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By Elizabeth Khuri
This hip hop virtuoso is booking herself solid with MTV videos, commercials, and high profile tours.
With her baggy camouflage pants, and tan hoodie pulled up around her diamond-shaped eyes, hip hop dancer Alexandra Rivero blends into the crowd at an evening class at the Millenium Dance Complex in Los Angeles. The 20-year-old stakes out an inconspicuous spot at the back of the room and coils her arms around her muscular body, almost shyly. Then as music sputters to life, the 5' 4" dancer suddenly commands attention. She hits a shape, narrows her gaze, and begins to pose and pop, her feet squeaking against the marley floor with gritty intensity. Every step is precise, every movement contained. And her attitude is fierce and free.
In Los Angeles, personality is key, along with a solid work ethic, versatility, and an excellent musical sense. Rivero is the whole package. In the hip hop world, where touring, music videos, and commercials signify achievement, Rivero has gradually built up a formidable streak of gigs-from pure hip hop to reggae, dance hall, and lindy-hop infused dance.
“Alex is a hot commodity in town," says Bill Purdich, owner of The Edge Performing Arts Center in Hollywood. "Choreographers like Fatima and Hi-Hat want to hire her and find out that she has been booked out from under them. Week after week it seems like she alternates from choreographer to choreographer."
Los Angeles-based choreographer Hi-Hat remembers, "When I first saw Alex, she was auditioning for Missy Elliott's video 'Work It.' I wanted to hire her on the spot, but when I called her, I found out she was only 15 years old." She was too young for that job, but Hi-Hat knew he would work with her in the future. "She had spunk!" he says. "Alex is confident, has flavor, and definitely has groove."
In June Rivero brought her powerful brew of personality and technique to the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards, dancing for Missy Elliott. Then she toured Europe with rapper The Game. As soon as she returned she replaced a dancer for emerging recording artist Rihanna (with the summer 2005 mega hit "Pon De Replay"). After just four hours of rehearsal together, the four backup dancers appeared on national TV for the MTV Video Music Awards' pre-show in Miami, then went on to perform on MTV's Total Request Live, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the BET program 106 and Park in New York.
In person Rivero is as effervescent and vibrant as her dancing, chatting and occasionally checking her Sidekick for new messages. She explains that her versatile style evolved out of her multicultural background. Rivero's parents, who came to the U.S. from Belize in the late '70s, often danced at home with their seven children to reggae music and dance hall tunes. The second youngest of six girls, Rivero watched her four older sisters dance on a non-competitive middle school dance team called The Fly Girls. She soaked up all their movements.
Rivero began learning hip hop at age 9 from her sister's then-boyfriend, Los Angeles-based choreographer Rhythm (Darrell Whitaker). Rhythm recognized her talent and brought her to adult hip hop classes, offering helpful criticism and advice. "He would teach me about being clean with my movements and also feeling the music," Rivero says. Later she studied jazz, modern, and ballet in Culver City at Hamilton High School's Academy of Music. Alex's dance team in school entered the dance division of cheerleading competitions in the lyrical and jazz divisions.
While still in high school and working part time at the local mall, Rivero began auditioning for professional work. The helter-skelter beat of school, work, and occasional dance gigs didn't faze the young artist. Rivero easily transitioned from a part-time employee and occasional dancer to full-time professional. But then again, this young woman never loses focus, "This is what my purpose is here on this earth--to perform, to show my talent in front of all these people," Rivero says.
Elizabeth Khuri is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles.
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