Phil Wright Talks Having Achalasia, Choreographing To "Humble"

by Shonette Reed

Over 2 million views on YouTube, Phil Wright’s choreography to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” is one of the most watched dance videos of the hit song. Kendrick dropped the song, which showed off his fast rapping technique, and the accompanying visual, at the end of March, quickly catching the eyes and ears of many. 

Two weeks later, Phil Wright had the choreography for “Humble” uploaded on Tim Milgram’s YouTube channel. Within five days, the video reached over 500,000 views. The choreography did not come without inspiration and grit. 

“The message of the song is inspiration itself! The moment I heard it first the vibe of the song just gave me this feeling and I knew I had to choreograph to it,” Wright shared in an email. “The biggest challenge I faced with the song was that Kendrick raps so quickly! It was hard to manipulate the choreography to the words and translate it lyrically with my body.”

Phil Wright got his start in the dance world at the age of 9 through African, lyrical, modern and contemporary dance. These experiences added to his versatility as a dancer. Originally from Miami, Florida, Wright came to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a career as a professional choreographer, dancer, and teacher. 

It was in 2012 that Phil was diagnosed with Achalasia, a condition that affects one’s ability to have food pass to the stomach by way of damaged nerves in the esophagus. This caused Phil to lose a lot of weight but did not cause him to give up on his dream of dance. Today, Phil works as a full-time choreographer and is an artistic director, constructing and directing local music videos.

“Achalasia affected my career dramatically. I lost so much weight, I had no energy, it almost stopped me from dancing ever again,” Wright said. “Being diagnosed with this made me stronger because it built me up mentally when I lost my strength physically. It helped me become much more mature and aware about life. It made me focus on not taking anything for granted, made me push harder, and not waste time while I still had the chance to do so. As a dancer and choreographer, nothing can hold me back. This only did the opposite.”

And it’s true. According to Wright, every day he has to hustle to make his dreams work. There’s no question about if he’ll create something new for dancers; it’s a matter of waiting for the next thing. 

Phil Wright has a few things up his sleeve for 2017. He’s setting up workshops around the U.S., continuing his goal of teaching, inspiring, motivating and changing one being’s way of thinking. His advice to aspiring choreographers is to, “Trust your art. Train yourself to trust yourself." He’s living it and it is paying off.