The 2016 Super Bowl 50 Halftime show will go down in performance history as the day Beyoncé and Bruno Mars flipped Coldplay’s timeslot into their own respective concerts. Bruno Mars and Co. graced the stage to perform his then-hit “Uptown Funk” before a drumline parted to introduce Queen Bee as she belted out the famous one liner from “Formation”, the pro-black, self-affirmation anthem, sprinkling a lot of #BlackGirlMagic all over the Levi’s Stadium.
Clad in Black Panther-inspired ‘fits and afros tucked under berets, 30 talented black female dancers backed Mrs. “World Stop” and while Beyoncé needs no assistance in the slayage department, Bey’s backup dancers ultimately stole the show.
Among the 30 female dancers was Quinetta “Quinny” Wilmington, a professional dancer from North Philadelphia, PA who’s no rookie to the performance stage. Despite a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Norfolk State University, Quinny felt her zeal for dance just couldn’t be limited to a hobby. Though Quinny didn’t have the resources to enroll in professional dance classes, she studied moves from TV commercials and music videos to help hone her craft and eventually landed in L.A.
After a few months in La La Land, Quinny began her professional career after booking a spot in Usher’s “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)” video and has since shared the stage with artists from Tinashe and Iggy Azealia to Big Sean and of course Beyoncé.
So what’s it like twirling on your haters next to the world’s biggest pop star? her sweat. grabbed a few minutes with Quinny as we discussed her dance history, touring with Beyoncé and her empowering radio show.
her sweat.: What’s your earliest dance memory?
quinny: My first memory of me dancing was at the age of 7. I remember dancing and singing to whatever came on the TV. My mom would also tell me funny stories of how’d I’d perform to anything that had a beat to it.
Did you take it up in school or was it a hobby you developed over time?
Dancing runs in my family, so it was a natural thing I discovered as I was growing up. There weren’t many creative outlets for children in Philly when I was younger, and we didn’t have the means to enroll me in dance schools, so I guess I’m considered a street dancer. I observe the movement and mimic it until I got it right. I can remember watching all the latest music videos over and over again until I got the routine. I truly believe this is why I am a strong visual learner.
At what point did you decide to take dance seriously and pursue it as a career?
During college I realized dancing professionally was an actual career. While in college, I was apart of a dance group called Oracle. We would compete in all the contests, fashion shows and hair shows. We all noticed how much positive feedback we were receiving, which is what sparked our interest in taking dance further than just college. We decided how we’d accomplish this dream and ATL was the next stop.
One of my friends who was also apart of a singing group opened up for a Chris Brown concert, where she met one of CB’s dancers. During a conversation, she mentioned our dance group and invited him to come to our rehearsal to see us get down. Once Oracle showed and proved, he strongly suggested that we all move to LA. Everyone was excited about the change except me! Looking back, it was my fear of the unknown. But after much persuasion, I was on board. One by one, after graduation, we all began to move to the West Coast and the rest is HERstory!
What was your first ever professional gig?
My first ever professional gig was for a Nike music video starring Charlie Murphy, “Gift To the Game.” It was choreographed by Tanisha Scott and Eboni Nichols, who are both legends in the dance industry. We all had so much fun. But my first major professional gig was Usher’s “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)” music video. It was choreographed by Aakomon Jones. I actually booked that video within a year of me being in California which blew my mind.
As a dancer, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a good workout regimen is important, so what are some of your fitness secrets?
Well, I’ve been dancing all my life, and on the East Coast, we dance really hard, so that is a workout in itself. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve begun doing yoga. Yoga helps me maintain and gain flexibility and strength. I recently began getting into gym workouts, and I’m surprisingly enjoying this new regimen. From my experience with workout regimens thus far, here are a few fitness secrets: running on the treadmill is always a good choice. It can be a great warm-up, good for cardio workout and excellent to build stamina. As I mentioned earlier, yoga is great if you are looking to stay limber, light and centered.
Talk to me a little about your Formation World Tour experience. How did it feel to be a part of that tour?
You know, there aren’t enough words to truly explain how life-changing and amazing the formation world tour was. What was so beautiful to me was how this tour aligned with who I was as a black woman of God. To be in formation was to be confident in who you were, regardless of race/ethnicity and standing strong in that truth. It was an honor to be around 20 other strong, like-minded women whose collective goal was to spread love, confidence and strength. There was a high level of excellence that was required from all who were involved in making The Formation World Tour great — NO MEDIOCRITY. With that mindset, we all worked above and beyond, and it showed each and every show!
How were you all affected on tour by the injustices happening to black people?
Man, it was really tough. I remember we were overseas in Scotland when we got the news about Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. May they rest in peace. It hurt so bad, because again, two more of our brothers were gunned down due to police brutality. Right before our show the next day, the choreographers came into our dressing room and told us that Bey was going to sing “Freedom” a-cappella with the numerous names of all those killed due to police brutality displayed on the six-story LED screens. Afterward, the track version with live music would play.
As we approached our last circle of the show where “Freedom” would be performed, I remember feeling our energy shift. We were angry at the situation, sad by the loss, but also happy that we would be able to honor our brothers and sisters thru song and dance. That was probably the best “Freedom” live performance. Kicking, jumping, screaming and dancing in the water was such a release for me (and I’m sure for all the girls). Who knew that this one moment would bring a bit of awareness to what was happening in the U.S.
The remainder of our European leg was filled with fans holding signs that supported Black Lives Matter, showing sympathy and empathy to black lives being lost to injustice. That tour not only affected the people who saw it, but it also resonated with the people who were a part of it. We call each other Sister Queens because we are women who because of our experience together have become sisters for life. No one will understand our journey but us and it was such a beautiful experience. I’m forever grateful for that.
What was the biggest takeaway from the overall experience?
To stand confident and strong in who your are. Always shine your light! And in all that you do, BE EXCELLENT!
Besides Beyoncé, you’ve also shared the stage with artists like Tinashe and Iggy Azalea. Do you have a favorite performance?
They’re all my favorite for different reasons. If I had to pick a favorite tour, it would be the Formation World Tour because of the message it stood for especially in these times.
Given your experience, how would you advise aspiring dancers who want to pursue a professional dance career?
One thing to remember is that everyone’s journey is different. Do not compare your “planting seeds” season with someone’s “blossoming” season. Stay focused on your path and your time will come. I’m a living testimony of someone who started with absolutely nothing. I grew up in an underprivileged area [in North Philly] with absolutely no training. With a lot of hard work and strong faith, I’m achieving goals I set for myself and those I didn’t even know I desired. Also, it’s important to do research in the field you would like to be successful in. Learn about those who came before you so that you can get a better understanding of where you currently are and where you’d like to see yourself in the future. All in all, TRUST THE PROCESS.