, killing it!” So, it just keeps you on your toes. But also getting in to different aspects of the game keeps me motivated too, like directing, producing, hosting and acting.
Clutch: Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring dancers and choreographers?
Dave Scott: For choreographers, I would say do you. Don’t do anybody else’s style. If ever you feel like your stuff is too weird, too far to the left or something that doesn’t fit in the pocket, you create your own pocket. Don’t do anybody else. Continue to do what you think is creative. And for dancers, never stop. There’s gonna be things that push you, try to take you off your path, try to stop you, just never, never, ever stop. If you keep waking up in the morning and all you wanna do is dance, just do it!
For more information on Dave Scott please visit www.theofficialdavescott.com.