‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Choreographer Miguel Zarate On Tailoring Moves To Each Queen So They “Truly Start Shining”

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Choreographer Miguel Zarate On Tailoring Moves To Each Queen So They “Truly Start Shining”

As the choreographer of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Miguel Zarate’s goal is to ensure that every Queen stands out and hits their mark. “I always tell the girls, ‘if you look like trash, I look even worse,’” he says. “It’s my job to make them look amazing.”

Iconic drag artist and host RuPaul searches for “America’s next drag superstar” in this VH1 reality competition. The contestants compete in various challenges that test their performance skills, and choreography tends to be one of the more difficult skills to master. It’s not just about mastering the skill, as each Queen needs to make sure they don’t blend into the background of the performance.

For the dance numbers, Zarate is given a script before each Queen has a role, so he has to create a base for the choreography before they step on stage. As they start to learn the basic movements, Zarate can then tailor the individual performance a bit to make each Queen stand out.

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DEADLINE: Did a lot of the Queens have previous experience with choreographed dancing this season? 

MIGUEL ZARATE: I think in particular, if you’re a drag queen, you have some sense of the body and movement, but there’s been moments where the girls cannot dance at all. Which is a little alarming just because I think naturally they have to dance. Like they’re a drag queen, but you come to learn that not all of them have rhythm, and just because you have rhythm doesn’t mean you can pick up choreography. It’s like two different entities.

Then you have to lip sync and they’re so focused on the lyrics that the last thing they’re thinking about is hitting a move on a certain count. So it’s definitely a challenge, but I don’t know if I could have done what I did in Season 14 with the Season 13 cast. These girls were definitely on a higher level choreographically-speaking.

DEADLINE: What’s your process for an episode like “Moulin Ru: The Rusical”?

ZARATE: That was one of my favorites. You have to understand that I’m just given a script with a character breakdown and I don’t even know who has the roles yet. At that point, I didn’t even know Willow was going to be the green fairy. It was just like there’s a green fairy, there’s four girls, and there’s Lady Camden’s role and there’s Bosco’s role. I remember reading the green fairy’s track and I understood the skit of it all and the humor. So I found like corny aerobic moves that can become faster and faster, and just had to keep it corny and light, you know? But none of that is directed. Everything just kind of spawns off of me reading the script, hearing the music, which comes in so last minute, so it’s not like I have like time to lounge around and be creative and enjoy the process. But I do remember when I saw it all together, it was really a profound moment for me. Willow nailed it and then the dancers nailed it and It was such an amazing moment. Willow’s gift is truly their humor and the way that they bring a comical, no-shits-given relief to their drag. Willow is one of my favorites in general, and that role specifically was amazing.

DEADLINE: How do you make each Queen stand out in these group numbers?

ZARATE: First, I try to edit the movement, and even out the playing field with good, solid movement, that they can all get. Once that happens, I encourage them to bring their drag into it. Like how would Willow do it? I know that the step is reached down, but would you like look low with the head? Would you reach with more hip? Are you real monotone about it? Once you start putting your personality as a drag performer into the choreography, then you truly start shining.

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