Stephen Gal­loway

putting the moves on


Gal­loway, US-born ex­pat in Ger­many, is per­haps best known for his work be­hind the scenes of some of fash­ion’s most al­lur­ing images. In Frank­furt, it was his 25-year ten­ure as the youngest prin­ci­pal dancer un­der the tute­lage of his men­tor, chore­og­ra­pher Wil­liam “Bill” Forsythe, that set the stage for his wildest dreams. Now he’s a chore­og­ra­pher-singer-cos­tumer-art direc­tor-show pro­ducer in his own right and a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor of Nick Knight, Juer­gen Teller, David Sims, and Dutch pho­tog­ra­phy duo Inez and Vi­noodh.

As the fash­ion in­dus­try’s go-to “model whis­perer,” Gal­loway is partly re­spon­si­ble for pos­tur­ing some of God’s most ge­net­i­cally blessed cre­ations. He has a gift for sto­ry­telling and in­fus­ing move­ment with in­ten­tion, so when a pho­tog­ra­pher – typ­i­cally fo­cused on the over­all mise en scène – asks a model to run down the stairs, Gal­loway sug­gests how she should run down the stairs to best re­flect the de­sired aes­thetic.

Such was the case with Daria Wer­bowy (the peren­nial Vogue It Girl) on the set of an Yves Saint Lau­rent ad­ver­tis­ing shoot. Gal­loway pon­dered, Why is she run­ning in­side a man­sion? Is she run­ning to a di­vorce pro­ceed­ing? Is she do­ing the walk of shame? Why is she wear­ing a fringed wig and match­ing cape? With these sorts of ques­tions in mind, he be­gan mir­ror­ing Wer­bowy’s gait and nat­u­ral im­pulses, while in­tro­duc­ing a se­ries of new po­si­tions for a fash­ion pas de deux of sorts. In turn, a sim­ple re­quest to run down a flight of stairs be­came a pal­pa­ble mo­ment, and a new iconog­ra­phy was cre­ated.

Of his 15-plus-years con­sult­ing for The Rolling Stones, Gal­loway told The Wall Street Jour­nal: “I set up a whole se­ries of move­ments which I felt were, es­sen­tially, him do­ing him: a vo­cab­u­lary of move­ment which he could then use at any point he wanted. I took what was al­ready Mick and turned it up 500 per­cent!" And it makes per­fect sense – like Jag­ger, Gal­loway’s move­ments are sin­gu­larly sen­su­ous and strange, lithe yet pow­er­ful. A quick YouTube search will yield clips of a young Stephen circa 2001 singing a mix of orig­i­nal funk/rock/R&B/soul tunes, vogu­ing, then burst­ing into a full split.

For Gal­loway, a 49-year-old multi-hy­phen­ate Sven­gali, his suc­cess lies in his unique abil­ity to fi­nesse and remix both retro and con­tem­po­rary ref­er­ences. With Gal­loway’s lead, Naomi Camp­bell chan­neled 70s era Diana Ross on the cover of W mag­a­zine. Thanks to Gal­loway, Lady Gaga would never writhe and slither as coolly as she did in Tom Ford’s “Soul Train” neo-run­way show, turned vi­ral video. He is also re­spon­si­ble for suc­cess­fully guid­ing a then-un­known but nonethe­less regal Lupita Ny­ong’o through a se­ries of Miu Miu cam­paign images prior to her win­ning an Academy Award. Gisele even turned to Gal­loway to help “am­plify the sexy” on the set of a re­cent swimwear shoot.

At 6’ 4”, Gal­loway cuts an im­pos­si­bly hand­some fig­ure. With that, he’s disco-danced with Kar­lie Kloss (wear­ing that white Ver­sace jump­suit) in Nile Rodgers and Chic’s “I’ll Be There” mu­sic video, preened with Liya Kebede and Edie Camp­bell in Vogue Paris, and posed along­side Anja Ru­bik for the Fame!- themed cover of 032c.

