In that Paramount space, Conlon and her peers rehearsed for several strenuous days on cement, without any mirrors, in an area she describes as “not a dance space.” Still, Kanye’s dancers were locked in to the task at hand. Conlon was impressed with the energy ’Ye brought to rehearsals, and she still clearly remembers a message he shared while they prepared.
“He said, ‘Thank you for being here. I don’t see you guys as being my backup dancers. I wouldn’t be here and it wouldn’t look like this without you,’” she recalls. “So it was one of those moments where you’re like, man, I feel very lucky to be here. And it’s not just music. It’s not just backup. We’re not just here. We’re a part of it. We’re a part of the artwork, and it feels really special.”
Pusha-T says he was around Kanye most of the time throughout early 2011, coming off of MBDTF, even hitting the stage with him at SXSW a month before. That meant seeing some of what was going through Kanye’s head before the Coachella set, and getting a glimpse of just how important the moment was to his friend.
“Leading up to the show was crazy. It felt like a war. It was like a war zone. People were screaming and shouting.” – Yemi A.D.
“It had to be right,” Push says now. “Everybody had to be on point and on time. You know, just the musicianship of Mike Dean and the rest of the guys who were playing and shit like that. It was a very tense time in regard to everybody just practicing and making sure they were on time.”
On Sunday night, for the final headlining performance of the first weekend of Coachella 2011, Kanye’s dancers were bussed out to Palm Springs. They all entered their trailers, which had construction paper signs labeled with markers. The text read, “allerinas.” Conlon still isn’t sure if that misspelling was on purpose.