RDC at ARC January 25, 2015 ARC Dance Productions 9250 14th Ave. NW, Seattle See performances by veteran Relay members and guest artists as we raise funds for RDC's third season performance, RDC3, at Velocity Dance Center in April.
One of Relay's 2015 collaborators is using his background in hip-hop to create new alliances in Seattle's dance community. Originally a self-taught hip-hop dancer, UW senior Michael O’Neal Jr. has expanded his personal repertoire to include ballet and modern through his university experience. In RDC's spring show at Velocity, he'll be featured in a piece by contemporary choreographer Cheryl Delostrinos, but he's also performed more traditional modern dance with UW's professional troupe, Chamber Dance Company. On the other side of the spectrum, "Choreomike" as he's known on YouTube continues to bring his personal style of swagger to Tacoma dance crews: Chapter1NE, The Beat Hippies and NoDef. His recent work with acclaimed Seattle dance heavyweight Amy O' Neal (no relation), however, is a good example of where Mike might be headed. Mike performed in Amy's Opposing Forcesat On the Boards, described as "five B-boys from different generations and cultures coming together in curiosity, strength, vulnerability, and grace." Like Amy (who had more traditional origins as a dance graduate of Cornish College of the Arts) Mike also sees plenty of room for collaboration between urban and traditional movement genres. Plan on seeing more and more of this versatile artist around Seattle as he inspires others and collaborates with everyone from b-boys to bunheads.
You got your start in hip-hop. What's it been like studying more classical dance forms at the UW? Learning ballet and modern has been really helpful in my progression as a hip-hop dancer. It's added to my movement vocabulary; it's allowed me to learn more about my own body, and it's also helped me become more versatile. I'm more in love with dance itself. What was it like getting to perform with Chamber Dance Company? Getting to perform with Chamber Dance Company was definitely a big moment for me. Working alongside my peers and such experienced dancers taught me a lot. The experience definitely helped me grow as a person, performer and choreographer.
How did you link up with Amy O’Neal? What was the coolest part about dancing in “Opposing Forces”? I met Amy in high school through a "Dance This" intensive (a program offered by Seattle Theatre Group). We then got back in touch once I started going to the UW. She asked me to be in a piece for her for "Dance This" a couple years back.
The coolest part about being in "Opposing Forces" is getting to work with such well-known dancers and inspirations from the hip-hop world. Everyone has so much knowledge. I didn't know everyone going in to the process, but everyone was so welcoming to me and clicked right away. It will be fun to tour the piece with them.
Do you see more room in Seattle for modern/hip-hop dance collaboration? How might that happen? Who are the folks to do it? There is a crazy amount of room for modern and hip-hop collaboration in Seattle, especially for hip-hop choreographers. Hip-hop dance in general brings pieces from all other genres. I feel like both sides (hip-hop and modern dance) envy one another but don't say anything about it for whatever reason.
For a collaboration to happen, people just need to take a leap of faith and get out of their comfort zones. All Seattle dancers can help make this happen. In Opposing Forces, we had dancers with hip-hop roots who were learning from a modern dancer. We shouldn't be afraid to work with someone who has a different style. We should learn from each other and help each other grow. After all, we all share the same passion for dance.
When we can do that, there will be more art that transcends styles, studios, and dance politics. There will be something beautiful that more people can enjoy. Dance is about having fun, bringing people together, positivity and expression. So why not come together and share the love?
What are your goals as an artist? My goal as an artist is to inspire. I want to inspire anyone and everyone I can through my work, and by just being me. I don't really care how others judge me. I want to put my all in each piece and show that if you truly love something, you should go for it with all that you have.
Another goal is to be a bridge between hip-hop and other styles of dance such as ballet or modern. I want to bring people from every style together so that we can share with one another and grow as dancers and as people. We have enough problems from other people hating on our art. We should be able to stand together and make each other stronger and more united.