Austin Way

Splashy, happy, tappy fun!

Inside scoop about renowned choreograp­her and dancer Dominique Kelley.

- 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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