In the ever-escalating arms race to be the most eye-popping pop star on the planet, sometimes you have to call in for backup. Even if you're Katy Perry.
When plotting her lavishly spectacular Witness Tour, which arrives in Tampa on Friday, Perry turned to choreographers Ashley Evans and Antony Ginandjar, a.k.a. the Squared Division, an Australian choreography and creative services agency that has worked with stars like Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas.
Evans and Ginandjar worked with Perry to create the tour's jaw-dropping stage and story — over-the-top props and costumes, blindingly bold colors and patterns, astonishing set pieces and more. If you saw Perry's high-flying, basketball-themed performance of Swish Swish at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, you have an idea what's in store — the Squared Division did that, too.
"We wanted to fuse the Katy that everyone knows and loves with this big, bold, iconic imagery," Evans said by phone from London, where he was working on the British X Factor and another high-profile project he can't talk about just yet. "We absolutely adore Katy and we adore her team, and it's something we want people to see, this show. It's important for people to understand the other side of it, the massive machine that goes into putting on these shows."
For years, Evans and Ginandjar were the go-to choreographers and directors for televised performances at Pacific Rim awards shows. But they've expanded their global reach, moving to Los Angeles six years ago and spending most of the year traveling around the world working with clients. Their most recent stateside project: The Latin Grammys in Las Vegas.
It's a varied job, and one that requires them to be malleable to performers' tastes and talents.
"We definitely co-create everything," Evans said. "We often are split apart, so we'll often be on different projects at the same time, and in that way, we kind of manage them solo. But the creation part, which is the most important part, we feel, we definitely do together."
Perry came to them to help stage an hourlong performance at this year's Glastonbury Festival in England. By that point her marketing machine for her new album Witness was already in full swing, but the Squared Division was already into what she was doing.
"We were creatively in the same place at this point," Evans said. "We spent five months writing, rehearsing, developing the tour, and it was crazy and busy and full-on and all those things. She's so hands-on with everything she does; everything in her creative world is looked at by her. It comes from her. We talk about it and we get those images and visions from her."
Those visions include such phantasmagoric imagery as an enormous hand-shaped stage and eye-shaped backdrop; outsized telephones, golden dice and salt and pepper shakers; and blasts of neon color in all direction. It's all very Katy Perry, "very much about fashion and architecture and big, bold images," Evans said.
"I wanted to paint really great images on stage that people would remember, that people would think were fun, but also very cool," he said. "That was our mission with everything we did with her. Creative is subjective, and when we create, we just create things that inspire us, and that the artists we're working with will enjoy also. That's our main goal and vision."
Contact Jay Cridlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.