Genius: Aretha choreographer Dondraico Johnson talks recreating dance moves in exclusive featurette

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Saloni Gajjar
·1 min read
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Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in Genius: Aretha
Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in Genius: Aretha

The third season of National Geographic’s anthology series Genius will focus on Aretha Franklin, a civil rights leader and musician dubbed the Queen of Soul. In Genius: Aretha, Cynthia Erivo will essay the titular role, building on her biopic resume after leading the cast of Harriet. The eight-episode series will explore Franklin’s music career and her influence on the culture. It will be the first definitive and authorized scripted limited series on her life story. Franklin, who taught herself to play the piano, sold more than 75 million records during her career. The singer was also known for her performances and live concerts.

In this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from Genius: Aretha, the series’ choreographer Dondraico Johnson reveals how he prepped for and recreated her stage moments from various eras, specifically the rehearsals and setting for her 1979 performance at Las Vegas’ Aladdin Theater. The scene features Erivo singing beautifully (that’s really her voice) in character as well as 19 dancers, three backup singers, and period-appropriate outfits. Crucially, Johnson talks about wanting to make sure they did justice to the dance moves of the time, many of which have influenced modern choreography. Johnson—who has worked with the likes of Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Miley Cyrus—also shares his experience of working with Erivo.

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You can watch the entire exclusive featurette below. Genius:Aretha also stars Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm Barrett, David Cross, Patrice Covington, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Sanai Victoria. It premieres with two episodes on March 21 on National Geographic.

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