Not many dancers have a stage presence strong enough to earn its own Twitter hashtag. But Ariana DeBose has reached that level. In the ensemble of Broadway's Hamilton, she embodies the bullet in the show's climactic duel scene—a moment she's become so well-known for that it's simply called #thebullet. Even when she's playing more human characters, DeBose's personality is so electric and her technique so precise that her every movement crackles with infectious energy.
DeBose is currently hitting the Broadway boards for the fourth time. Photo by Curtis & Cort Photography, courtesy DeBose.
Broadway shows: Currently in Hamilton. Past include Pippin, Motown: The Musical, Bring It On: The Musical
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Training: Dance Theatre, Pierrette Sadler Danceurs and CC & Co. Dance Complex (all in North Carolina)
Accolades: Top 20, “So You Think You Can Dance" Season 6
Breakout moment: DeBose originated the role of dance crew diva Nautica in Broadway's Bring It On in 2012. It was her first time working with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. “He helped me find my comedy and what my strengths are," she says.
Quick change: In Hamilton, DeBose plays everything from a lady in a corseted ball gown to a soldier fighting in the Revolution to, yes, a bullet. “It's always a challenge to know who you are in every moment," she says. “In the Battle of Yorktown, I could choose to be a man that evening, or a woman who has disguised herself as a man fighting for our country. There's a little leeway."
Technical chameleon: Having taken class with choreographers like Sonya Tayeh, Jason Parsons and Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo during her time on the convention circuit, DeBose is at home in a variety of styles and able to excel in wildly different shows. “Bring It On was a cheerleading hip-hop musical, and I was learning how to stunt," she says, “and then I went right into Motown and was step-touching."
What Andy Blankenbuehler says: “She fills each style with a sense of life, honesty and charisma that instantly catapults her into her characters."
Finding herself: DeBose has also given several solo concerts in New York City, which showcase both her dance and singing skills. “It's important as an artist to find the confidence to do that," she says. “I would rather people know me for who I am, as opposed to them labeling what it is that I have to offer."