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Legacy Project

Parris Goebel

Choreographing one Super Bowl halftime show is an achievement, but to design and choreograph two of these global prime time shows marks Parris Goebel as a creative talent at the top of her game.

Doug Sherring / Courtesy NZ Herald Archive

Her first Super Bowl show was for Jennifer Lopez in 2020. They’d first collaborated in 2012 on Jennifer’s Dance Again world tour, when Parris was 20. It opened the floodgates for more work, with international artists clamouring for her to collaborate with them, including Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber, and Rihanna. She also collaborated with Cirque du Soleil on their tribute to Michael Jackson’s life and music.

“I feel a responsibility to make changes where I feel it’s lacking. I’m in a position to make a difference, so I need to do all that I can to change the future of our next generation. It just inspires me to keep going.”

The youngest of four children born to a Pākehā father, Brett, and a Sāmoan mother, LeeAnn, Parris struggled with her identity growing up. She identifies herself as ‘afakasi’ – a Sāmoan word that is a transliteration of ‘half caste’ – and she was one of the only Polynesian girls in her year at school. It wasn’t until she transferred to an all-girls school with more Polynesian students that she started to find her feet.

By this time, she’d been dancing for almost half her life, finding an affinity for Hip Hop at 10, inspired by Missy Elliott, Michael Jackson, and Beyoncé videos.

“I loved the sounds, the lightness, the music, and the freedom of it. I knew I’d found my calling,” she says.

At 15, supported by her parents, Parris dropped out of school, and formed the dance group ReQuest, practising in her aunt’s garage. Inspired by MTV and YouTube videos, she taught herself and her crew how to move, and after a year practising together, they fundraised and competed at Hip Hop International, a global dance competition known as ‘the Olympics of Hip Hop’ featuring dancers from more than 55 countries. It wasn’t long before they were winning gold medals and attracting the attention of high-profile artists.

“When you’re 15 and you don’t go to school, you have all the free time in the world. It made me really determined: I’ve gotten rid of my gateway to education. All I could do now was something with my talent,” Parris says.

In 2009, when Parris was 17, her family founded The Palace Dance Studio in Auckland to provide a rehearsal studio for students of all ages and abilities.

“We called it ‘The Palace’ because our mantra is ‘Crowns Up’. It’s all about self-empowerment and making sure our students believe in themselves,” says Brett.

It is also home to several of Parris’s dance crews who perform all over the world, including The Royal Family, watched over (long-distance, these days) by Parris.

In 2014, Parris collaborated with Justin Bieber to create 13 music videos for his album Purpose in three weeks, on a miniscule budget. She brought in more than 60 dancers – including her ReQuest crew – to create the videos. The video for Sorry, which she choreographed, directed, and produced, and where Justin didn’t feature at all, became the third-most watched video on YouTube, and it won video of the year at the American Music Awards.

Her signature dance style showcases “sassy women fire with aggressive inner strength,” and Parris has continued to hone her craft, branching out into singing and acting, featuring in the movie Step Up: All In (2014) as well as choreographing parts of it. A self-confessed workaholic, Parris immerses herself in the music, and dedicates hours to honing dances until they reach the exacting level she demands and match the vision she has. “Passion never has a day off,” she says. She continues to inspire younger dancers from the South Pacific to push their limits and deliver their best performances.

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Explore the Legacy Project

Celebrate the New Zealanders past and present who’ve made a difference in the world.

Explore the Legacy Project

Celebrate the New Zealanders past and present who’ve made a difference in the world.

Explore the Legacy Project

Celebrate the New Zealanders past and present who’ve made a difference in the world.