Five Questions for Raphael Xavier

Name: Raphael Xavier
Title/Occupation: Dancer (Breaker)/choreographer
Organization/Company: Solo artist/Rennie Harris Puremovement

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. Started Breaking in 1983 and ended up in Philadelphia in 1998. I was in a Hip Hip version of Romeo and Juliet called Rome and Jewels that was created by Dr. Rennie Harris. He took me on the road from that point on and it wasn’t until I witnessed first hand what he was doing that I started to believe that everything that was in my head as a writer, photographer, dancer and rapper had the potential to be put on stage. I ventured out on my own and started olive Dance Theatre in 2002 that went on to become pretty successful dance company and still tours today. I went on a solo venture to find myself after a spine injury that pretty much paralyzed me. Dance is a practice and a 27 year career for me so I continue to create new work and search for opportunities to allow me to keep moving as a mature dancer.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

I’m inspired by many things but I have to say that anything out of the ordinary inspires me. Rennie Harris inspired me to dance and think big, Rome and Jewels inspired me to take a chance on my own works in theatre, flatland BMX inspired me because I started riding and dancing around the same time and the fluidity and beauty of the tricks make me think about using the same ideas and concepts for dance. The connections and transitions, the unexpected movements of BMX and the unexpected movement of Breaking are one in the same to me. To this day I think of those same things with a twist of percussion and odd tones and get a new concept for movement.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

It has to be speaking a different language. I’ve been around the world and still can’t speak more than one language. I never thought I would leave the country so I wasn’t interested. I spent 6 months in Brazil and learned Portuguese but when I came back to the states I didn’t have anybody to talk to and I lost most of it. But it’s important to communicate with as many people as you can. Dance is one way but
everybody is not a dancer. And it ultimately expands your personality.

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

I’ve been fortunate to dance for a living. I do many things. Voice overs, music/production, photography, film and television, etc. So i’ve managed to sell music and get voice over gigs as well as film and television. But dance has been my job for the past 15 years. Dance in theatre with an ensemble or solo. I don’t dance for film and television and don’t really have an interest to do that unless it’s my own project. It’s been a great thing to be able to dance as a Hip Hop dancer in another form that most Hip Hop dancers don’t know about. They limit themselves by closing off possibilities. They want to stay true to the form and it takes away from their growth. They don’t really know what they think they know. It’s hard to do but it teaches you a lot while you’re doing it and it’s worth it in the long run. I’m not in this for the moment. It’s been 27 years so the moment has passed and transferred into something else.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

I made a choice in 1998 to work or quit my job and dance. I quit my job and took an offer to go on the road with Rennie Harris Puremovement and ended up on the road ever sense. I’ve been funded and supported by major funding organizations, performed and major theatres in the U.S. and Internationally. My first work premiered in May 2002 and toured the same year up until 2005. People told us it was going to take 3 years to create a tour and we did it in 2 months. Now I’m performing at the NOW Festival 2010. It’s time to fly again. After 3 years of conjuring up ideas for dance and teaching and performing abroad, my spine injury was a time for reflection, healing and growth. I’m looking forward to the show and see what people have to say about it. I want to make it an evening length project and tour that as a solo work. With this economy, I think it’s an attractive concept for presenters. The outcome of all that is a grounded Hip Hop dancer with a job to continue. There’s books to write, shows to make, panels to speak on and generations who want to learn what I’ve learned from people like Dr. Rennie Harris.


Raphael Xavier will be appearing in week two of REDCAT’s New Original Works (NOW) Festival from July 29-31. For more information click here.

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