Q&A with Brian Friedman, Judge of “So You Think You Can Dance”

Choreographer Brian Friedman is one of today’s hottest directors for concert tours, music videos, television shows, commercials and films.

Born in Highland Park, Friedman has choreographed and directed numerous music videos—including Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and “Slave 4 U” and *NSYNC’s “Dirty Pop”—and performances, working with artists like Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Usher, Pink and Ne-Yo. As a dancer, his credits include both “Charlie’s Angels” films, “You Got Served,” “She’s All That,” and “Austin Powers Gold Member,” to name a few.

Friedman has also choreographed for “Will & Grace,” “The Tonight Show,” MTV VMAs, and the Billboard Music Awards. And you can catch one of his choreographic feats this Friday—at Macy’s Glamorama, a fall fashion show and after-party that benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities. He choreographed the “Material Girl” segment, featuring a new line of clothing by Madonna.

He’s known best for his role as a judge on the hit FOX show “So You Think You Can Dance?”

This star of the dance world took some time to answer a few questions for Make It Better.

What’s your favorite kind of dance, and why?
I am a Gemini and it is virtually impossible for me to pick a favorite anything. I love all forms of dance. I use dance as expression and depending on what mood or energy I am feeling I can use dance to release those emotions.

How did you get involved with Macy’s Glamorama and why is giving back important to you?
I have been involved in Macy’s Passport for 5 years now and I am thrilled to team up with Glamorama for the first time. I feel strongly that when you are in the public eye you have a duty to inform and educate. Knowledge to me is power and the more you know, the more you can change. Shows like this are sending out that message and doing it in a creative way. Teaming up fashion, music and dance definitely get’s people’s attention!

What else do you do to give back?
I am a teacher at heart and I reach out to aspiring dancers annually to pass on training and advice to help them in their future professional careers.

Who’s the most fun celebrity you’ve ever worked with, and why?
Ellen Degeneres! She’s not the best dancer, but she was absolutely hilarious! She made the set so much fun. She was all about cracking jokes and making sure no one was taking themselves too seriously.

What have you learned from judging several reality TV competitions?
I have an obligation first and foremost to help the contestants grow. I find that using comedy to soften the blow of a tough critique is the best way to go. If you are able to get them to laugh with you, so that no one is laughing at them, it breaks down the fear and moves them into a great space—they’re ready for growth and change.

How’s working on a music video or a movie different than choreographing a live show?
Live shows are incredible because of the rush you get. You only have one chance to make it happen.

Photo credit: Ruan Van Der Sande