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Dancer Juel D. Lane honors painter Ernie Barnes in ‘The Maestro’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Check out the extraordinary dance interpretation of Ernie Barnes’ iconic painting, “The Maestro.” It was choreographed by my good buddy and dance star Juel D. Lane. The whimsical, mystical and magical video features all kinds of #BlackBoyJoy and was released this week on social media by AfroPunk.

“The Maestro” is a 1978 painting that depicts a black man as a conductor of sounds spilling out of a jukebox style radio. Barnes was one of the country’s most sought after African American artists of the 1970s. His work was featured each week on the classic sitcom Good Times (remember JJ’s paintings). His iconic image of black folks “gettin down” in the “Sugar Shack” was featured on the cover of Marvin Gaye‘s hit record “I Want You.”

“As a black man I’m deeply moved by the language Barnes paints; from the lanky extremities flowing freely in space to a bold sense of culture, color, and pure-ness on the canvas. Now I’m bringing that all to life. It’s really exciting,” said Lane in a statement.

Photo Credit: Instagram/MikeBNote

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Watch Trailer for ‘HONEY: Rise Up and Dance’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out the new trailer for the upcoming film “HONEY: Rise Up and Dance.” The project was original titled “HONEY 4” and features “Empire” actor Bryshere Y.Gray and triple threat performer Teyana Taylor.

Aspiring street dancer Skyler (Taylor) is at a major crossroads in her life. She’s decided to try-out for the same dance crew as her formally trained sister Tosha (Sierra McClain) in order to compete for a college scholarship, but is discouraged by her family and boyfriend who doubt that her raw, edgy talent is enough for her to win. Determined to prove them all wrong, Skyler practices nonstop in Atlanta’s underground dance scene and catches the eye of Tyrell (Gray). He helps her take her sexy dance and hip-hop battle skills to the next level in order to achieve her dreams.

‘HONEY: Rise Up and Dance” also features “If Loving You Is Wrong” star Joel Rush and The Quad’s Charmin Lee and is directed by the great Bille Woodruff.

“HONEY: Rise Up and Dance” leaps in theaters on April 3.

Photo Credit: YouTube.com

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Watch New Trailer for YouTube Red Original Series ‘Step Up: High Water’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Passion and fame collide in YouTube’s new series,”Step Up: High Water” It airs beginning January 31 and is based on the popular “STEP UP” film franchise.

Welcome to Atlanta, home of High Water— the city’s most cutthroat performing arts school. When twins Tal (Petrice Jones) and Janelle (Lauryn McClain) relocate from Ohio, they find themselves thrust into a world where every move is a test. As they attempt to navigate their new world— on and off the dance floor— they’ll discover just how deep they’re willing to dig to realize their dreams and seize their moment.

Grammy winning singer-songwriter Ne-Yo plays legendary High Water Performing Arts School founder, Sage Odom while Naya Rivera stars as a former dancer turned High Water administrator. Rounding out the cast is Faizon Love as Tal and Janelle’s Uncle Al and Marcus Mitchell as Dondra. Also look for appearances from CAU alum Terayle Hill and ATL’s own Kendrick Cross.

Acclaimed filmmaker Rob Hardy and dance icon Debbie Allen are directing some the series’ episodes while Channing Tatum serves as one of the show’s executive producers.

Photo Credit: IMDB.com/STEP UP

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Alvin Ailey returns to the ATL’s Fox Theatre 2/14-18 (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the world renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be returning to Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre February 2018 for six breathtaking performances beginning Valentine’s Day (February 14) through the 18th.  The stop is part of the company’s 21-city North American tour beginning January 30, 2018 at Chapel Hill, NC.

Ailey’s 32 incomparable dancers invite Atlantans to join in a celebration of love – an inspiring way to spend the evening with those close to your heart.  The engagement also includes a Family Matinee program on Saturday, February 17 at 2pm, which features a post-performance Q&A with the dancers.

In addition to a variety of premieres and new productions, the uplifting finale of each program will be Alvin Ailey’s must-see masterpiece Revelations, which has been seen by more audiences around the world than any other modern work.

Stay close to RC as I will reveal the complete programming details for the Atlanta engagement at the top of the New Year.  In the meantime, check out a video below featuring Ailey’s Artistic Director Robert Battle explaining why audiences need to see Ailey now more than ever.

Click here for tickets!

Photo Credits: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

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ATLA Dancing Due to Battle Ayo & Teo on MTV’s ‘TRL’ [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

CONGRATS to dancers Larray Curry and T’Kira Norman of LYE Academy. The teens will go toe-to-toe today against hip hop duo Ayo & Teo in a dance battle on MTV’s “TRL.”

