Last year, Lady Gaga’s longtime choreographer Richard “Richy” Jackson has been accused of toxic behavior by 10 of the superstar’s former dancers.
via: Page Six
Lady Gaga’s choreographer — who has overseen dance for several of her tours, her Super Bowl halftime show and her movie “A Star Is Born” — has broken his silence about claims he created a toxic environment for the superstar’s dancers.
And several of his admirers in the dance world, including Jojo Siwa, have thrown their support behind him, with Siwa telling Page Six that he is “one of the most uplifting, and inspirational humans in my life.”
Shortly before Gaga’s Chromatica Ball tour began in July 2022, ten dancers made various claims about industry veteran Richy Jackson, alleging he had embarrassed them, talked down to them and had been disrespectful of their time, among other complaints. Some said on social media and in a Rolling Stone article that he’d made them “unsafe,” and many of the dancers even suggested they had decided to quit the once-in-a-lifetime job en masse because of his behavior.
Now Jackson is telling Page Six his side of the story. He says that he didn’t respond at the time because he didn’t want to distract from the then-ongoing tour. But now he is speaking out, telling us that he was perplexed by the claims — and says his only guess about why the dancers made them is that they were hurt because, in fact, they had not been hired for the tour in the first place.
Jackson says the truth is that — far from quitting the gig — only one of the dancers who made complaints had been hired for the Chromatica Ball tour.
“I think to save face, for their pride, for their ego, they said, ‘We walked away,’ as opposed to, ‘I just wasn’t asked back.’ I feel like they threw me under the bus for that,” Jackson told Page Six.
He adds that he hadn’t decided not to hire them because of any faults with their work — he just wanted dancers with certain different characteristics for the work he had planned for the tour.
Some of them had been working for Mother Monster as far back as 2009 and had worked on almost all of her projects since, so Jackson believes they may have been very emotional about not being hired for the new tour.
“Maybe I took something away from them that they felt: ‘This is who I am now’,” he said, adding, “In their own world, they were ‘Gaga dancers.’ Because she’s at the height of the artist world.”
“And that’s now been taken away,” he said, “I feel like that’s why we’re here.”
(We reached out to all of the dancers who were named in the Rolling Stone article or identified themselves online. One declined to comment. One, Knicole Haggins, said that she resigned as one of Gaga’s dancer during the Artpop tour, the one before Chromatica. So she says that she couldn’t possibly have made allegations against Jackson because she wasn’t hired for Chromatica, since she’d already ruled herself out. The rest of the dancers didn’t respond to our request for comment).
Jackson tells us the experience has been heartbreaking, in part because he helped some of his accusers to break into the dance world in the first place, recommending them to agents and giving them their first gigs.
He even says he has text messages from some of them that they sent before the bad blood broke out, thanking him profusely for the role he’s played in their careers.
But he said, “When I was a dancer, I danced for… if there’s ten choreographers, I danced for eight. I went from Missy Elliot to N’Sync to Will Smith, to the iPod commercials, to the iPod billboard to dancing for Jessica Simpson, for Usher. I was going from job to job, artist to artist, so one thing wasn’t who I became.”
But, he said that for some of these dancers, “they were the underdogs — just like me — the weirdos. That’s why when we were all together, it worked. I don’t believe that they worked as much as me as a dancer outside of them being dancers for this job. [The Gaga job] was it. And it was OK that it was it because she’s such a huge artist, who else matters?” He suggested that, because of that focus, it was all the more devastating when they were passed over for the new tour.
As far as the specific claims about his treatment of the dancers, he says that he can only guess at why they might have felt slighted.
For example, one dancer anonymously told Rolling Stone that during auditions for the 2012 “Born This Way” tour Jackson would go on “rants” about “what it’s like dancing for Gaga, what you need to be prepared for, why you’re not ready for this, or what you need to do.”
“He’s life coaching people based on watching them dance for 30 seconds and it was just unnecessary, disrespectful [and] rude,” they added. “He wasn’t giving people valuable feedback about their dancing; it was about their personas and their energy.”
But Jackson says that it has long been his habit to try to explain to dancers why they didn’t get a job at an audition, rather than simply sending them home. He says he hopes the feedback will help them in future. And he says that, to his disappointment, this habit must have been construed as “talking down” to the dancers.
He tells us of the other complaints — which include “not considering the dancer’s time or the toll extensive rehearsing was taking on their bodies” — that everything he asked of his dancers was well within the norms of elite-level dance.
The Rolling Stone piece reported that “Gaga’s team is taking the dancers’ concerns seriously and is looking into their allegations.” Jackson tells us that he isn’t aware that they discovered any wrongdoing, and he says he expects to continue working with Gaga on further tour and other projects. Gaga’s representatives didn’t respond to Page Six’s request for comment.
Meanwhile, YouTube superstar and “Dance Moms” alum Siwa tells us that she first worked with Jackson four years ago when she was 15, and that he’s “been a part of every project” she’s done since.
“I’ve worked with so many choreographers throughout my life, and my career… no one compares to Richy,” she said.
“There’s two reasons why every dancer — including myself — wants to dance for Lady Gaga. Number one, Gaga is a bad ass, and number two, to get to work with Richy Jackson is an honor,” she said, adding, “He doesn’t create dances…. He creates masterpieces. Every rehearsal I’ve been in with Richy, my dancers, and I always leave inspired and excited to come back the next day.”
Her mom, Jessalynn, told us, “Richy always creates a professional, nonjudgmental work space that is respectable and inspiring for the working cast and artist.”
“I have seen Richy offer advice to new dancers in the industry, help dancers that walk into an audition with out an agent get in contact with an agent,” she said, “If there is a way Richy [can] help someone that wants to put in the work and ‘make it’ in the dance world, Richy goes out of his way to help those dancers.”