Rihanna returns to the stage for Apple Music’s first Super Bowl Halftime Show


Rihanna makes history as the first headliner of the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show on Feb. 12, 2023. Image courtesy of NFL.

By Sarah Graue

Last Sunday, over 118 million viewers tuned into Rihanna’s heavily-anticipated headline performance at the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show. Five million more viewers watched the show than the actual game.

Following a seven-year hiatus, the singer, actress and businesswoman serenaded State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12 with a 12-song medley of her biggest hits, highlighting her 17-year career as a worldwide chart-topper.

Rihanna and her team of dancers opened the show floating over the 50-yard line, suspended on white LED-lit platforms. Within seconds, her 2015 hit, “Bitch Better Have My Money” echoed throughout the arena, starting the 13-minute showcase.

Marika Grivoyiannis, a second-year vocal musician at Moorpark College expressed her thoughts on the show’s opening sequence.

“The song brought the right energy to kick off the performance,” Grivoyiannis said. “I feel that it’s one of her pieces that makes her feel most confident and powerful, and it transfers to the audience too which is super important in music.”

Rihanna transitioned between a variety of hits from the 2010s, including “We Found Love” and “Work.” To the surprise of many viewers, she did not incorporate her latest songs from the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack.

“I felt the song selection was very fun and perfectly laid out,” Grivoyiannis added. “I feel that many people may have expected her to perform her latest song “Lift Me Up,” but I didn’t see it; I knew it’d be a tribute to the classics.”

Rihanna and her squad of dancers tower over State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12, 2023. Image courtesy of NFL.
Rihanna and her squad of dancers tower over State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12, 2023. Image courtesy of NFL.

Over 200 dancers joined Rihanna on the field, including Klaire Wolkensdorder, a Simi Valley High School graduate and Arizona State University student. Wolkensdorfer performed alongside the singer for a trilogy of songs including “All of the Lights,” “Run This Town” and “Umbrella.”

As a member of the award-winning ASU Dance Team, Wolkensdorfer and her company were invited by Super Bowl casting directors to audition for the show. After earning her spot in the ensemble, Wolkensdorfer impressively juggled academic responsibilities with two weeks of intense 8-hour rehearsals. As a fan of Rihanna herself, she was extremely grateful for the performance opportunity.

“Just rehearsing with her and being in her presence was an honor,” Wolkensdorfer explained. “I love RiRi and her music, and performing [in] the Super Bowl halftime with her was an experience I’ll never forget and was extremely blessed to be a part of.”

Heading the entire rehearsal process was New Zealand choreographer Parris Goebel, also known for creating routines for Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” music video, as well as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s 2020 Halftime Show. Her simple, yet fierce choreography has been acclaimed by the dance community for its energetic synchronization.

“The dancing part wasn’t very hard choreo-wise per se, but it was hard to dance continuously with the intensity needed for such an amazing show,” Wolkensdorfer said. “To dance amongst such talented people was intimidating, so it was just really cool to be a part of it in any capacity.”

Moorpark College Student Dance Association President Seleyna Figueroa also weighed in on Goebel’s world-renowned style.

“Parris Goebel’s choreography has always been so inspiring, there’s absolutely nothing like it,” Figueroa commented. “This specific choreo gave a gritty vibe that requires a lot of strength and sharpness, which the dancers executed extremely well.”

As a hip-hop choreographer herself, Figueroa complimented the group’s uniformity through their costuming. All dancers wore a white, puffy two-piece set from Savage x Fenty, Rihanna’s clothing brand.

“I’m a big fan of having dancers in the same costume to give an extra aspect of unison,” Figueroa said. “The bagginess of the outfits was also a game changer. A lot of people feel as though dancers need to show skin to look good, but that is not the case.”

Rhianna ended the routine with a much-awaited performance of her 2012 hit, “Diamonds” as she ascended over the field for a final time. The audience eagerly put up their flashlights and cheered for the singer while fireworks illuminated the stadium.

The performance was a commercial success, with Rihanna earning a 390% boost in music sales and an additional 50 million views on YouTube. Her official pregnancy confirmation also took the internet by storm.

With Rihanna in the spotlight for her returning professional and personal success, many fans are left to wonder if is this an official start to a new era for the singer and performer.