Gil Duldulao Tells Stories Through Janet Jackson’s ‘State of the World’ Tour Performances

Gil Duldulao Tells Stories Through Janet Jackson’s ‘State of the World’ Tour Performances

Janet Jackson’s “State of the World” concert opens with images of the civil war in Syria, the names of unarmed black men killed by police officers and symbols of white supremacist groups. Simulated blood drips from the screens. These political and social messages told through current events are important aspects of the show, but as Jackson’s creative director Gil Duldulao tells it, there’s much more behind the narrative: It’s the story of Janet Jackson’s life.

The two-part “State of the World” tour traveled across the U.S. between September and December 2017, then from July to August of this year. The concert made it to two music festivals — Panorama and Essence Fest — in between, with the Global Citizens Festival in New York now on the schedule for Sept. 29 as well. But the first and second legs of the tour are subtly different — from the tracklist and arrangement of songs to the choreography and staging.

Who’s responsible for making these decisions? None other than Duldulao, the 39-year-old Hawaii native who started out at 16 as her backup dancer. (He lied and said he was 18 years old at the time so he could get an audition.) As the story goes, Duldulao then didn’t speak to Jackson for the next year and a half. He simply never got an opportunity. But their working relationship eventually bloomed, and Duldulao is now clocking his 23rd year on the Jackson team.

When crafting the second leg of the show with Jackson and musical director Daniel Jones, Duldulao started with the set list, he explained over the phone one recent afternoon. Due to Jackson’s packed travel schedule, they didn’t have as much time as other tours to get a complete overhaul of the performance together.

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