Andy Toad, courtesy Kelly

The Music That Makes Raja Feather Kelly Feel Like He's In His Own Movie

For choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, music is simple: "There's good music and there's bad music and I love good music and I love to hate bad music."

But, true to form, Kelly—whose past few months have included choreographing the Skittles Super Bowl musical and earning one of our first-ever Harkness Promise Awards—had some surprises up his sleeve when he made us a playlist he describes as "for moody Geminis who work over 12 hours a day and need a playlist that can shuffle and never disappoint."

Though the playlist has some whiplash-inducing twists and turns—from Coheed and Cambria to Carly Rae Jepsen to Missy Elliott to Schubert—there is a through-line: "Music that makes you feel like you're in your own movie. I love walking through the street feeling like I'm on a runway, living my best life."



When He's Listening to This Playlist

"This is my anytime, whatever I need playlist. I listen to a lot of music while I'm commuting and to get myself in a creative space. It's all very cinematic. It feels like music that is the underscore for a scene; the soundtrack for my life."

Why He Can't Stop Listening to Childish Gambino

"I listen to Gambino if I'm feeling a little bit angry or want to have a groove. I get a brand new story every time I listen to it. It's so complex and so loaded that I love listening to it over and over again."

On His '90s Nostalgia

"I'm always wishing for the '90s to come back. I'm nostalgic for a time without cell phones and Facebook and Instagram; when movies were really doing something for me that Instagram and Facebook and cell phones do for us now."

Why He Loves Lana Del Rey's Music

"It makes me feel like I'm in my movie moment. It allows me to be in an emotional state if I need to contemplate something. It makes me feel sexy."

Where He Finds New Songs

"I do Shazam, or I have the sound designers I'm working with make inspirational playlists for me. I'm very invested in pop culture so knowing what's out there is part of my research."

On How Music Drives His Choreography

"All my work is based in soap opera and '90s movies so there's a song for every moment and I'm always trying to find the right one. But I'm trying to make sure my work as a choreographer is doing the work and the song isn't doing the work."

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Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

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Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.

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