The dancers found out during this past weekend’s ATLA Unbreakable Dance Convention which featured a who’s who of choreographers and industry professionals that focus on advancing the careers of young dancers and choreographers.  This year’s celebrity instructors included KiKi Ealy, Vick Carter, Marvelous and my past #UPFRONT guest Dee Dee Hansley aka “Lil Dee Dee.”

LYE Academy was founded by renowned dance choreographer—Ladia Yates—and provides industry standard training for rising professional dancers and choreographers. Yates is considered one of the top global female dancers and has performed with such artists as Janelle Monáe, Missy Elliott and Usher.

Ayo & Teo are one of the music industry’s hottest acts and have appeared in  videos for Usher and Chris Brown. Their song “Rolex” peaked at number 20 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Check out a few photos from the weekend and don’t forget to tune into MTV’s “TRL” today at 3:30 p.m. to see who wins the battle:

Lil Dee Dee

ATLA Dance Choreographers

Dancers sweating it out during the ATLA Dance Convention

Marvelous teaching the dancers a routine

Ladia Yates with Larray Curry and T’Kira Norman

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Pharoah Sanders, Lisa Fischer, Ailey II + more to appear at Rialto Center (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius

My good friends over at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State are celebrating their centennial year in a big way. The historic Atlanta landmark is bringing some of the biggest and brightest names in jazz, world music, dance and the performing arts for its 2017-18 season.

Festivities will kick off this fall with jazz legend Pharoah Sanders and his Quartet on October 14 followed by Ailey II on October 21. Grammy winning singer and one of the featured talents in the Oscar winning film, “20 Feet from Stardom,” Lisa Fischer will appear along with Grand Baton on October 28. Other amazing talents include Niyaz featuring Azam Ali and “The Fourth Light Projet” on November 18.

The celebration continues into the New Year with Juan De Marcos and the Afro Cuban All Stars on February 3 and The Annual Johhny Mercer Tribute with ATL’s own Joe Gransden and blues icon Francine Reed on February 11.

South Africa’s own Ladysmith Black Mambazo will bless the stage with their amazing voices on March 3 and René Marie will appear with the Georgia State University Jazz Band in April for Jazz Appreciation Month.

“Not only do we have several surprises to delight our audiences as we continue our time-honored tradition of introducing stellar new artists to Atlanta, we also have legendary world music and dance performers who will captivate and fascinate during this special season,” said Leslie Gordon, Director of the Rialto.

Click here to see the entire season + watch a snippet of “20 Feet from Stardom” below:

Photo Credits: VIMEO + Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

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Ailey II recruits ATL Choreographer Juel D. Lane for 2017-18 Season

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

When Ailey II goes on tour this fall, audiences may notice a lil southern twang to their intricate dance moves. That’s because the company is using Atlanta choreographer—Juel D. Lane.

Lane, an alumnus of Tri-Cities High School and Youth Ensemble of Atlanta (YEA), was selected to participate in the 2015-16 Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation New Directions Choreography Lab that was curated by the company’s Artistic Director, Robert Battle.

The program enables chosen dancers and choreographers to explore new ideas, take creative risks and find their voices by removing constraints of time and space, immediate financial burdens and deadline pressures. For Lane, this was an absolute dream come true.

“Ailey II Artistic Director, Troy Powell, invited me to create a new work for the company and I happily accepted. I’m truly excited to share my voice to an establishment that I’ve always admired and showed that brown bodies are transcendent geniuses on and off the stage,” said Lane in a statement. He currently dances with Bessie award winning Camille A. Brown & Dancers and is a graduate of University of North Carolina School of the Arts. 

Ailey II has become universally renowned as one of the world’s finest dance companies and continues the legacy of its founder, Alvin Ailey.

RC can’t wait to see what Lane has put together for this season. If it’s anything like his past work, we are in for a treat!  Click here for tickets to their Atlanta engagement on 10/21 at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State at 8 p.m.

Photo Credits: Shocphoto x Kendrick Daye + Alvin Ailey

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HAHN Star Crystal Fox to host ‘Dance for Diversity’ Event on 6/24

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

TV, film and stage actress and star of “Tyler Perry’s The Have and the Have NotsCrystal Fox is teaming up with Act to Impact Global for “Dance for Diversity” on Saturday, June 24 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Atlanta’s historic Adair Park II.

The day of celebration through music and dance will feature food trucks, dance and performing artists, ice cream, reading to and for kids and discussions on voter’s education and literacy. There will also be a book distribution to encourage kids and teens to read for the summer.

