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Not every singer can dance. Scratch that — a lot of singers are terrible dancers. For every Michael Jackson moonwalk, there is an artist that struggles to sway on beat. Bruno Mars and choreographer Phil Tayag have the opposite problem: With each of their collaborations, they raise the bar even higher.
Tayag, also known as “Swagger Boy” or “S.B.,” is a founding member of the JabbaWocKeeZ, the winners of 2008’s America’s Best Dance Crew.However, if you take a second look, you might recognize him as one of the dancers in Mars’ most popular videos.
Behind the mysterious white mask is a face that helped choreograph “Uptown Funk” — a video with 2.9 billions views on YouTube. This was Tayag’s first time working with Mars. Since then, the south Sacramento dancer has graced stages like the Super Bowl 50 halftime show in 2016 and the 24K Magic world tour with him. Most recently, Tayag shared another viral moment with Bruno in the video for the “Finesse” remix featuring Cardi B.
MTV News spoke with Tayag about how he first started working with Bruno, how Mars has developed his dancing over the years, and his growth from “Uptown Funk” to now.
MTV News: How long have you been working with Bruno in a creative capacity?
Phil Tayag: I have been working with Bruno since “Uptown Funk,” his record with Mark Ronson. He actually had reached out to me a couple of years prior, I believe for “Treasure,” and at the time, he wanted to work with me for “Treasure,” but I was actually helping build the show with my crew JabbaWocKeeZ. We were building our new show at [Las Vegas casino and hotel] Luxor at the time, so we were like two weeks into our grand opening and I couldn’t come out and get on that project with him.
He went on tour, and I kind of thought, you know, I missed the opportunity with Bruno, because I know he makes great music. When he got off the tour, he hit me up and was like, “Hey, I got a song that I want you to work on [with] me.” … I feel like we’re almost seeing at least four years in.
MTV News: What is it like to teach Bruno a routine? Is he a fast learner when when it comes to choreography?
Tayag: I’ve got to let everyone know this: Bruno, he’s a dancer. He is an all-around entertainer, and I never want anybody to get confused, because I am this choreographer, that I’m just going somewhere in the studio by myself and creating all of this choreography on my own and then just teaching it to Bruno.
He’s not one of those artists that just want somebody to prepare something for him. We build everything together. He is very involved in all aspects of what he does when it comes to music production and everything. So it’s the same with dancing and creating and choreographing — super involved. I think, you know, me being this dancer from this background and this choreographer, this creative, I was thinking in the beginning that he was just one of these artists that want to be fed this choreography and all that, but he’s not. He’s super involved in everything so we create together. He is a choreographer as well.
But yeah, he’s for sure grown, like exponentially. It’s weird to see him kind of maybe learn something that maybe I think that he can’t [or] he’s not really picking up that fast. And even with those things that … he wouldn’t pick up, like, I don’t know what it is, but he just he figures it out, and I don’t find myself really having to hold back. When it comes to being almost as intricate as I want to be, he understands.