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Fatima Robinson Talks Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, Crowns Her ‘The Michael Jackson of Our Time’

Beyoncé may be riding high off Cowboy Carter right now, but Renaissance is the gift that keeps on giving.

In a revelatory conversation with Ahmir Questlove Thompson on his Questlove Supreme podcast, renowned choreographer Fatima Robinson revealed how Beyoncé came up with stage design and concept for the Renaissance World Tour during the pandemic — and why the superstar shifted her approach to dance on her most recent trek.

“That was Beyoncé sitting in a pandemic with a lot of time on her hands and coming up with the most incredible, creative stage that I had ever gotten to work on,” Robinson gushed of the Renaissance World Tour stage. The sold-out stadium tour featured two separate platforms connected by a moving ramp, a main stage complete with a sprawling flatscreen, a B stage that stretched into the crowd, and a slew of props including, a tank, pyrotechnics, a laser show, a giant clam shell, robot arms, a flying “disco horse” and various levitating platforms.

In Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé — the box office-topping documentary concert film chronicling the conception and execution of the tour — Queen Bey revealed that the tour was planned over four years, and three identical stages were developed for the show. The $580 million-grossing tour also featured 22 dancers, including her eldest daughter, Grammy winner Blue Ivy Carter.

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“She has quite a few choreographers across her span of music,” said Robinson. “We gave me the title ‘director of choreography’ because I was the point person that all the choreographers worked under and with. It was such a big boulder to get up a hill, that show.”

While Robinson has worked with Beyoncé in the past — most notably on 2006’s Oscar-winning Dreamgirls and her “Be Alive” performance at the 2022 Oscars — she joined forces with several other choreographers for the Renaissance tour, including her two other team members, Chris Grant and four other choreographers who worked on numbers sporadically.

Her first solo concert tour since 2016’s Formation World Tour, the Renaissance World Tour presented a notably different Beyoncé. While the three-hour show was still a feast for the eyes and ears, the performance included less intense choreography than her past tours — partially due to a knee injury she suffered before those 56 sold-out shows.

“We were having a lot of conversations around when is enough enough?” Robinson explained. “You have nothing to prove, Bey. You are our Michael Jackson of our time. We’re like athletes, at a certain point, you have to just say “Okay, I’m gonna do it, but I’m gonna also take care of myself and be mindful of what my body is telling me right now.”

Robinson’s revelations echo sentiments Beyoncé herself shared in Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé. Throughout the documentary, Queen Bey mused about looking to her idols to inform how she moves in her career. The Renaissance tour was a celebration of that, from a surprise appearance from Diana Ross to a multi-city tribute to the late Tina Turner.

“Look at how Prince was when he passed away, he had those hip replacements because of all those splits and stuff,” noted Robinson. “Look where Michael [Jackson] is. We want you around performing for years to come, so let’s not put that kind of pressure. Let’s ease into it, let’s stand there and be powerful and step into a different kind of power, and guess what? They gon’ come with you!”

That approach to performing also resulted in a very Beyoncé take on the concept of an opening act. For each show, Beyoncé began with a set of ballads, introduced by a beautiful piano-led rendition of 2003’s seminal “Dangerously In Love 2.”

“I turned to her and I was like, ‘This is really fly, starting with ballads,’” recounted Robinson. “She laughed and she said, “I’m opening up for myself!”

In addition to the Renaissance World Tour, Robinson also worked on 2023’s The Color Purple movie musical, which topped the domestic box office on opening day and earned one Oscar nomination.

Click here to watch the full clip of Fatima Robinson describing the creation of the Renaissance World Tour.