In more recent times, Paula Abdul is mostly famous for her run as a kind-hearted judge alongside Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson on the hit reality show, American Idol. However, Abdul was a famous singer and dancer in the eighties and nineties.  Not only is she a talented dancer, but she’s a gifted choreographer as well. Let’s dive deeper into her dance background.

High School

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Abdul started dance classes when she was eight years old. As a high school student, Abdul was an honor student and showcased her dancing abilities as a cheerleader. When she was 15, she danced in the 1978 musical film, Junior High School.

Once she graduated, Abdul moved to Northridge to attend college at California State University. While still a freshman, Abdul auditioned alongside 700 other women to become a Los Angeles Laker cheerleader. Only three months into her gig, Abdul took over as the team’s head choreographer and dropped out of college.

The Jackson 5 Take Notice

Abdul’s stellar choreography skills caught the attention of the Jackson 5, who hired her as an assistant dance director for their upcoming tour.

Star Choreographer

Following her tour with the Jackson 5, Abdul grew even more popular as a choreographer to the stars, working with Duran Duran, George Michael, ZZ Top, and Janet Jackson. In fact, she choreographed several Jackson music videos, including the 1986 video, “Control.”

Big Keyboard Scene

Have you ever watched the movie, Big? Do you remember the scene where Tom Hanks dances on the oversized piano? Abdul choreographed the entire scene.


One of the most famous Janet Jackson music videos Abdul choreographed was “Nasty.” Abdul’s signature style included sweeping arm movements and simple, quick footwork.

Forever Your Girl

Embarking on her own music career, Abdul released her pop album, Forever Your Girl, in 1988. Featuring fun, catchy songs such as “Forever Your Girl,” “Cold Hearted,” and “” Opposites Attract, ” the album was a hit.

“Opposites Attract” Music Video

This famous music video features Abdul dancing alongside a cartoon cat, Skat Kat. As a child, Abdul loved watching Gene Kelly dance in the musical, Singin in the Rain. In the film’s “Anchors Away” scene, Kelly dances with a cartoon mouse.

Paying homage to one of her favorite dancing scenes, Abdul dances with a rapping cat with a hip-hop flair. Audiences loved this video so much that Abdul earned a Grammy award.

Kelly was so tickled by her music video, he sent her a thank you note, which sparked a friendship between the pair. When Abdul choreographed the Academy Awards, she surprised the dancers by bringing Kelly in to offer valuable advice. Bursting into tears, the dancers were overcome with emotion when the dance legend walked into their practice session.

“Cold Hearted”

Abdul paid tribute to another famed dancer and choreographer, Bob Fosse, in her “Cold Hearted” video. Abdul credits the movie All That Jazz as inspiration for her shoot, which was the most difficult music video she ever made.  

Would you like to dance like Paula Abdul? Sign up for our adult dance classes at the modern Ballroom Dance Studio in Woodbridge. When you take our ballroom dance classes, you’ll have so much fun that you won’t even know you are getting a great workout. Contact our ballroom dance studio today to get started.