Gal­loway’s work­ing ti­tle is merely a mode of in­tro­duc­tion – a neatly pack­aged par­cel for those with an in­sa­tiable de­sire to cat­e­go­rize. How­ever, any­one (and we mean any­one!), who has had the great for­tune of en­joy­ing Gal­loway’s com­pany un­der­stands that he’s much, much more than his nom de guerre.

Fol­low­ing, for Hello Mr. we have over­due phone call be­tween friends cov­er­ing fash­ion, sex, and ac­tivism in the age of so­cial me­dia.

TEDDY TINSON: Hi Stephen, how’s it’s go­ing? What’s hap­pen­ing in LA?

STEPHEN GAL­LOWAY: Great to hear from you, Teddy! I’m work­ing on a top-se­cret pro­ject that I can’t dis­close at the mo­ment [laughs], but I can tell you I’ve just been asked to over­see the re-launch of Fash­ion Rocks in Shang­hai. TT: That’s in­cred­i­ble. Con­grats!

SG: Thank you! I’m also work­ing on mount­ing a ret­ro­spec­tive at the Dorothy Chan­dler Pav­il­ion cel­e­brat­ing Bill’s [Forsythe] 30-year ca­reer in chore­og­ra­phy and my cos­tumes from Bal­let Frank­furt. It’ll be a mini-Cos­tume In­sti­tute mo­ment at the end of Oc­to­ber [laughs]. You’ll have to come!

TT: I can’t wait to see it! By the way sir, con­grat­u­la­tions are in or­der for the re­cent Paris Opera Bal­let de­but of your col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bill and James Blake. How’d that come to fruition?

SG: Thank you, thank you. This pro­ject was very much a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. Bill wanted to make a bal­let with some­thing the kids would en­joy danc­ing to. They’re ac­cus­tomed to danc­ing to Tchaikovsky, Stravin­sky, and other tra­di­tional com­posers, but James’ mu­sic pro­vides a cer­tain open­ness and at­ti­tude that was re­ally fresh. Work­ing with the Paris Opera is def­i­nitely a ca­reer high­light be­cause of its his­tory – it’s the old­est com­pany in the world! So many of our early bal­lets in the 80s and 90s [at Bal­let Frank­furt] were first chore­ographed to Prince songs, then slowly, Thom [Willems] would come in with some beats and things to com­plete the base of an orig­i­nal score.

TT: Wil­liam “Bill” Forsythe has been such an in­stru­men­tal part of your ca­reer, not only as a dancer, but also as a cre­ative pro­fes­sional. How did your pro­fes­sional part­ner­ship be­gin and how has it evolved?

SG: At Bal­let Frank­furt, we’d oc­ca­sion­ally have guest prêt-à-porter de­sign­ers come in to do the cos­tumes. They were fab­u­lous spec­ta­cles, but they weren’t very func­tional. Bill knew I had a cer­tain taste level, and that I un­der­stood how bod­ies moved, and what was re­quired to en­hance the per­for­mance with­out be­ing too dis­tract­ing. Those types of ex­pe­ri­ences led to me over­see­ing cos­tumes at the bal­let, as well as be­com­ing a cre­ative ad­vi­sor at Issey Miyake for five years.

TT: You’ve lived a mil­lion lives and had so many fab­u­lous ex­pe­ri­ences. How’d you be­gin work­ing with Mick Jag­ger and The Rolling Stones?

“My mom used to say, ‘When peo­ple are look­ing at you in a strange way and for long pe­ri­ods of time, it’s be­cause you’re so beau­ti­ful. They’ve never seen any­one like you.”

SG: Well, my ex­pe­ri­ences were “fab­u­lous” af­ter the fact – I sim­ply had the ex­pe­ri­ence. Of course it’s cool to be on set with a bril­liant per­former, but I just love work­ing. In terms of my ca­reer, ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence has led to the next one. I’ve sim­ply put one foot in front of the other. Peo­ple of­ten think I’ve taken some calculated steps for all my ca­reer moves, but it’s re­ally been a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. A while ago, Bill said, “We al­ways knew you would do some­thing big­ger – that was an opera house, but we saw you in are­nas.” It blew my mind.

