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."

Latest Posts


Jason Samuels Smith, photographed by Jayme Thornton

Moving Forward by Looking Back: A Week at the L.A. Tap Festival Online

I turned to tap at the outset of the European lockdown as a meaningful escape from the anxiety of the pandemic. As a dance historian specialized in dance film, I've seen my fair share of tap on screen, but my own training remains elementary. While sheltering in place, my old hardwood floors beckoned. I wanted to dig deeper in order to better understand tap's origins and how the art form has evolved today. Not so easy to accomplish in France, especially from home.

Enter the L.A. Tap Fest's first online edition.

Alongside 100 other viewers peering out from our respective Zoom windows, I watch a performer tap out rhythms on a board in their living room. Advanced audio settings allow us to hear their feet. In the chat box, valuable resources are being shared and it's common to see questions like, "Can you post the link to that vaudeville book you mentioned?" Greetings and words of gratitude are also exchanged as participants trickle in and out from various times zones across the US and around the world.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS