Street to stage: Rhapsody's mission.
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."
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|Title Annotation:||Kick it: hip hop special; choreographer Rhapsody James aims to legitimacize hip hop|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2004|
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