TT: When did you first dis­cover there might be some­thing else for you? Take me back to 1967 in [your home­town] Erie, Penn­syl­va­nia. How did you get to Ger­many? What was the im­pe­tus?

SG: [Laughs] I was with my mom re­cently, and I asked her, “What were you think­ing? How dare you let a six­teen-year-old leave with two suit­cases for Europe and one let­ter of in­tro­duc­tion!” She said, “We couldn’t stop you! It would’ve been ridicu­lous to even try to stop you!”

TT: Were you afraid? I can’t imag­ine it was par­tic­u­larly easy to be young, gifted and black, and gay in the early 70s and 80s.

SG: You know, I’ve al­ways had a strong di­a­logue with my­self. At the age 4 or 5, I re­mem­ber see­ing things and ques­tion­ing them. When you have that, you never feel lonely or out of place. When we were grow­ing up, my mom used to say, “When peo­ple are look­ing at you in a strange way and for long pe­ri­ods of time, it’s be­cause you’re so beau­ti­ful. They’ve never seen any­one like you, so you should stand up tall, look them in the eye, and smile.” I’ve heard that since I was 3 years old. So, I’ve al­ways been able to pull up and smile and say, “Thank you for ac­knowl­edg­ing me, I ap­pre­ci­ate that you ac­knowl­edge my beauty and my strength.”

TT: Con­sid­er­ing the cur­rent so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, and eco­nomic cli­mate, not to men­tion the on­go­ing di­a­logue re­gard­ing race in Amer­ica, I’m con­stantly re­minded of Ta-Ne­hisi Coates’ Be­tween the World and Me, and the black body. As a phys­i­cal move­ment ex­pert, what have you ob­served re­gard­ing the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal move­ment?

SG: I’m very in-tune with en­ergy, but I had an ab­so­lute dis­con­nect with the move­ment. I was able to ob­serve and ac­knowl­edge it, but I couldn’t feel it be­cause I’ve been in Ger­many as a prin­ci­pal dancer most of my life. The po­lice know me there. They see the mag­a­zines, they come to the bal­let, and it’s a much dif­fer­ent dy­namic. Now, no one knows me here in LA. I don’t like not be­ing able to un­der­stand the fury be­cause I like to know that I can em­pathize with and for peo­ple, es­pe­cially peo­ple I have a di­rect re­la­tion­ship to. Maybe it’s the sim­ple act of some­thing hap­pen­ing to me. Maybe that will be the un­for­tu­nate in­sti­ga­tor for my re­la­tion­ship with Black Lives Mat­ter. It sounds hor­ri­ble, but it’s honest.

TT: Is there a con­nec­tion or dis­con­nec­tion be­tween one’s sense of self and the phys­i­cal body?

SG: If you turn the sound off on the tele­vi­sion, watch­ing the protests and marches, our pure phys­i­cal­ity has so much weight. There’s so much ag­gres­sion. We walk dif­fer­ently. We have to fig­ure out a way for peo­ple to stop view­ing us as a threat. Many times, a white man sees a black man and im­me­di­ately thinks, “He can beat my ass!” Whether it’s a skinny queen or a

butch ath­lete, that man is think­ing, “That black man can beat my ass / They’re stronger than us, they’re faster than us,” and so on. It’s ev­ery­thing so­ci­ety wants in our ath­letes, but when we put that in the hood and show it on the news, sud­denly it be­comes a threat. TT: One might say you epit­o­mize “tall, dark, and hand­some.” Have you ever felt fetishized?

