Meet The Lafayette Choreographer Behind the Viral LSU Dance Routine That Made History
It's been one hell of a week for the LSU Tiger Girls who continue to receive high praise after dancing their way into history. Capturing their fourth national title recently at the UCA/UDA National College Championships, the team not only clinched the Hip Hop Division title for the second time in three years but also achieved an unprecedented feat by securing a third-place, bronze medal finish in the jazz division—the first in the school's storied history.
Kristin Daniel, a multifaceted artist whose talents span across acting, dancing, teaching, and entrepreneurship, crafted the routine that has captured the hearts and imaginations of thousands online. The performance, choreographed by the Lafayette native, has gone viral, amassing millions of views across various social media platforms, and leaving some viewers wondering how the routine only secured third place.
It was the first time the Tiger Girls ever medaled in jazz and with that achievement, they became first program in UDA college nationals history to medal in jazz and hip hop in the same year.
The jazz routine set to "Are You That Somebody," is hailed for its original style and choreographic genius that has completely captivated audiences even beyond the competition stage. Introduced on what would have been the 45th birthday of the late Princess of R&B, Aaliyah, the routine was a heartfelt tribute that resonated deeply with fans and the dance community alike. Kristin's emotional Instagram caption revealed the journey of trust, dedication, and artistic integrity that led to this momentous achievement.
Lafayette's own Kristin Daniel sat with us to discuss how she connected with the LSU Tiger Girls to create history and take the internet by storm. With an impressive resume that includes roles on "GLEE" and "Grey's Anatomy," choreography for "Astronaut Wives Club," and work on "So You Think You Can Dance," Daniel's diverse talents have positioned her as a pivotal figure in the dance world.
How long have you been teaching dance?
What's funny is I've actually been choreographing longer than I've been teaching. I started choreographing my best friend's senior solo when I was 15 and haven't stopped since. I began teaching at the age of 16.
You opened your own school a few years ago, right?
Yes, I opened Distinction Dance Company in the summer of 2020, so we're in our 4th season now.
Your resume is quite impressive. What have been some of your major highlights throughout your dance career?
My biggest and most enjoyable dance jobs included being a recurring dancer on GLEE, GREY'S ANATOMY, commercials for WALMART, performing with JANET JACKSON, CARRIE UNDERWOOD, and touring as an assistant to well-known figures in the dance industry like Brian Friedman, Tyce Diorio, Tricia Miranda, Wade Robson, and Tessandra Chavez.
Any tours stick out as a performer?
Interestingly, I wasn't very interested in touring when I danced professionally full-time. I was more drawn to dancing in TV and Film because I loved the magic of filmmaking. Now, as a choreographer, I find myself frequently on planes, almost like being on tour, ironically.
The LSU video has gained a lot of attention, but you've had some significant choreography jobs in the past, right?
I have. I was the choreographer for ABC's series Astronaut Wives Club and assisted choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance. I've also traveled to set choreography for university BFA dance programs, college and high school dance teams, and numerous studios both nationally and internationally.
It seems limiting to describe you as just a choreographer or dancer. How many professions are we up to at this point?
I'm deeply immersed in the entertainment industry, also working as a professional actress. I've served as an Executive Producer's Assistant on feature films, handling everything from contacting top agents and managers to talent booking and behind-the-scenes logistics. I've also been the Casting Director for two feature films, which remains one of my toughest tasks to date.
From the initial connection to your overall process, how did the LSU gig come about?
The Tiger Girl Coach, Kandace, saw a routine I did for a studio in Baton Rouge on Instagram and reached out. She contacted me in March 2023, and I taught a class to the Tiger Girls the next month. The job was built on a lot of trust from all sides, and I had to believe in my ability to bring something unique to the collegiate dance team world while maintaining my artistic voice.
Describe the feeling when you first saw their routine performed live.
The moment I finished choreographing it, I felt it could be something special. Seeing it live at LSU's showcase, with the crowd's electric response, filled me with pride and excitement.
What was it like to see the routine go viral and receive such widespread reactions?
It was overwhelming. I knew the routine would make a statement at Nationals, but I didn't anticipate the viral impact it had, attracting millions of views and shares from both dance enthusiasts and newcomers to dance.
Your IG caption mentioned Aaliyah, and the timing with her birthday was coincidental, right?
Yes, Aaliyah and her iconic music videos have always been an inspiration to me, and the fact that the routine gained prominence around her birthday was a beautiful coincidence that made the experience even more special.
With all the attention, who has reached out? Any interesting shares, and what's next for you?
I've been contacted by notable figures in the industry, including a 2x Emmy Winning Choreographer and a recording artist for an upcoming project. I'm starting new choreography projects soon, continuing to train my students at Distinction Dance Co., and looking forward to a busy season of work travels and exciting opportunities to continue creating and sharing my work.
The viral sensation of the routine has brought widespread acclaim, with notable figures in the entertainment industry reaching out to congratulate Daniel. The choreography not only honored Aaliyah's legacy but also highlighted the powerful impact of dance as a form of artistic expression.
As Kristin Daniel continues to navigate a bustling career filled with new projects and collaborations, her work with the LSU Tiger Girls is just the latest example of her visionary approach to dance and choreography. The team's historic performance at the national championships will forever be remembered at LSU and beyond, setting a new standard for excellence in collegiate dance competitions.
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Gallery Credit: Ben Wittstein