Brahim Rachiki is a world-renowned artistic director, choreographer, model and actor who has worked with other famous artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Travis Payne, Janet Jackson, Chris Brown and many more. He now lives in Paris.
Brahim is one of the early artist members of Moonpeel, and after meeting him on several occasions I recently had the privilege to meet and interview him about his personal and professional life.
GL – I hear your brothers had a part to play in your interest in dance, from an early age. What’s your earliest memory of dance?
BR – Yes that’s right! When I was 6-7 years old, my eldest brother showed me a breakdancing move in the kitchen. It was in the eighties and this dance had just come out. When I saw this, I got stuck right in. I remember that I put on my K-Way, I rushed out and I started practicing. My older brother (by 3 years) also showed me hip-hop moves but it was later in the nineties.
GL – How did you start practicing? Did you go to a dance school?
BR – No, I didn’t go to a dance school. Hopefully, I’m autodidact. I just learned by myself by watching videos, searching and reading a lot about many dance styles. For example, I always wanted to do ballet and tap dancing. So I often watched ballet programmes on TV and rented videos of tap performances.
I didn’t have the opportunity to practice ballet and tap since we were a large family and my parents couldn’t afford to pay for such lessons and for the material. Besides, these dance styles are normally practiced indoors, which I couldn’t do as there was not sufficient space at home so I could only practice other styles outdoors on the street (well, in a park close to home).
GL – You invested lots of time in learning about other dance styles that you did not practice. What did you gain from that?
BR – All these movements have inspired me. Actually, everything inspires me; whether it is a magazine, a picture, a baby who falls or walks, old people walking. Everything is an inspiration, animals, fish, mammals; even the movements of the foliage of a tree blown by the wind.
Many people forget that the essence of dance is to express oneself so one should not be limited to only one dance style. One needs to be open.
GL – You have also worked as an actor and a model. What encouraged you to explore other disciplines?
BR – Actually, I have always wanted to be an actor. I even remember that when I was a kid, a teacher had asked me what profession I wanted to do and I answered that I wanted to be an actor because it allows you to experience other people’s lives. I love to be in someone else’s shoes and it’s an enriching human experience.
When I was 12, I had the opportunity to meet film director Laurent Brandenbourger, who offered me the chance to act in short and medium-length films. I was also offered other opportunities abroad but my father said I was too young to do so, so I mainly focused on dance, leaving the possibility to work as an actor for later.
Later, I founded the “The Outsiders” group, a group of dancers and models, with whom we toured in Europe and North Africa for fashion designer Elvis Pompilio and other ready-to-wear brands. With this, not only had I worked as a dancer and model, but I had also managed to gain experience as a choreographer.
I then decided to abandon the group to go the United States.
GL – You’re undoubtedly a multidisciplinary artist – do you think it’s important for artists to have more than one focus and why is that?
BR – Yes, it is important because all disciplines are intertwined. It is important to learn about everything. You can’t limit yourself to only one art if you want to master it. To excel in it, you need to be curious about the other disciplines as they will inspire you.
I’m interested in many other disciplines. I’m an eternal student. So, today, I can spend time on writing then tomorrow on dance. For example, I’m also interested in painting. This allowed me to collaborate with a painter and we made a video where he used me as his paintbrush. This is the reason why I don’t want to be stuck in a box and I want to explore other horizons.
GL – Do you have any tips for someone in a similar position, who is just starting out on their journey?
BR – You must love what you do, so that you’ll forge ahead. You need to be assiduous, devoted, determined, and honest. You must prepare yourself and be ready to sweat as it will not always be easy.
You must be an eternal student and learn about art history, movements, techniques, etc. Not only this will broaden your mind and give you inspiration, but it will also help you the day you are asked for tricky questions during an audition. This for instance has helped me to be hired in some occasions.
Actually, I share exactly the same rules of success than Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Break the Rules
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Don’t Listen to the Naysayers
Work Your Butt Off
GL – How important is having an online presence to you?
BR – It is very important. All things being equal, an artist that has more online presence will succeed and get a job more easily.
The problem is that as artists, we don’t have much time to dedicate to this. Some websites force us to never stop publishing things otherwise we are not noticed and this is not feasible as it is too time-consuming. What we need are more simple tools that allow us to show more easily who we are, what we offer and help us find a job more easily wherever we want to.
Of course, the number of followers doesn’t reflect the talent you have. I know very talented artists who don’t have many followers on social networks, because they don’t have time to spend on this.
GL – What about having a talent agent? Is it important?
BR – A GOOD talent agent can promote you and find you jobs. As an artist, it is difficult and quite awkward to do it yourself as you can sound conceited to the people you’re selling yourself to. Besides, artists are not always good salespeople either anyway.
A talent agent or a talent manager can contact many people who could be interested in hiring you. Apart from that, they can also take care of contracts, legal documents, and all the paperwork that we are not aware of. He can also take care of your online presence so all this really saves you time.
GL – Did you feel pressure to gain qualifications beforehand?
BR – No. To me, only knowledge is crucial and degrees don’t necessarily reflect this.
GL – You have worked with Michael Jackson, Madonna and other famous artists. How did you manage to do so?
BR – I had always wanted to work with Michael Jackson and Madonna. I knew this would happen. When I was in the United States, I attended several auditions to be able to work with them as a dancer. Unfortunately, I was not selected. Fortunately, they both contacted me later because they had liked my ideas and my creativity. In the case of Michael, he had also liked my freestyle. This allowed me to choreograph the Vogue for Madonna and work in collaboration with Travis Pain, other choreographer of Michael.
GL – What could a typical day in your life look like now?
BR – I don’t sleep much: about 3-4 hours except on Sunday. This allows me to make the most of my day working on what I like. So, I read a lot on personal development, spirituality, writing styles, art history, etc. I meditate; I write a lot. I like putting my imagination down on paper (scripts, concepts, etc.). I do sports when I can. I also get inspiration from films, documentaries, mangas, etc. I tend to walk by myself in nature to come up with new ideas. Of course, I like to spend time with my family and friends. Human relationships are very important to me.
GL – If you could give your younger-self career advice knowing what you know now, what would you say?
BR – Avoid toxic people who take energy out of you, and do what you always want to do and forge ahead.
GL – What’s next for you?
BR – Apart from choreographing, I would like to focus more on directing and acting in the movies based on my scripts. I have already written some scripts. For example, one of them is an autobiography and being the director, actor as well as the scriptwriter would be somehow the ultimate achievement in my career. I’m happy that my projects have already shown interest.
It was incredible to interview Brahim Rachiki and find out more about his career to date and I hope that his advice helps inspire other artists along their journey.
You can find out more about Brahim below;