Self-described as an artist, dancer, and alien who loves to create, New Zealand-born Parris Goebel is the hip hop choreographer behind a lot of your favourite numbers. Not many of us can forget when her neon and innovative Yummy dance collaboration with Justin Bieber captivated a digital audience of over 32 million viewers. Goebel has also teamed up with global superstars like J.Lo and Nicki Minaj, and in latest news, she crafted what is now an Emmy-nominated choreography for Savage X Fenty’s 2019 show and runs an award-winning dance studio The Palace Dance Studio.
Represented by IMG Models, Goebel is constantly breaking barriers within the dance realm with her intricate, intuitive ideas and her raw, passionate dance-style that boldly explores the line between the masculine and the feminine. For the third time in a row, the renowned choreographer worked alongside fashion powerhouse Rihanna for this year’s Savage X Fenty runway show. The star-studded show was another win under her belt, featuring elaborate and energetic performances, captivating choreography, and dazzling lingerie.
When discussing the preparation that went into the show, it was the pandemic that undoubtedly posed the biggest challenge. In the span of a month, Parris workshopped the choreography in New Zealand before putting it together in LA.
“I would definitely say trying to pull this together in the middle of a pandemic was one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever done. I mean, trying to dance with a mask on your face for an 8-hour rehearsal was challenging, [and also] trying to communicate with people through a mask. I usually read off people’s energy and facial expressions, so that was difficult. But we did it and we pulled it off.” – Parris shared with NBGA.
Despite its obstacles, this year’s show serves viewers an unforgettable performance. Goebel stuns in a black lingerie set, and effortlessly opens the beginning of the show while moving fluidly to her self-written poetry. When talking about opening the show, Parris said, “It was really special for me because I have such an amazing relationship with Rih and been working with her for years, so it was such a huge honor.”
She continued, “I’m used to being behind the scenes and helping create the show, so when she asked me, I was just speechless. I’ve been writing poetry since I was a little girl and I love to express myself through poetry. I love to combine different art forms together and to put it out into the world was really nerve-wracking because it was an intimate piece for me, but I think people resonated with that.”
A “savage,” as Parris describes in her poetry, is an unapologetic lifestyle. A savage doesn’t wait for validation and thrives in sexiness in their own ways. “I use words like lion, beast and knife, because to me, those are words that reflect how I feel as a savage,” Parris explained.
“I know what I want in life, I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m not afraid to be myself, I’m not afraid to love myself. Everyone is a savage in their own way and feels that differently. That’s what’s so special about Rihanna and the brand is that she’s all about empowering people to be themselves, whatever that looks like, and to live to make your own rules in life.”
Each scene evoked a different world, like Parris’ favorite Garden scene and the ending Workshop performance. Parris mentions how she worked backward this year, starting the show more slow-paced and eventually leading up to high-tempo dance sequences. For example, she says, “Black Widow was all about sexuality and what that means to different people. We’ve been told our whole lives what sexy is but sexy is you, sexy is whatever you want it to be. There shouldn’t be anything that we have to conform to.”
Through its electrifying performances and hottest collection yet, the show oozes sexiness and inspires viewers to be their authentic selves. Fans of Savage X Fenty can agree that the brand introduces inclusivity like never before, especially when lingerie has been historically catered to a specific kind of woman. For Parris, being a part of this change and working with a revolutionary brand is something she never envisioned as a child. “I always think about the 10-year-old Parris and what I wish she saw differently in the world when she was younger. I didn’t see enough girls that looked like me on TV or in magazines, and that heavily affected the way I felt about myself as a girl. Eventually, as a woman, I didn’t think I was beautiful because I didn’t look like everyone else. So, to be a part of the change is something I’m most proud of.”
With a large platform and a never-ending list of achievements, Parris also revealed her frustration with New Zealand’s media.
“I just think no matter where you’re from, it’s so important that your hometown celebrates people that have worked really hard to break the barriers and to succeed in life,” she shared.
“I’m from a small country and to have nine Maori and Polynesian dancers in a show with millions of people watching it is so beautiful and game-changing. For the media to not put all its attention into it is sad for me because there’s other little brown boys and girls in New Zealand that would be inspired to see that and think, if they can do it, I can do it too. It’s a responsibility they have to tell these inspiring stories because it just changes the way people see themselves and see their dreams, and I think that’s something that we need to work on in New Zealand.”
The Savage X Fenty show overall empowered Parris as a creator and woman. Aside from working with amazing creators, she said, “[It was] exhilarating and life-changing because I truly found myself as a woman through these shows. I had no choice but to face my own insecurities to even be able to create from an honest place. It changed my life because I feel like I found true self-love.”
As of now, Parris is currently working on her first feature film and releasing her upcoming clothing line. The star-choreographer also shares advice to the NBGA audience, mentioning that life’s too short to hold back. “Even though I feel like I’ve lived so much, I’m only learning now that life is too short to hold back. I’m trying to give it my all every single day and to do things that I’ve been scared to do. You want to look back in your life and say ‘I lived the life that I wanted to.’”