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By Katie Rolnick
The dancer dives into choreographing for Broadway with Holler If Ya Hear Me.
It’s not often that someone pulls double duty on Broadway. But while dazzling audiences in After Midnight, Jared Grimes has also been working as an associate choreographer on Holler If Ya Hear Me, which begins previews on May 26. The musical about the inner city struggles of two friends is set to the lyrics of rapper Tupac Shakur, who died in 1996. Grimes spoke with Katie Rolnick about his latest project.
Were you a Tupac fan before Holler If Ya Hear Me?
Tupac was my favorite rapper of all time. His words, energy and charisma have had a huge impact on me. He was more of an activist than a rapper. I feel like he had the same kind of influence on a generation as Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. or Frederick Douglass.
What dance styles did choreographer Wayne Cilento and your team draw from?
The vast terrain of hip hop from the ‘90s until now—everything from krumping to bone crushing to gliding to waving to popping. There’s a theatrical quality because we are people of the theater world. And there are elements of jazz to keep the eyes guessing.
How did you tailor the movement to suit the music?
We added that Tupac edge and ruggedness. He was very sure of himself, and we glazed that conviction over the movement. It’s into the ground, has a little bit more plié. During the workshop we didn’t have a set, but in a lot of ways that was beneficial because it showed us that the story doesn’t need much to make it magnificent. A challenge will be making the intricacies bigger: the tension you’re building with your arms, putting a cigarette out on the ground or popping your chest.
Above: Grimes in After Midnight
Is it tough to perform and choreograph?
I enjoy both. My first love is performing. Choreographing just comes with the territory. I can’t turn off my mind; it’s always creating, so it’s kind of a relief. The hardest part about choreography is not performing it—you have to enjoy it through the dancers.
Do After Midnight and Holler have any similarities?
Jazz music is the birth of all of this music. Without Duke Ellington there would be no Tupac.
What’s most unique about Holler?
Tupac’s music broke the mold. And I think the show is going to break the mold: It’s going to be real, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be beautiful, but it’s not going to do that with a Broadway smile.
Photos from top: Courtesy Grimes; Matthew Murphy, Courtesy After Midnight