08:24 - Source: CNN
Meet the Rwandan choreographer behind "This is America"
CNN —  

Being behind the scenes on one of the most iconic videos of the year has been a blessing for Sherrie Silver.

Yet, for the 23-year old Rwandan dancer and actress who made American rapper, Childish Gambino contort in comical positions, getting African dance on the big stage is more important than anything else.

“I want to be a pioneer and get African dance as an actual genre to be seen as ballet or street dance and all those other styles,” she tells CNN.

That ethos is reflected in what is her most famous work to date.

With symbolic dance routines offering scathing social commentary, ‘This is America’, a music video by Childish Gambino, broke the internet upon its release in May 2018.

Sherrie choreographed the dance routines in the video, which has since been watched over 338 million times on YouTube.

The video’s critique of present-day America inspired cover versions, including a well-received commentary on the Nigerian situation by Nigerian rapper, Falz, titled “This is Nigeria.”

Months after it inspired think pieces and profiles, Sherrie’s work on ‘This is America’ won the Best Choreography category at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards.

After meeting Gambino (real name, Donald Glover) through the rapper’s niece, both creatives agreed to have African dance styles featured in the video.

“The dance choreography represents a lot of different African dance moves because I wanted to represent not just where I am from but Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria, so many different types of dance,” she says.

Since the video’s release, things have gotten a lot more hectic for Sherrie.

But her recent work is only a new chapter in a story that began many years ago, in East Africa.

Born in 1994, Sherrie moved to the UK when she was five years old.

See more from African Voices, CNN’s arts and culture series.

Having heard tales of life in England, she says she was young and excited, as she still is.

London’s diversity in particular “provides a natural audience for what I am doing.” Sherrie says.

“I was always a show off when it came to parties, and that was when my mom can tell that I was interested in that side of work,” she remembers.

With her mother’s guidance, some classes and performances under her belt, opportunities came fast for the burgeoning dancer.

She got the chance to work for Rwanda’s President Kagame and not long after, was recommended for a film.

But the big and small screens could not stop her from moving in rhythm.

“It was never the plan I wanted to be an actress. Dance chose me basically,” she says.

Since then, Shirley has taken her craft across streets and stages in Africa.

Now she’s gone full circle to London, teaching the people about the continent of her birth and its dance styles, and in turn, helping others.