Monday, January 31, 2011

Man sets dirt bikers on fire in choreographed chaos

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 9:37 AM

Nuclear Cowboyz riders in choreographed action
  • mPRessions
  • Nuclear Cowboyz riders in choreographed action

Atlanta native Barry Lather has made a career out of using his choreography talents to create over-the-top productions with pop stars including Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince and Usher. Having learned his moves from his dance instructor mother at an early age, he has since been involved with award-winning videos, Michael Jackson’s Captain EO and a Super Bowl halftime show, to name a few. After helping make the inaugural Nuclear Cowboyz a success last year, Lather has again worked his magic on this year’s spectacle of choreographed motocross riders, dancers, pyro and other theatrics. The show comes to Atlanta this on Feb. 5 and Lather took a moment to discuss his career and his part in Nuclear Cowboyz.

You’ve worked with huge pop stars like Michael Jackson and Usher for most of your career. What was the transition from working with pop singers and dancers to guys on motorbikes like?

It’s completely different. I’m glad I have the experience of the pop-type shows to prepare me for this show. The biggest difference is that the entire arena floor is the stage for the motorcycle show as opposed to a normal concert stage. The whole show is in the round, there’s a 360-degree view of the show, so we just really have to tackle it from a different point of view and perspective. I like the challenge of it, though. I’m always up for learning new things and having new experiences. So, it’s a cool vibe.

Nuclear Cowboyz director/choreogrpaher Barry Lather
  • mPRessions
  • Nuclear Cowboyz director/choreogrpaher Barry Lather



How did you become involved with the show? Was it something you came up with or something you were asked to do?

It’s something I was asked to do. I had worked with the producer before on several ice skating shows and he said, “I have this new project that’s really different. It’s not an ice show. It’s freestyle motocross guys in a theatrical rock ‘n’ roll setting with dancers and acrobatics.” He made these guys sound like rock stars, so I said, “Of course! It sounds cool.” So, I was asked to do it based on my past experience with him and he thought it would be a good match for me.

Do you choreograph every aspect of the show or just the guys on motorcycles?
I’m the director and choreographer for every aspect of the show. So there are times when I put on my directorial hat and look at things from that point of view and times where there’s staging and choreography with the dancers, acrobats and riders. All of that needs to be coordinated, organized and rehearsed, so it’s very hands-on every day for 16 hours a day during the rehearsal process. I get the show up and running and to the first city, make any last minute tweaks or fixes and I’m pretty much done and it continues to tour.

How does this year’s show differ from last year’s?
To me, it’s more entertaining this year. There’s more going on, there’s a ton of pyrotechnics and we added another quad rider, another trials rider, we added these parkour acrobat performers that run around and utilize the set. This year, we also light riders on fire and they flip in the air. It definitely feels like a step up from last year and I think it’s just a more jam-packed, entertaining show.

Setting riders on fire is one of the ways Barry Lather improved this years Nuclear Cowboyz
  • mPRessions
  • Setting riders on fire is one of the ways Barry Lather improved this year's Nuclear Cowboyz

I’ve been in the business for 25 years and I’ve never worked on a show like this. It’s crazy. Just the energy of it and the danger of what the riders are doing is pretty phenomenal.

How long does it take from the time you start planning these shows to the time it goes on tour?
There’s a least three months of planning. Rehearsal is a 10-day process from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. There are rehearsals with dancers, rehearsals with acrobats and rehearsals with the riders. So we split the days up into three different rehearsals and we eventually get to the point where we can put them all together.

How would you say being from Atlanta has influenced your career?
I left Atlanta in ’84, right out of high school, and moved to L.A., where I lived for 15 years. I’ve lived in St. Paul, Minn., for the last 10 years. But I definitely have great memories in Atlanta. I was pretty much a ’70s kid, so I always thought there was great music there. Our whole family danced growing up, so I’ve been around dancing my whole life. One of the biggest compliments I get in the business aside from being a great mind and a creative choreographer and director is “You’re a pleasure to work with. There’s no attitude. You seem very humble.” So I take a lot of pride in that and I think it has a lot to do with growing up in the South where people are polite and you don’t get too big for your britches. I feel fortunate to have had a great career, but I’ve really tried to manage not to get caught up in the Hollywood stuff. I had a really good family and good upbringing and I have to give the South a little credit for that.

Nuclear Cowboyz. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive. 404-878-3800. www.nuclearcowboyz.com, www.philipsarena.com. $11-$48.10.

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