Janet Jackson is planning to take fans on “an emotional journey through choreography.”
ET chatted with the mastermind behind the singer’s upcoming State of the World Tour, creative director Gil Duldulao, over the phone on Wednesday, who shared behind-the-scenes secrets about rehearsals, show planning and Jackson’s enviable post-baby body.
Duldulao has been working with Jackson for over a decade and says that her work ethic hasn’t changed “at all” since giving birth to her first child, son Eissa, in January. In fact, he says the 51-year-old singer is working harder than ever to make this tour a success.
“Despite how life has changed for her… if anything, she is even more dedicated and more focused for some reason,” Duldulao explains. “That’s just the professional she is. If she loves what she does — and she loves being onstage — the work ethic doesn’t change. I think just timing of the day is different, but other than that, she’s still going strong.”
Duldulao tells ET it’s currently “crunch time” in rehearsals, as the 56-city tour officially kicks off Sept. 7 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Janet and her team have been cracking down on the details, spending 16 hours or more in the studio to perfect the choreography, staging and transitions.
So, what exactly are Jackson and her dancers doing during that timeframe? Duldulao walks us through a typical rehearsal day:
“We arrive at the studio, we stretch, we work out with our trainer for about an hour to get their stamina up, keep them in good fitness. We do a lot of staging, because me as a creative director, I’m always questioning everything I do… it has to be perfect. So, there’s a lot of staging going on.”
“Then, I like to see the show full out, back to back. I do this thing called ‘honorary,’ where I call out one dancer to do a whole number by themselves in front of me, Janet and the crew. We film them on videotape so they can watch and correct themselves.
We have a lot of notebook time, where [the dancers] are writing notes every day. I give them, or my assistant will give them, a lot of notes for staging. In the meantime, my assistant is working with Janet on the side.”
“After all note taking, we run the show again. Eventually, and we’re in this phase right now, I’ll run it from top to bottom — an hour-and-45-minute show maybe five times in a row. And we repeat that process until everything is perfect and everyone’s clear. Then, I know some of the dancers go home, Janet as well, and they get on the treadmill after rehearsals at like 11 p.m. at night. So, it never stops!”
All of that dancing explains why Jackson looks so amazing just seven months after her and her estranged husband, Wissam Al Mana, welcomed their first child together. Duldulao tells ET that in addition to their daylong rehearsals and working out, the Gary, Indiana, native credits a healthy diet for her trimmed down figure.
“She is dedicated,” he reveals. “I mean, she is really strict with her diet.”
Duldulao agrees that Jackson looks incredible, and is encouraging her to go for those “dream” tour costumes.
“Honestly, I told her — I was like, ‘You’re skinny. You’re really thin,'” he gushes. “So, if anything, I think we’re going to have to have some seamstresses on hand to bring [the costumes] in more. Because she’s losing weight every day. I’m telling her, ‘Girl, you’re skinny. Are you sure [you don’t want to wear this]?'”
Although everything is going smoothly, Duldulao admits every tour comes with a challenge. As many of Jackson’s fans can recall, she postponed her Unbreakable World Tour indefinitely last year when she discovered she was pregnant.
Duldulao’s challenge for State of the World was starting the show from scratch, this time with “free-r, stronger, more powerful, clean” choreography.
“I had to go hard and create something so new with what we had,” Duldulao explains. “Whether it be content, video, staging, different songs in the set list and playing with different sounds, certain sections with the musical director, costume changes… but we did it, I did it! The fans clearly will get a show. It’s not going to be the Unbreakable show. No, they’re going to get the State of the World Tour show.”
“And I think when it comes to motherhood, you’ll see how [Janet] has matured as a woman onstage,” he adds. “You’ll see a lot of her journey through concept and creative direction on how and what takes place in certain times of her life to get to this place [she’s at] now, and I think that’s beautiful.”
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