Originally appeared in My City Magazine in May, 2013:
“GaGa for Jena”
Interview by : Shane Elks
I always tell others in the entertainment community to never burn a bridge because this is a small world! A perfect example of this is how I have friends all over the world that are entertainers and pretty much all of them could be linked by the six degrees of Jena game! Jena Burgin-Peters is the owner of JBP Entertainment. She has choreographed and performed for major theater and dance companies, cruise lines, resorts and film. Jena has always been at the top of her game! But now this mother, wife, teacher and sweet as pie show girl can add Emmy Winner to her impressive credits! It is always a pleasure to run into Jena, but it was especially great to chat with her about the Emmy Winning project she just choreographed.
SE: Well, starting from the beginning, how was this project introduced to you?
JBP: I was contacted by the director Tim Alden Grant who also works with Soomo Publishing, the company that produced the video. Tim had received my name from another producer that I previously worked with on a Harris Teeter & NCE lottery commercial. Immediately, I was so excited about the project.
SE: I love the concept and how even still it relates to equality and basic civil rights today! Please explain to me the theme and how you immediately perceived it.
JBP: The lyrics and the idea of using Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” song and video as a parody to tell the story of women’s suffrage, was already in place when I joined the team. As a woman, a small business owner, and a mother, I was so moved by the history of Alice Paul and the suffragists. I mean the sacrifices, the commitment, and the preserverance of those incredible women is unbelievable. If not for them, I wouldn’t be allowed the freedoms I rely on so much today. I believe and support equal rights for All people. I was so honored to be a part of such an important project. Lady Gaga has done so much for the gay community as well as for women. The comparison between her and Alice Paul is really intriguing and a great fit.
SE: Beautifully explained! Though you indeed put your Jena flavor to it. Did you find yourself wanting to change the movements from the video that you had to include? Or was that style how you would have choreographed the entire video from your perspective?
JBP: I definitely appreciate the choreography and GaGa’s style. I also thought the “monster” viewpoint was fitting. In that the suffragists were seen as “monsters/insane/outrageous”. I as a choreographer would have loved to create the entire video from my own style. I was given a little freedom and there is a “bit of Jena” in there still.
It is always hard to recreate someone else’s work. I was uber conscious of being respectful toward Laurieann Gibson’s original choreography. My hope is that Gaga saw the video and was honored at the comparison.
SE: I especially appreciated the asylum scene! Very moving how it embraced the fact of like you stated they were seen as insane and outrageous! Alice Paul is a name too many people (especially women) do not know! It was not just a parody or imitation! You all used her work to create your own story! From the costumes to the choreography, you all embraced GaGa while embracing the time period of Alice Paul and this landmark of American History!
JBP: Human rights is and always has been an issue close to my heart. I am blown away by people forgetting about our previous fighters and their undying belief. Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, and Alice Paul. All examples I would like to live by. I love using my art to honor them.
SE: You have choreographed for stages on cruise ships, major dance companies, major touring companies and so forth….do you find it harder to choreograph for a film project?
JBP: I ADORE Film and TV. It is so different from theatre. The pace is quicker and you have to have faith in yourself to make good decisions “on the spot”….all though you prepare and rehearse it is inevitable that the director and Producer will be inspired on set and ask for something more or different.
SE: I caught a glimpse of that in the behind the scenes video! And sure enough there was Jena stepping in like a pro and interpreting the direction to the dancers.
JBP: There is nothing better than having a relationship with a director where you can be in sync with his vision. I totally felt this way with Tim.
SE: So! News of the Emmy Nomination comes in! Holy Crap! What was your first thought?
JBP: I was blown away! I still am. How amazing for my daughter to look back and see that her mom was not only a rewarded choreographer but that it was recognition for such a powerful project. I don’t think many people know about it. I’m not great at self promotion believe it or not.
SE: You modest gal! I would be shouting it off the rafters! Let me do your PR!
JBP: Done…I definitely need some help in that department as well as in media. I am so proud of what we do at JBP. I know that more people would love to be a part of our studio family. If I won the lottery, I would still do what I do….just on a massive level! Can you envision my compound! Honey there would be glitter and rhinestones, sets and Diva Celine might even be in there somewhere.
SE: You will be plastered everywhere! Oh no then I would be Edina Monsoon from ABFAB! OK back! I love how your thoughts went immediately to your daughter! How fitting with the subject line! What is the exact category? For the Emmy that is…
JBP: Ah yes, the Emmy. It was won for best educational/instructional video mid south region. Pretty great.
SE: So did you change your shorts when you found out you had actually won?
JBP: You mean my shoes?! Out came the Fendis!
SE: LMAO!!!! Yes, MA’AM! Are you all taking turns with it on your mantel?
JBP: I supplied the dancers too btw. I pulled from JBP and Eddie Mabry talent. Right!
SE: And work! See there goes that promotion side! And exactly where can one go to find out how to be instructed by an Emmy award winning, internationally celebrated chorographer and performer such as Jena Burgin-Peters?
SE: Gorgeous! Rumor has it that Jena may also be making an appearance at a summer workshop for The Elks Academy this year as well….Not sure where I heard that from?
JBP: I would be delighted!! Absolutely
SE: HaHA! Love ya babe! Thank you so much! And above all…Congrats! You deserve nothing but the best!
JBP: Thank you again! I’m smiling all over again reliving the experience. Xx