Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes fooled everyone with "Señorita." The steamy, cinematic video stars the duo as will-they-or-won't-they lovers whose summer fling plays out over a windy motorcycle ride, a late-night hotel hook-up, and a sexy dancefloor rendezvous. It's those latter scenes that have gotten fans especially hot and bothered, wondering how the longtime friends made their onscreen love look so real.
"I know it's tough for Shawn and Camila, because they're friends and a lot of the moments are super intimate. It was hard to stay focused and not laugh," choreographer Sara Bivens told MTV News. "That was probably one of the hardest things: to really lock in the chemistry and not be so nervous."
The video's steamy dance sequences were dreamt up by Bivens and Calvit Hodge, two L.A.-based choreographers who have worked with Cabello since her solo breakthrough in 2017. In that time, they've gotten to watch Cabello grow as an artist and a performer — they contend she now has the sensibilities of a professional dancer — but working with a dance newbie like Mendes was another story.
"He was super nervous. He was sweating," Hodge said. "But it was actually really, really, really easy to work with him because he was super eager. The one thing that he kept saying was, 'I don't want to look like I'm trying to be a dancer. I want it to feel natural.'"
To keep it organic, Hodge observed Mendes in the studio, taking notes on his mannerisms and body language and using that to create choreography that suited the singer's energy. It's an approach Hodge and Bivens use regularly in their work; they create an authentic story through movement, as opposed to mapping out strict dance steps.
"Like, there's a part where he kind of flicks her hair, and that's something that he naturally does," Hodge explained. "So we just took his natural motions and put it to a beat and made a dance out of it."
He added, "We use the same thing [with Camila]. We spend a lot of time with her, so we know her a lot more — what type of movements she likes to do, and we know that her best side is her left side… things like that. It's almost like little cheat codes to make it work for her."
Bivens and Hodge didn't hear "Señorita" for the first time until they were actually in rehearsals with Cabello and Mendes, meaning they came up with the choreography on the spot. They only had two four-hour rehearsals with the duo before the video shoot, but that tight turnaround ensured that the dance didn't feel forced or over-rehearsed. Director Dave Meyers — whom Hodge and Bivens had worked with on Cabello's VMA-winning "Havana" video — gave the choreographers some reference points, citing Dirty Dancing as aesthetic inspiration. Mostly, though, they were influenced by the song's sultry, summery sound, and by both Mendes and Cabello's evolutions as artists and as people.
"I feel like they're both in the same point in their lives," Hodge explained. "And we just wanted to tell that story of a young woman starting to become an adult and a young man starting to find his maturity and his sex appeal. We wanted to play on both sides of that."
Take, for instance, one of the most tantalizing scenes: when Mendes handily and passionately pins Cabello against the wall. Hodge said, "That's the human in it. And that's what this song is about — it's about passion and emotion. It was like, what would be a normal thing we would do? 'Oh my god, I need you so bad, I want to take you against the wall and let's keep going and making out.' That's a normal reaction. So let's capitalize on that."
Fans of Mendes and Cabello know the two go way back — "Señorita" is their second collaboration on wax, following 2015's moody "I Know What You Did Last Summer," and the two have remained close friends since. That relationship, Bivens said, was both a blessing and a curse when it came time for them to execute the sensual "Señorita" moves.
Hodge elaborated, "Imagine if you're not really a dancer, like Shawn. And you have to [dance] in a room of people that just taught you these moves, and act like you're madly in love with each other. And then once you figure that out, you have to go on set where there's, like, 50 to 200 people watching you do this, and you try to make it look like you guys are in the room by yourself. That was probably the most complicated [part] for them."
To shake off the nerves, Bivens came up with an awesome idea where Cabello and Mendes would scream at the top of their lungs before each take (a montage of those moments can be seen in one of the "Señorita" behind-the-scenes videos released last week).
"I know everybody in the room was like, 'What in the heck is going on?!' But it helped them," she said.
Even so, the chemistry between Cabello and Mendes was palpable and gave everyone on set goosebumps, Hodge admitted.
"From what I saw, the energy on set got awkward. Like, it's awkward because it was so good," he laughed. "It was like, 'Oh my god, this looks real. This is too real.' So that's always a good sign, 'cause if we can feel it in the room, you can definitely feel it through the camera."
Fans have absolutely been feeling it — since the video's release on June 20, it's racked up a whopping 138 million views (and counting), and the single has shot to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's a testament to Mendes and Cabello's star power, but also to the opportunity to see both artists in a fresh light.
"The glow-up is real!" Hodge said, with Bivens adding, "I think everybody's just so shocked that Shawn danced. He's masculine, and [Hodge] was a perfect match for him, to teach him that choreo and get him to find the grit. And then the woman that Camila is becoming is just ever-evolving. I think the fans are noticing that. Above everything, it was the shock of, 'Holy shit, the glow-up is happening right in front of us, and we're getting to watch it."