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Street to stage: Rhapsody's mission.

If you think hip hop is just for clubs and music videos, go to a Rhapsody concert. Dancer/choreographer Rhapsody James wants to prove the form has the same legitimacy as any other dance style, and audiences seem to agree with her. She founded Rhapsody: The Company a few years ago with a vision of bringing "street jazz" to the concert stage. "I don't want to brag, but we've sold out every show we've done," she says.

Now 28, James was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx. She taught herself to dance by studying Tina Landon's choreography in Janet Jackson videos and started choreographing when she was 16. Ambitious and focused, she appeared regularly in MTV's "The Grind," VH-1's "80's Dance Party," and "Lip Service." In 1997 she was hired to choreograph for the New Jersey Nets dance team. "Getting jobs is all about putting yourself out there," she says. "Take classes, meet people, and make an impression."

James started her company, a hybrid of hip hop, modern, and jazz, in 1998. The choreography is alternately--or simultaneously--lyrical, sharp, grungy, and sensual. Based at the Broadway Dance Center, the company has fourteen dancers whose training ranges from classical ballet to hip hop. "I'll be the first to admit when I can't do a quadruple pirouette," she says. "But if one of my dancers can, I'll use it in my choreography."

When a sequence calls for fluidity, James tells her dancers to "ride through the counts." If she needs a fierce attack, she tells them to "beast it." When a segment needs a little sensual spice, she says "add some Grey Poupon--like the mustard."

While James may focus on hip hop as a concert form, she has found inspiration from modern choreographers like Alvin Ailey and Donald Byrd. "Those guys were pioneers, and what they did was beautiful and important," she says. "But we've got something to say too."

See www.rhapsodythecompany.com
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Title Annotation:Kick it: hip hop special; choreographer Rhapsody James aims to legitimacize hip hop
Author:Johnson, Tamara
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:323
Previous Article:Getting krumped: the changing race of hip hop.
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