There’s the speed of light, there’s the speed of sound, and then there’s the speed of a new Beyoncé song saturating every last corner of the internet.
Update: Fusion's Isabelle Niu dropped by Broadway Bodies to experience the "Formation" class in person—check out the video.
The video for “Formation"—if you've somehow managed to go this long without experiencing it, please, stop what you're doing and watch it now—appeared on YouTube and Tidal last Saturday afternoon. Just a few hours later, an email with an arresting subject line appeared in my inbox: “Emergency Class: Beyoncé Dropped a New Song!”
That message came from Broadway Bodies, a New York City dance studio that teaches choreography from a wide variety of popular songs, movies, musicals, and music videos—but its speciality is arguably all things Beyoncé. (I took a “Bow Down” class with Broadway Bodies a few months ago. I was terrible, truly terrible, but still had a great time.)
On Tuesday, I spoke to Alistair Williams, the executive director of Broadway Bodies as well as one of its choreographers and instructors, about the “Formation” class he’ll teach for the first time tonight.
“We had been waiting for months, for months, for Beyoncé to drop a new dance single. When she dropped ‘Formation,’ our squad went absolutely crazy, then they went even crazier after seeing her Super Bowl performance,” Williams told me. “Naturally, we had to have an emergency class to emotionally and physically process everything that is Beyoncé.”
As its name might suggest, Broadway Bodies began by offering a musical theater-inspired workout class before branching out into teaching choreography inspired by specific artists, like Madonna, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears. When the studio introduced its first Beyoncé class in 2014, it was clear that they were onto something special.
“The line for the Beyoncé class was out the door, around the corner,” Williams said, “It was absolute insanity. And it really just stuck.”
“Formation” marks a big moment for Broadway Bodies. Although Beyoncé has released a few new tracks, like “7/11,” since the program has been up and running, major singles from Queen Bey have been few and far between, let alone ones that lend themselves to such killer choreography.
Williams was working at a café on Saturday afternoon when someone linked him to the music video on YouTube—at that point, he remembers, “Formation” had only accumulated 33,000 views. (For reference, it’s now barrelled past the 20 million mark.) For him, it was love at first listen.
“I was like, ‘This is everything.’ It’s topical, it’s relevant, it’s controversial, it’s powerful,” Williams said. “She taps into the primal desire of owning yourself and owning the room and owning whatever your profession is. Who doesn’t want to slay?”
Although he was “obsessed” with the song and video, Williams wasn’t sure at first whether Broadway Bodies should commit to hosting a “Formation” class right away. Would there be enough time to prepare? Would people even come out? What if it bombed?
Within an hour, he had made his mind up: “If it’s only me in the class, we’re going to do it. I couldn’t live without doing this song immediately.”
Alistair’s instincts were right. The two February 11 classes sold out within 48 hours, and Williams tells me he’s actually worried that they’ll be overwhelmed by unregistered walk-in students. In response to community demand, Broadway Bodies plans on scheduling more “Formation” classes in the near future. The studio will also throw a BYOB dance party centered around the single on Sunday, February 14.
After carefully scrutinizing the video—as it turns out, YouTube’s slow-motion playback option is invaluable for reviewing complex footwork—Williams and three more Broadway Bodies team members set out to master the “Formation” choreography from Beyoncé’s performance at the Super Bowl halftime show in a two-hour rehearsal on Tuesday.
Class attendees can expect to get in literal formation: Each line of dancers will move as one in marching band-like patterns. Williams intends to stay as true to the original routine as possible, making only minimal tweaks to ensure that Beyoncé’s toughest moves (that super-high Super Bowl kick, for instance) will be user-friendly for mere mortals. “I was tempted to even incorporate the part where she falls,” he joked.
According to Williams, Broadway Bodies prides itself on being a “shame-free” and “inclusive” space. He spoke enthusiastically of its tight-knit community, which is primarily comprised of women and gay men aged 25 to 34.
“We offer really fun opportunities for people to unleash their inner superstars,” he said. “They come because they want to feel like Beyoncé, feel like Britney, even though they may be accountants during the day.”
Broadway Bodies’ hour-long dance classes cost $20. Visit their website to learn more.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.