R.E.D. (Rhapsody En Dance) is a contemporary dance company that shatters the boundary between concert and commercial dance by fusing Hip-hop, Jazz, and Contemporary styles. R.E.D brings a raw, eclectic revelation to the stage, creating an entirely new genre. The group is one of the featured companies in the second annual Brooklyn Dance Festival, which will take place Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 at the Actors Fund Arts Center in downtown Brooklyn.
In the interview below, Artistic Director/Choreographer Rhapsody James talks about her unconventional dance background, working with Beyoncé, and more.
What piece are you performing at The Brooklyn Dance Festival and what is the idea or inspiration behind it?
The name of the piece we are performing at BDF is called Broken, and it’s a piece we’re doing in a premiere showcase at the end of May called Human Metabolism. Broken is about the experience of disappointment in a relationship — for example, going through a break-up or discovering an untold truth — and having to deal with wanting to run away from the issue at hand instead of dealing with it.
What is your dance background?
My dance background is not really a traditional one. It’s basically comprised of learning from music videos, award shows and dancing in the childhood talent shows. My ballet and contemporary training is very minimal compared to your average dancer. My love for the theater and traditional dance companies such as Alvin Ailey and Paul Taylor kept me hungry for what I would later practice — a style called Street Jazz. Although I am not considered a “trained” dancer, I still find myself training everyday. Any time I dance, whether it’s teaching class, taking class, or choreographing for my company, I consider part of my training.
Who were your mentors, and who are the dancers or choreographers you find inspiring today?
This may sound a bit cliché, but my parents were my mentors. They taught me to be the best I can be in the dance industry. I find many of today’s dancers inspiring and don’t have any favorites as I’m inspired by different artists for different reasons – but I really do enjoy the works from the Netherlands Dance Theater and Momix.
Your choreography credits include projects with Beyoncé, Madonna, Britney Spears, and the Jonas Brothers, among others. Any memorable stories to share?
I am very proud of these credits. In fact, one of the coolest moments in my dance career was when Beyoncé mentioned my name as a choreographer in her documentary. I must say I was a bit hyped off of that moment.
Favorite part of the rehearsal process?
My favorite part of the rehearsal process is when my dancers allow me to try different things on them, no matter how crazy. The rehearsal process is something I’ve come to treasure and love. It’s a process where you find out so many things about yourself and how you communicate your vision to your dancers. The rehearsal process is a trusting process for me. My dancers and I must trust each other through vision and movement to convey something that I always love the outcome of — and that is INSPIRATION.
Most played songs on your iPod?
I absolutely LOVVVVVVEEEE Electronic/Ambient music. Although, most people know me for commercial dance and teaching to top 40 songs, creating my company works to Electronic/Ambient music allows me to go places I never thought I could. So believe it or not, I would say that I listen to more Electronic Music then pop music, although a good Rihanna song can keep me going any day. Oh, and Justin Timberlake new album is definitely on repeat!
Do you have any hobbies or special interests outside of dance?
I love tennis, playing on my PS3 and simply watching every episode of Law and Order SVU over and over again.
To learn more about the Brooklyn Dance Festival or to purchase tickets, visit brooklyndancefestival.org. And check out our Facebook page for the latest Festival news, artist interviews, and more.
Interview conducted by Elisa Lichtenbaum. A Senior Writer at Thirteen/WNET New York, Elisa has written articles on subjects ranging from Woody Allen to Downton Abbey. She studies tap dance with Germaine Salsberg.