SG: One of my ear­li­est ob­ser­va­tions of this hap­pened on a va­ca­tion with a boyfriend when I was 22. He gave me this book: “I think you’ll re­ally like it. It’s called Swim­ming Pool Li­brary.” I read it and I was so of­fended. It’s a to­tal Mandingo sit­u­a­tion. [mim­ics the text] “The long African neck, the curve of his but­tocks.” The char­ac­ter might as well be look­ing at a mon­key in a zoo! It was one of the biggest fights I’ve ever had with a boyfriend. How was he look­ing at me? And there’s al­ways that con­ver­sa­tion. Re­cently, there was a guy my friends and I came across while Googling some­thing, and ev­ery­one goes, “You know he’s a chocolate vam­pire. Keep away!” TT: What?! Do “vanilla vam­pires” ex­ist? SG: No, it doesn’t work like that. TT: So un­like dance, I sup­pose not ev­ery­thing works in op­po­si­tion. Alvin Ai­ley said, and I’m para­phras­ing, “I want to show the world that we are all hu­man be­ings. It’s not the color but the qual­ity of the work that’s most im­por­tant.” How im­por­tant it is to keep grow­ing and de­vel­op­ing?

SG: I made a con­scious de­ci­sion to re­main cu­ri­ous and con­stantly in­ves­ti­gate what’s go­ing on. I’m think­ing about next steps, but I know I didn’t have to worry be­cause it will fig­ure it­self out. That phi­los­o­phy has al­ways worked for me and it’s con­stantly hap­pen­ing. Now I’m think­ing, do I want to make an­other al­bum? Maybe I’ll get my Bill T. Jones on – the re­birth of a dancer. TT: Ahh, Bill T. Jones. Isn’t he just the best?

SG: He’s a hero and an icon. Meet­ing Mr. Jones is like meet­ing Mr. [Henry] Be­la­fonte. I’m so in­spired by these gen­tle­men, and I’m so happy we live in a time when, even amidst the chaos, we can still cre­ate, in­spire, and be in­spired. I mean, it’s like us – I was a fan of your writ­ing be­fore we be­came friends. I would read your work, col­lec­tion re­views, and things each sea­son, and then we be­came friends.

TT: I’m al­most cer­tain you’re the subject of this fea­ture! [laughs] Those fa­mil­iar with your oeu­vre know about your col­lab­o­ra­tions with Christy [Turling­ton], Naomi, and Gisele, but now you’re work­ing with an en­tirely new breed of super-

“We have to fig­ure out a way for peo­ple to stop view­ing us as a threat. Many times, a white man sees a black man and im­me­di­ately thinks, ‘He can beat my ass!’”

models. How has the in­dus­try, and there­fore your work, evolved with the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia as mag­a­zine?

SG: It’s very com­pli­cated. Dan­ger­ous is too strong a word, but it’s chal­leng­ing how the new models are deal­ing with their suc­cess. They’re like drag queens at night dur­ing the day. There’s a feel­ing that they’re go­ing to get busted, and we’re all go­ing to say, “Wait a minute, is that who you re­ally are?” We’re pro­ject­ing so much on them al­most in­stantly, and we don’t al­low them to be­come them­selves! They also lack a cer­tain in­ten­sity be­cause they’re not al­lowed to grow on the run­way. Back in the day, Naomi would have three out­fit changes in a show. First look, okay here’s what the col­lec­tion is about. Se­cond look, here’s an­other in­ter­pre­ta­tion of this col­lec­tion’s in­spi­ra­tion. When she came out that third time, Baby, here’s my per­son­al­ity! It’s swish, and it’s sashay up and down, maybe even a twirl or two [laughs]. Also, when you worked with Herb Ritts, the girls were giv­ing opin­ions. I mean, even to­day, Gisele is one of the best. She’s amaz­ing – super pro­fes­sional – knows we got the shot be­fore the pho­tog­ra­pher does. You’re click­ing or sug­gest­ing a pose, and she’s al­ready chang­ing into the next look! [laughs] To­day, they don’t have the his­tory or ex­pe­ri­ence to give that in­put. But some­one like Ken­dall Jen­ner, who’s noth­ing but lovely, is smart enough to trust that she’s in the room with the best cre­ative teams to make the right de­ci­sions for her.