The mission of Act to Impact Global is to inspire, empower & educate people to combat bigotry and social ills by building bridges of communication.

Adair Park II is located at 866 Murphy Ave. SW Atlanta, GA 30310.

Click here to see more photos of Fox at the recent Kenny Leon’s True Colors “Golf & Gala” where she performed excerpts of August Wilson‘s “The Piano Lesson” with Leon, Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Lee and Glynn Turman.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Choreographer Kyle Abraham talks ‘Untitled America,’ Solange & more (AUDIO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out my exclusive audio interview with acclaimed dance choreographer Kyle Abraham. The MacArthur “genius” has a new work premiering this Saturday evening during the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s Atlanta engagement at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. His dramatic trilogy is titled, UNTITLED AMERICA and it shines a light on the impact that prison systems have on African-American families. The piece was developed over three seasons and features riveting interviews by those impacted by incarceration.

I got a chance to chat with Abraham one-on-one about the work and the inspiration behind it. We also talked about his on-going relationship with the Ailey company and working with Artistic Director, Robert Battle. Considering that Abraham is from Pittsburgh, we also discussed if he’s ever considered choreographing a work inspired by August Wilson and my selfish desire to see a collaboration between him and A Seat at the Table singer and activist, Solange.

Check out the conversation + watch a snippet of UNTITLED AMERICA below:

Photo Credit: NewYorker.com

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#UPFRONT talks to R&B singer Avery*Sunshine and Alvin Ailey dancer Hope Boykin (AUDIO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Just in case you missed it, here is link to this morning’s edition of “UPFRONT.” This week’s show featured R&B music star Avery*Sunshine, who talked about her new album, 2064 and her “Nu Soul Revival Tour” with Kindred Family Soul, Chrisette Michele, Foreign Exchange and Musiq SoulChild. She also opened up about two encounters she had with Motown founder Berry Gordy and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. It’s an enjoyable two-part interview you don’t want to miss.

Ray Cornelius with Hope Boykin

I also talked to veteran Alvin Ailey dancer and choregrapher, Hope Boykin about her new work, r-Evolution, Dream. It is premiering during the company’s Atlanta engagement at the Fabulous Fox Theatre February 15-19. The piece was inspired by a visit she had in 2015 at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights. She also opened up about Destination Dance, a new dance initiative the company has with Atlanta that includes various events and workshops around the city for dance enthusiasts.

“UPFRONT” Inside Atlanta Entertainment Industry is 30-minute magazine that features one-on-one interviews with all of the major players and behind-the-scenes superstars that make Atlanta the new “Entertainment Capital of the South.”

It airs every Saturday at 9 a.m. on Jazz 91.9 WCLK and is hosted by yours truly!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Alvin Ailey & NCCHR Present ‘Legacy of Dreams & Revelations’ [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

I had the pleasure of attending the “Legacy of Dreams & Revelations” event Wednesday night presented by The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and The National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The invitation only event featured a lively panel discussion about how the arts and social movements have connected over the years to become vehicles for change. The conversation included Ailey’s Artistic Director, Robert Battle along with veteran Ailey dancer and choreographer, Hope Boykin and Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield served as the evening’s moderator.

Ailey’s current North American Tour is comprised of a number of socially conscience works including Masekela Language, which spotlights South African apartheid and 1960s violence in Chicago and Kyle Abraham‘s Untitled America, which takes a haunting look at the impact of the prison system on African-American families. But it Boykin’s new work, “r-Evolution, Dream” that was at the center of last night’s discussion. It is an ensemble piece that was inspired by a 2015 visit she had at the Center and from the numerous Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons and speeches that got her creative wheels spinning. Music for “r-Evolution” is composed by Ali Jackson from NYC’s Jazz at Lincoln Center and narration is provided by Tony Award winning-actor Leslie Odum from Broadway’s “Hamilton.”

Boykin opened up about the creative process of “r-Evolution, Dream” and how Dr. King’s voice had a certain rhythm that she was able to match with intricate dance steps and movement. She also wanted this work to reflect Alvin Ailey‘s longstanding belief that “dance comes from the people and should be delivered back to the people.”

Following the discussion was brief Q&A and an intimate cocktail reception. Atlanta notables in attendance included Civil Rights icon, Rev. C.T. Vivian, city councilman and mayoral candidate Kwanza Hall, media personality Rashana Ali, UPSCALE Magazine’s Satchel Jester, media personality Angela Robinson, noted dancer and choreographer Juel D. Lane, and Executive Director of the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Camille Russell Love.

