Five years ago, Kiesza used to skip class at Boston’s Berklee College of Music to visit New York City. On Wednesay evening, the dancer, singer and songwriter found herself not only back in the city, but backstage at the Late Show With David Letterman, preparing to re-enact her visual ode to the city, the dance video for her single “Hideaway,” in front of a live studio — and street — audience.
Released in February, the Williamsburg-set, single-take clip has become one of the year’s biggest viral successes, with nearly 50 million people checking out its continuous choreography and warm house soundtrack. “It wasn’t until I wrote ‘Hideaway’ that I found the song I related to as an artist,” says Kiesza shortly before her U.S. network TV debut.
Across various Ed Sullivan Theater green rooms, she and her dancers are warming up, stretching out and singing along to Michael Jackson. Given their limited rehearsal time — a little Sunday, more Monday and one hour on the day of — they seem surprisingly excited and not at all nervous. “She’s so hungry for it,” says Ljuba Castot, the dancer and choreographer who came up with the “Hideaway” moves, including those that fractured one of the artist’s ribs. “She just loves it so much.”
Prior to the performance, confused tourists and Letterman fans were staring at an open fire hydrant that was pumping water over 53rd Street. This, as it turned out, would be the center of Kiesza’s re-vamped routine. Not too long after lead guest Michael Douglas spoke with the host, Kiesza and her team made their way to the studio. Initially, they started on an onstage park bench, following the “Hideaway” script right in front of the audience. Then, half-way in, the singer and star sashayed through the seats and out the door. Naturally, she took a detour through the spraying water — even at the 6 p.m., the temperture was a humid 82 degrees — before finishing underneath the large, green Hello Deli awning adjacent to the Ed Sullivan.
This live update, as Castot envisioned it, emphasized Kiesza’s New York love and Nineties roots, featuring local dancers and house, hip-hop, breaking, locking and street jazz moves. “I’ve met so many interesting people here,” says Kiesza. “Everyone that I’m working with right now on my project, other than a few people, is from New York.” By the time her segment aired on last night’s show, however, she was long gone, off in Paris to continuing her run of success at the annual NRJ Awards.