Two UCLA students broke free from the limitations of their pasts through their portrayal of mindless conformists in Katy Perry’s new music video “Chained To The Rhythm.”
The video, released Feb. 21, features fourth-year world arts and cultures students Nick Pauley and Maddie Olandt along with about 20 other dancers. Performing in the video, which was filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain, served as a landmark in both dancers’ personal and professional paths, they said.
In the beginning of the video, Pauley is seen entering the park next to Perry and later carrying her in a sailor outfit. About 30 seconds in, Olandt, wearing a blue dress, gleefully sits in a yellow house.
Agents told Pauley and Olandt about an audition for an unknown artist, so the dancers decided to try out together. It was only on the first day of rehearsal that they found out they were actually dancing for Perry, Pauley said.
Re’Sean Pates, assistant choreographer for the music video, ran the audition in the beginning of January, he said. Pauley and Olandt stood out to Pates because of their ability to adapt to new instruction.
“They’re not broken or held by any bounds,” Pates said. “They’re so open and available, which is super cool and hard to come by.”
Auditionees had to reach out for something they could not attain and act like crazy mall shoppers, Pauley said, which transfers into the video when dancers portray characters obsessed with deathly roller coasters.
“It was a dream job, being able to dance, go to Six Flags, ride roller coasters and be with Katy Perry,” Pauley said.
Perry rented an In-N-Out Burger truck for the cast on the last day of filming, Pauley said. He laughed while remembering the costumes and said that if Katy Perry wants him to be in a sailor costume then he’s going to be in a sailor costume.
Aside from being excited to be on set, Pauley and Olandt also related to the message of the video.
The robotic choreography relates to the message of Perry’s song that people are chained to a rhythm of following societal norms, Pauley said. The movement involves quick and precise turns that become more coordinated by the end, as the people have less control over their bodies and brains when they keep riding the roller coasters, Pates said.
“The message of the song and what we had to do to bring that message to life was very analytical,” Olandt said. “We were all appreciative of the fact that we got to be a part of something that was more than just a cool dance video.”
However, Pauley and Olandt were not always the confident dancers they are in the video.
Pauley was laughed at by students in his fourth-grade talent show, and his seventh-grade teacher told him dancing was only for girls. But getting to dance in a famous pop music video has made his childhood dreams come true, he said.
“There are a lot of ups and downs in being an artist,” Pauley said. “There were a lot of times when I wanted to quit, but it’s funny because when (dancing opportunities like this) happen, the people who make fun of you tell you congratulations.”
As for Olandt, she auditioned this year while recovering from a neck fracture from last summer.
It took five months for Olandt to feel like she could fully move again, and in that time she questioned if her body could handle a career in dance, she said.
“I had to go through it to overcome it,” Olandt said. “It helped me in terms of the audition: I thought ‘Why am I afraid? I’m just lucky to be dancing.’”
She knew she would regret if she didn’t go to the audition, so she and Pauley joined the large group of auditionees. Being chosen for the video reaffirmed her passion, she said.
Victoria Marks, UCLA world arts and cultures/dance professor, taught Pauley and Olandt during their first year. Although they are strong and charismatic dancers, what stood out to her was their commitment to working and pursuing dance together since they started at UCLA, she said. Throughout the dancers’ four years at school, Marks has been able to watch them grow in their abilities.
“They have such a desire to be doing what they’re doing that they’re continuously creating opportunities,” Marks said. “The more they dance and the more they create, the stronger they become at it.”
Olandt performed with Perry again at the 2017 Grammy Awards. Dressed in white, she placed mirror-like structures around the singers while Perry moved around the stage.
“(Being in the video) made me appreciate my body that much more,” Olandt said. “It makes me want to continue being fearless.”