Splashy, happy, tappy fun!

In­side scoop about renowned chore­og­ra­pher and dancer Do­minique Kel­ley.

Austin Way - - DESIGN & REALTY - In­ter­view by Ni­cole Shiro

You have an amaz­ing ca­reer! Tell read­ers about your­self and your work.

• I went pro­fes­sional at age 12 in the Broad­way mu­si­cal Black and Blue” and toured Eu­rope per­form­ing the tap dance role that made Savion Glover fa­mous. • At age 15, I was the youngest cast mem­ber in the Broad­way hit, Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk. • I have danced in over 20 fea­ture films. • I’ve chore­ographed for Ser­ena Wil­liams, Tay­lor Swift, Queen Lat­i­fah, Jen­nifer Hol­l­i­day, Chris Martin of Cold­play, and Frank Ocean. • I’ve danced on the Gram­mys, Os­cars, Golden Globes, and Emmy Awards. • I’m part of the Emmy-win­ning chore­og­ra­phy team for CW’s Crazy Ex-Girl­friend.

What in­spired you to go into the arts?

I saw a dance pro­duc­tion per­formed at my school, and I did not blink for an hour and a half. My mother, who was a spe­cial needs mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion teacher, said she never saw me fo­cus on some­thing so in­tently. I was al­ways ac­tive, tum­bling and play­ing sports; dance was the only thing that kept me still.

When did you tran­si­tion from per­former to chore­og­ra­pher?

I’m still ac­tively per­form­ing and chore­ograph­ing. Thank God my legs still work and peo­ple still want to see them mov­ing to the beat. I don’t be­lieve that chore­og­ra­phers truly ever stop danc­ing, they just stop danc­ing in front of the pub­lic. I in­tend to dance well into my 80’s, as other tap dancers have.

Which per­for­mance medium do you most en­joy, TV, stage, or film?

Ev­ery medium has its perks. I grow bored quickly, so I en­joy be­ing able to jump from one medium to an­other. I am con­stantly cross-pol­li­nat­ing. I like to in­cor­po­rate film tran­si­tions into live the­ater. I en­joy us­ing a live au­di­ence like a TV au­di­ence by pre­sent­ing dif­fer­ent an­gles of the chore­og­ra­phy, and the story from dif­fer­ent van­tage points.

Sin­gin’ in the Rain is an iconic Amer­i­can movie mu­si­cal. What is your ap­proach to cre­at­ing the chore­og­ra­phy?

I like to be su­per-or­ganic, ex­per­i­men­tal, and hands-on with the com­pany in the re­hearsal stu­dio. I come with chore­og­ra­phy set, but it of­ten gets changed when it is on the dancer’s bod­ies.

Who is Sin­gin’ in the Rain for?

Sin­gin’ in the Rain is for ev­ery­one! How­ever, I like to chore­o­graph for peo­ple who think mu­si­cal the­ater is dumb. I’m not the big­gest fan of “mu­si­cal the­ater.”There are el­e­ments of tra­di­tional mu­si­cal the­ater I find con­trite, passé, rooted in one’s eth­nic ex­pe­ri­ences, and hokey. With that said, I find hon­esty in the move­ment and the sto­ries. I like to pro­duce work that makes peo­ple go, “I don’t re­ally en­joy mu­si­cal the­ater, but some­thing about this drew me in.” If I would en­joy watch­ing it, then I feel the hus­bands, be­grudg­ing par­ents, and bored mil­len­ni­als will en­joy it too. Au­di­ences will en­joy the nos­tal­gic feel­ing of old Hol­ly­wood, and the pop­u­lar songs that makes this mu­si­cal a world­wide phe­nom­e­non.

What do you love most about ZACH and Austin au­di­ences?

Hon­estly, ZACH is such a fa­mil­ial and free space. No one tries to change me, my process, or my way of think­ing. I am ex­tremely for­tu­nate to find this the­ater where I can ex­per­i­ment and cre­ate in a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment. I love how open and re­cep­tive the au­di­ences are at ZACH. They are savvy au­di­ences that do not re­quire any­thing be­ing spoon-fed to them. I can ref­er­ence other things, throw some­thing hu­mor­ous in, or even throw in a con­tem­po­rary move. Chances are, some­one in the au­di­ence will re­ceive it, in­gest it, and be af­fected by it. And the thing I love most about Austin is the food... P. Terry’s Burg­ers and Black’s BBQ! I in­tend to gorge my­self as much as pos­si­ble!

“Sin­gin’ in the Rain has been de­light­ing and im­press­ing au­di­ences across the globe for decades. There is love, dance, mu­sic, and rain...what could there pos­si­bly be not to like when all those sce­nar­ios are in­ter­spersed?”

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