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The UK's introduction to Paula Abdul

Mar 18th, 1989

DANCE MAID

By Steve Masters
Record Mirror - March 18, 1989

From choreographer to stars like the Jackson clan, George Michael and Eddie Murphy, Paula Abdul had finally made it in their own right with the US number one 'Straight Up'. Steve Masters learns some new steps with the former cheerleader.

YOU DON'T know Paula Abdul? Remember that video Janet Jackson did for 'What Have You Done For Me Lately'? And her videos for 'Nasty' and 'Control'? Remember the Victory tour the Jackson's did a few year back? Paula Choreographed them all.

She's also put ZZ Top, Duran Duran, George Michael, and Tracy Ullman through their paces. Not bad for someone who started out as a s cheerleader for the LA Lakers.

"I was 18 when I became a cheerleader," says Paula, now 25, "and I soon became the team's choreographer. So I started to implement some of my own moves into our routines, and people sat up and took notice."

Because the Lakers have so many showbiz fans, Paula soon received some nice little earners. "I did a Coca Cola and a perfume commercial, and I choreographed a dance sequence in Eddie Murphy's 'Coming To America'."

But the most lucrative early offer came from the Jackson clan, who asked Paula to choreograph a video for sister Janet. She later made three more videos with Janet, and says her favorite two were 'Nasty' and 'When I Think Of You'. 

Janet's 'NASTY' "'Nasty' was great because it made a real statement in dance. I had to show a side of Janet that was very hard, which was a challenge. And the routines I invented set a dance trend. After the video came out I went to clubs and saw people copying the moves that were in the video. 

"'When I Think Of You' was fun to do because it contained such a big cast, and that took a lot of work to get together."

JACKSONVILLE Meanwhile, back in Jacksonville, Paula's looking forward to the return of the Jackson's.

"Their new album-- I think it's called 'Jackson Street'-- is due to be released next month. I've heard a few cuts from it and it sounds great. Michael Jackson went in the studio with them a couple weeks ago to record one of two tracks.

"I've been asked to work on another tour with them, but I don't now if and when it will happen.

"If I'm too busy I'll have to turn them down... Sadly. My music's the most important thing to me right now, and I've had to sacrifice a lot of other work to promote it.

"Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine have also asked me to choreograph their next tour. I hope I don't have to turn them down because they're lovely people, and it'll be a great challenge to stage such a big show."

FACE TO FAITH  Just like the challenge of helping to stage George Michael's 'Faith' tour...

"I worked for weeks with a team of dancers rehearsing four big numbers for that show. George was so busy with promotional and other work that he couldn't get together with me until two weeks before the start of the tour, and I worked intensively with him over those two weeks. Then at the last minute they decided to scrub the dancers and just use George."

Her work didn't go un-rewarded, though. Paula now has a friend for life in George, not to mention the Jackson, and her other 'pupils'. She says, "Choreography is a very intimate thing. You have to break down people's barriers-- fear and lack of confidence-- and you get to see their confidence grow. They have to put their trust in you. It makes me very happy to know that after helping other people's careers, they're now sending me flowers to celebrate the success of mine.

"Prince sent me flowers when 'Straight Up' hit number one, and I had a call from Richard Marx," (US AOR macho solo star) "who I've known since we were kids. He has been writing songs for successful artists since the age of 14 or 15, and he said to me, 'It's exciting when you've worked for someone else's career and you start making it on your own'." 

KNOCKED OUT After the initial flop of her first single, 'Knocked Out' (and that after a lavish launch at the Kensington Roof Gardens last year, where a boxing ring was constructed complete with limp- wristed 'boxer' prancing about while Paula and her colleagues strutted their stuff Five Star-like on the dance floor), fingers were firmly crossed for her second attempt at success on her own terms.

Luckily 'Straight Up' has blacked out the memory of that little episode.

"In LA you tend to bump into famous people all the time, and you come to expect it," she says, "but a little while ago I saw Mel Gibson in a bookstore.

I turned to jelly because I absolutely adore him, so I went up to him and nervously said, 'I really admire your work and I hope you keep it up'. He smiled at me and said thank you."

So let's get those pom-poms out boys and girls to cheer on a new star. Ready? 2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate...

Filed under: Forever Your Girl

 

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