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."
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.
You nominated your favorite dance moments so far in 2019, and we narrowed them down to this list. Now it's time to cast your vote to help decide who will be deemed our Readers' Choice picks for the year!
Voting is open until September 17th. Only one vote per person will be counted.
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
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