Last week, fans were treated to the premiere of [artist id="501686"]Britney Spears[/artist]' [article id="1658275"]"Hold It Against Me" video[/article]. The sleek, dark look at celebrity life was a new aesthetic for the star, who hooked up with Jonas Åkerlund on the clip.
While her dance scenes were choreographed by [article id="1656879"]Brian Friedman[/article], it was noted Hollywood martial-arts expert Steven Ho who helped Britney work out the moves to [article id="1658287"]battle herself in the video[/article].
"I've been very fortunate to have worked on a wide range of high-profile projects, and the video's producer, Hagai Shaham, thought my style would be a good fit with Jonas and Britney. I was brought in to train Britney, choreograph the fight and set up wires for the levitation shots," he told MTV News about joining the project.
"I've always wanted to work with Jonas," he continued. "I knew that a stylized fight would translate well with his trademark visuals, so I was thrilled about doing this project. Jonas wanted a superhuman fight with elements of brutality — that's right up my alley of how I approach an action scene, so we were definitely all on the same page throughout the process."
Not only were Åkerlund and Ho onboard for some mortal combat, but the star herself warmed up to the idea of battling a clone. "Britney was really excited throughout the whole process. It was a grueling shoot of dance and stunts, but her passion for the video and professionalism never wavered," he explained. "There were some pretty tough insert shots where we needed Britney to actually get hit in the face by 'herself.' We did several consecutive takes of this, and she had a lot of fun with it and was a great sport.
"Britney was very enthusiastic about learning how to fight; she's an athlete," he added. "I got that Jonas' concept was partially about the duality of self — we all deal with that, so who wouldn't have fun fighting their alter egos?"
The key, it seems, was making Ho's fight moves work with Friedman's dance routine. "It was really great working with Brian; he's an absolute professional. He was diligent about our fight style being cohesive with the dancing, and that's why it worked so well," Ho recalled. "Our rehearsals were on the same stage, so it was very helpful to have Brian's feedback from a dancer's point of view."
It seems that one of the most memorable moves in the fight, Spears' quickstep during the smack-down, was all her own.
"Britney was fantastic about incorporating what we had practiced in rehearsal, and as a consummate performer, she was able to take ownership by adding her own flavor to the fight. There's a quick cut in the video that features Britney taking a series of small shuffle steps in her heels. This is something she came up with herself that I thought added a nice break of 'cuteness' in the fight," he said. "Jonas drowned out the music here to highlight the tapping sounds, and it's really one of my favorite beats of the video."
Aside from the two Britneys, the other main characters in the fight were her [article id="1658281"]sky-high heels and flowing gowns[/article]. "The wardrobe was one of the stars of the fight," he explained. "At first I was concerned about how to approach the long trains. There were discussions with Jonas and [stylist] B. [Åkerlund] and [fashion assistant Renelou Padora] about possibly shortening the train for safety issues. After I showed my wife [designer Nina Petronzio] the pictures of the dresses, she literally said, 'I will kill you if you cut those trains down.' We ended up incorporating the trains as 'weapons.' We treated them as if they were sharp blades, giving Britney reason to jump and evade around them."
What did you think of the Britney battle in "Hold It Against Me"? Share your thoughts in the comments!