With season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race wrapping later this month, the show is celebrating almost a decade of being on air. And while the show has offered a plethora of stupefying performances, few have been as jaw-dropping as the one-take “Kitty Girl” performance from the All Stars 3 finale.
According to choreographer Todrick Hall, the final four competitors — BeBe Zahara Benet, Kennedy Davenport, Trixie Mattel, and Shangela — learned the complex routine in less than 48 hours. And considering none of the queens were professionally trained dancers, Hall had his work cut out for him.
It paid off though: “This routine was one of the things I’m most proud of out of anything I’ve ever choreographed,” he tells Billboard. Here, in his own words, Hall takes breaks down what viewers didn’t see behind the scenes.
1. RuPaul’s reaction
I look up to RuPaul so much. When I get the call to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I felt the way Brandy must’ve felt the day she got the call from Whitney Houston — that she was going to be playing Cinderella and Whitney was going to be her fairy godmother. I’ve looked up to him for so long, so to get that approval? He doesn’t hand out compliments to make people feel good. I feel like I learned so much from hearing him say that, because I respect him so much and I think his taste level is so high.
I wanted to surprise him and blow him away with this performance. I didn’t even let him see a rehearsal of it. I ran through the door after I let the queens in and got to see his face. He was watching it from a monitor in the room until we got to the main stage. His facial expression–he just couldn’t believe the girls were able to do it like that.
2. Some diva inspirations
Out of the all queens, Kennedy was the least stressed — she had so many tricks up her sleeve. We had already worked together previously when she had played Janet Jackson in the divas challenge, and that number didn’t go over as well. For this, I wanted to take what she does in the clubs and turn that into choreography she could do with the dancers. Hers was probably the most difficult.
Trixie knew her brand so well and was good about bringing her character to life. Since I was already familiar with each queen and their brands, it was really fun for me to be able to do such different movements for each queen. She had this purple wig on, so I was really inspired by the Jerry Mitchell choreography from Hairspray. I really wanted her part to look the most theatrical because, out of the four queens, she fit that role. I think the difficulty with this — versus choreographing something for So You Think You Can Dance, in which people are playing different characters each time — [is that] I have to bring to life these queens’ personalities.
Shangela is very Beyonce, a very sassy person, whereas BeBe is very sassy but in a vogue-esque way. I wanted hers to look like something that would come out of Pose by Ryan Murphy.
3. An ‘All Star’ team
We could’ve made the best choreography in the world but [it would have been nothing] without the camera operator. Every note that I gave him, he completely understood it and was even like, “What if we did this?” It was like a good improv class.
The cool thing about working with World of Wonder is now they trust me so much. There was a minute when they were like, “I don’t think we should bring so many dancers in.” I went out and pleaded for it because I didn’t think it would feel as grand with four dancers. And I am willing to put my reputation [on the line] with this show and this network to bring in some of my friends that I know and trust — we were working with people who dance for the likes of Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Britney Spears. And no one leaked anything!
4. Hidden choreography
We had to reuse a lot of the dancers. After each section, the choreography behind the camera was almost more intense than [the choreography] in front of the camera. The dancers at the beginning of the video wearing pink jumpsuits had to change and put on black shirts and black pants and sunglasses. I wish there was a camera showing that part, because that was almost harder to choreograph then what you actually see on camera.
5. The judges’ rehearsals
I am very glad I have my star Michelle Visage in the center of [the judges’ section], because I don’t think I’ve seen two gay men with less rhythm than Carson and Ross. It was really cute to watch them continuously practice because they were like, “We don’t want these girls to have to rehearse this long and then we’re the reason it’s messed.” But Michelle is a budding Broadway star. She was living her best life to be in it for just two seconds, so I put her in the center and pulled her forward so they could watch her.
I was really happy that not only were the judges included, but a lot of the people you saw were actual crew members, not dancers or actors. It felt like one of those things where an entire family got together to do something. You could tell that the producers were excited that their assistants and their PAs and camera operators were getting to be on camera for the first time. I’ve never seen that on any other show I’ve done. It felt like we were just having a picnic in RuPaul’s back yard and decided to do a flashmob.
Drag Race is the only show I’ve ever been on where I have never heard a single person on set say, “I’m so ready to go home” or “I need a break.” The producers love being a part of this show so much, and they take pride in every single joke that is written. I think that if they ever lost that, the show would lose its magic. That’s why this show is changing the game, not just for the queer community, but for entertainment in general.
You can catch Todrick on tour around Australia right now with his new shows on The Forbidden Tour!