See more photos below and click here to purchase tickets to Ailey’s Atlanta engagement at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Also, don’t forget to tune into my radio show “UPFRONT” on January 21 at 9 a.m., where I talk exclusively to Hope Bryant about “r-Evolution, Dream” and more.

Robert Battle with Fredricka Whitfield

Hope Boykin with ACLU’s Andrea Hope

Hope Boykin with Judith Service-Montier

Juan Montier and Angela Robinson

Camille Russell Love 

Rev. C.T. Vivian and Hope Boykin

Juel D. Lane with Robert Battle

Robert Battle and the Atlanta Ailey Ambassadors

Ray Cornelius with Robert Battle

Photo Credits: Ray Cornelius.com

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‘Strike a Pose’ reunites Madonna’s ‘Truth or Dare’ Dancers (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out the trailer for “Strike a Pose,” a documentary on the lives of Madonna‘s seven male dancers that appeared in her 1991 American documentary film, “Truth or Dare.” The box office hit chronicled the pop singer’s now infamous 1990 Blond Ambition Tour and featured unforgettable musical numbers, her relationship with then boyfriend and Hollywood veteran Warren Beatty and all of her outrageous stage antics. Remember the simulated masturbation scenes during her performance of “Like a Virgin?” “Truth or Dare” was also one of the first films to take a stand on LGBT rights, freedom of expression and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“Strike a Pose” reunites the dancers (Luis Camacho, Oliver S. Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn and Gabriel Trupin) and follows their lives after the tour. It features some of their highly publicized legal battles with Madonna, their glamorous and largely inspirational impact upon society, the horrific effects of HIV/AIDS during and since the 90’s, and of course what it meant to participate in one of the most iconic and controversial tours of pop history.

“Strike a Pose” will have its U.S. theatrical release this month in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Fransisco. Click here to find out where you can watch it.

Photo Credit: StrikeAPoseFilm.com

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NBAF presents ‘New Movements in Dance’ feat. Juel D. Lane & More (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) continues its October events with “New Movements,” a day-long program from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that features some of Atlanta’s top dancers and choreographers.

The program is presented in partnership with the High Museum of Art and puts a spotlight on young choreographers and rising stars who are defining and shaping the new direction of dance in Atlanta. The featured presenters include Juel D. Lane, dancer, choreographer and film director; Kenya Griffin, Founder of the Amazing Grace Dance Company and Daryl Foster, Founder/Director of Lift.

Each one will discuss their creative process, approach, the current state of dance and choreography, works in progress and focus their presentations on audience engagement and participation. There will also be performances and workshop demonstrations.

Check out one of Lane’s newest works below, which he released last spring:

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Dance Choreographer Juel D. Lane’s ‘When the Beat Drops’ debuts TONIGHT at 8 p.m.

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Congratulations to my friend and celebrity dance choreographer Juel D. Lane. The triple threat performer, who has worked with such divas as Jasmine Guy, Lynn Whitfield and D. Woods, is gearing up to launch his newest work “When The Beat Drops” TONIGHT at 8 p.m. EST on YouTube.

“When The Beat Drops” is a film project that Lane conceived, directed and choreographed with students from his alma mater—The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The piece explores the relationship between the physical, material world and the sonic world and it features the work of film students Chris Matthews and Ryan Civale. Lane also received assistance from film faculty member and renowned cinematographer John LeBlanc and composer Reggie Croslan.

“I had this idea about a joint project where I could fuse the students from the school of dance with students from the school of film. So I choreographed a piece in the fall of last year and my plan was to put that same idea on film. It sort of reminds you of how you are when you listen to your favorite song and the feeling you get when that beat drops,” said Lane.

He also stated that the film pays homage to Yeek, a form of high energy dance moves that originated in his native Atlanta, GA. “I really wanted to keep it as authentic to the Yeek style of dance as possible. It means a lot to me and it’s the style of dance I learned growing up in Atlanta. It was the first dance style that was really relevant in my community and it just stuck with me. I promised myself if I ever got an opportunity, I would just shed some light on it and it’s history.”

In addition to “When The Beat Drops,” Lane is also working on another new work as part of Alvin Ailey’s New Direction Choreographic Lab Fellowship. It’s an opportunity for him to create the blueprint for a new piece that he can premiere at some point in the future.

“It’s an opportunity to work on your process. They’re not as concerned with you having a finished product as much as they are about you embellishing on your ideas and what you want to do. Because there are no timelines, I am able to play with different styles and techniques of choreography,” said Lane.

Check out a snippet of “When The Beat Drops” below and catch the premiere tonight at 8 p.m. on YouTube!

Photo Credit: Facebook/Juel D. Lane