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The single biggest influence on dancing in today's videos is Michael Jackson. Most clips follow the format he perfected in his epic 1983 video Thriller: a single dancer out front, with a phalanx of dancers in the rear echoing his steps. Still, Landon, Henson and Robinson have all conjured up moments of vibrant originality. Henson's work tends to be punchy and blunt, Landon's playfully carnal, Robinson's fluidly urban. In the video (You Drive Me) Crazy, Henson has a captivating phrase in which Spears rotates on a chair, her legs splayed, projecting both sensuality and repose. Fatima's choreography for Aaliyah's Try Again ends with the R.-and-B. diva dancing with a black cane, a visual reference to the step shows held by black fraternities. As with a woman in her boyfriend's dress shirt, there's something sexy about it.
The most daring moves sometimes end up on the cutting-room floor. In Aguilera's video Come On Over (All I Want Is You), Landon created a part in which male dancers push female dancers' heads down to waist level before the women playfully slap their hands away. It was a little risque for teen pop. "Britney and Christina are both at the age where they don't want to be little girls anymore," says Landon, who has worked with both. "But their audience is still made up of little girls. So sometimes you have to cut back."
The hot trio of choreographers are broadening their influence. Landon is working on a new video for the ska-rock band No Doubt. Robinson was behind the dancing in the striking "Khaki Soul" Gap ads. And Henson has a starring role in the Showtime drama Soul Food.
The most unexpected nomination of the MTV Video Music Awards highlights dancing's renewed prominence. Alanis Morissette's clip So Pure, which the singer directed, is up for Best Choreography in a Video (Robinson and Henson are also nominated; Landon twice). Morissette took ballet, jazz and tap-dance lessons as a child. "Now I only tap-dance if I'm waiting in airports," she says, laughing. In So Pure she shows off her skills. The video, choreographed by Kevin O'Day and Anne White, features Morissette dancing through the decades--at a '50s sock hop, at a '90s rave. She taps, she swings, she celebrates movement. It's a lovely sequence: a rocker, not known for her footwork, surrendering to the beat. "I was dying to dance again," she says. What you got, Alanis? Sisqo may have a new challenger.