Fatima Robinson (Stephan Schacher)

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, choreographer, dancer, and director Fatima Robinson’s family moved to Los Angeles when she was five years old. She says whether it was a porch, a block party or a church, music was always in the background of her life.

She says as a child, her mother remembers a little Fatima bobbing her body to the sound of the music in her head.

In addition to those mental melodies, Robinson fondly reminisces back to her mother playing wonderful music in their home by artists like Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Sade, and Luther Vandross.

Robinson says she was also a huge fan of the TV show “Fame” and the musical television series “Solid Gold,” both inspired her to create her own early dance routines.

Related Stories

Vitality Furniture Founders are Power Couple Making Name In Furniture Manufacturing and Design

Bubba Wallace Seeks to Contend in New NASCAR Season

“I have two younger sisters and I used to always make up dance steps for whenever my mom would have guests over. We were the entertainment,” said Robinson.

She states that while she was a born dancer, she did not start any formal dance training until she began pursuing choreography as a career.

“I just knew I loved dancing… and luckily I grew up in this wonderful era of hip hop, where there were amazing clubs for eighteen and over kids. They didn’t sell alcohol, and it was such a great place to go and hang out,” said Robinson. “We knew that we had something special, but we didn’t know we could make careers out of it.”

She says she grew up in a poor neighborhood in San Pedro, CA, and then her mother purchased a home in Corona, which was very far removed from the club scene she loved. It was then she realized as a dancer she could go on tour, travel, and get paid for doing it.

Fatima Robinson Dancing with Michael Jackson in “Remember the Time.” (Courtesy photo)

“I had to figure out how dance could take me around the world, so I could see that there’s more in life,” said Robinson.

And figure it out she did.

Since then, Robinson has performed in music videos shot in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, across the United States, and throughout the world.

With many initial successes as a performer her true mark on the world of dance is as a choreographer.

Her signature hip-hop style can be seen in videos for musical performers like Aaliyah, The Backstreet Boys, Mary J. Blige, Sia, Meghan Trainor, Busta Rhymes, The Black-Eyed Peas, Fergie, Gwen Stefani, and many more.

However, she is possibly best known for her video work on Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.”

She has also choreographed for the musical films “Save the Last Dance,” “Dreamgirls,” and most recently the 2023 musical-drama “The Color Purple.” Robinson was the choreographer for the televised musical special, “The Wiz Live,” too.

Although she has worked with an assortment of dancers, she says there is no denying the soul and flavor imbedded in Black dancers.

Taraji P. Henson dancing in “The Color Purple.” (Courtesy photo)

“We listen to music in a different way. I like to call it ‘the pocket.’ When you have the right crew together, it’s like those dancers are sitting in a certain pocket that doesn’t exist,” said Robinson.

She says one of the beauties about working on “The Color Purple” was watching the joy in the movement exhibited by those Black dancers.

“As Black people, we know what that beauty is,” stated Robinson.

In addition to her entertainment work, Robinson has choreographed and directed several television commercials for brands like Pepsi, Gap, and Verizon.

She says although advertisements are distinct from the glamorous world of showbiz, she brings her same work ethic to any project.

“Normally in situations like that [commercials] there’s an [advertising] agency that has come up with the way they see the commercial, so you’re going with the flow of how they want to do it, and then making it spectacular,” said Robinson.

She continued, “It’s definitely a world that is very different than the film world or the music business world.”

Robinson says the key to her thirty-four-year long career is her dance team and understanding her role with them.

Anika Noni Rose, Beyonce, and Jennifer Hudson dance in “Dreamgirls.” (Courtesy photo)

“I’m a leader, not a boss. I have a great team, and I allow for the creativity in the room to happen. Everything doesn’t have to come from me, it can come from my team as well. I trust them, and they trust me,” said Robinson. “We just have a really good relationship.”

She says ego has no place in the process because dance is a collaborative effort.

With all the joys Robinson has experienced in dance two of her most heartbreaking were the deaths of Michael Jackson and Aaliyah.

She says she grew up listening to Michael, whom she shared a birthday, and he was very instrumental in teaching her tenacity, professionalism, and the importance of determination.

And Robinson calls her relationship with Aaliyah an immediate sisterhood. “When we danced together it was like synchronized swimming,” said Robinson. “I just loved her and who she was an artist, her music, and everything.”

“It’s sad when we lose people so talented,” she said.

Robinson says she is inspired by the legacies they leave, while continuing to sow her own. She credits hip hop with being the roots of her talents, and even coins herself a pioneer of the style.

“I like to try to mix hip hop in everything I do… because it’s where I came from. Street dance is so close to African dance, and African dance is the root of it all, said Robinson. “When you hire me, you know that you’re getting that.”