TT: What’s your process for cre­at­ing chore­og­ra­phy? Where do you draw in­spi­ra­tion from for the move­ment?

SG: I’m in­spired by ev­ery­day life. It sounds silly, but it’s true. It could be the fab­ric on a Bax­ter chair, or a SquarePeg dildo set in bronze, it’s all there. When I’m work­ing with a model or with dancers, I ask my­self, Do I need to be much more con­fronta­tional? Do I need to do more? But when I try to be im­pact­ful, it’s ac­tu­ally ar­ti­fi­cial. I sim­ply do my best to align my­self with the uni­verse, and the art hap­pens around, or in ad­di­tion to, that. It will be what­ever it be­comes.

TEDDY TINSON is a writer, edi­tor, and cre­ative con­sul­tant. He cur­rently pro­duces branded con­tent at IMG Models, and as a con­tribut­ing edi­tor at In­ter­view mag­a­zine.

You stood with your arms crossed, your sil­hou­ette il­lu­mi­nated by red neon signs, smirk­ing at me. I de­cided to leave the plants at the stu­dio, since they be­longed more to it than to ei­ther of us, and made you prom­ise to wa­ter them, clean their leaves, and put them by the win­dow. I knew you’d for­get, and that they’d even­tu­ally die.

We walked down to the metro in si­lence, as if we were by our­selves. You asked me for gum, even though you’d al­ways de­clined my of­fers be­fore. As we got on the train, I fixed my eyes on the dark­ness out the win­dow with­out think­ing much, just play­ing with the gum with my tongue. Some teenagers stared at us while the train moved away qui­etly. High-waisted jeans, tight white t-shirts, and dirty sneak­ers gave them this look that re­minded me of Mar­lon Brando. One guy in par­tic­u­lar caught my at­ten­tion: blond hair, pale skin, blue eyes. His mous­tache was so light it took me a while to see it. I don’t re­mem­ber much more other than feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble, as if he could read me, as if he knew ex­actly what was hap­pen­ing be­tween us.

It was Novem­ber and the wind from the

sta­tion tun­nel tossed our coats and scarves as we found our way out. The sound of the suit­case stopped be­hind me and I turned around to look at you. You were search­ing your pock­ets for your gloves, your nose pink­ish-red. Your hair looked darker than usual, as hand­some as the day I met you – the same day I thought a guy like you could never date a guy like me. I lent you my gloves.

“This cold is killing me,” I said, fi­nally break­ing the si­lence, as we reached an un­fa­mil­iar subur­ban neigh­bor­hood.

“There, that’s the ad­dress” you said. I could see your breath. We stopped in front of the door and I di­aled the code. When we hugged, I took in the sweet, bit­ter smell of the monoi oil on your neck, and you kissed me on the fore­head, hold­ing your mouth still for a few sec­onds, whis­per­ing an al­most si­lent Merci.

We were hit by an air cur­rent and sud­denly it started to rain, re­mind­ing me I should prob­a­bly leave. I turned my face down and looked at our wet shoes. Yours were this hor­ri­ble pair of mus­tard boots that you loved, but they were so ugly to me.

"I bet­ter leave, it's get­ting late," I said ty­ing my left shoelace, which I had been drag­ging on the wet floor. Bon vent.

You barely nod­ded. Your face glowed yel­low as you lit a badly-rolled cig­a­rette. I pulled out my own and smoked with my back against the wall, watch­ing you dis­ap­pear into the blue dark­ness of the au­tumn evening, lis­ten­ing to the leaves crack as you walked away. My hands were freez­ing.

JUAN S RAMIREZ is a Colom­bian PhD stu­dent in Plant Sci­ence liv­ing be­tween the Mid­dle East and Paris. He is pas­sion­ate about trees, art, lit­er­a­ture and trav­el­ing, and de­fines him­self as an artist and a writer in progress.

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