Back in the day at LaGuardia High School, I remember seeing Rasta in every dance magazine I picked up. Always in an amazing pose. No matter how long we argued and discussed, my colleagues and I could not replicate them. He was superhuman. That was the only explanation…
we all agreed. I did freelance photography as a young dancer, like a lot of dancers I know. When I bought my first professional camera (Before the iPhone), my teacher Roger C. Jeffrey would always try to encourage me by arranging photography gigs for me. I needed experience. One day he asked me to come to the Dance Theater of Harlem Studios for a photo shoot. Can you imagine my shock when I walked in and saw Rasta. Live-and-in-the-flesh. He jumped and turned for an hour… hitting all of the “superhuman” pictures I loved… and some new ones also! I tried to keep up with my camera. Every shot was a beauty. His technique is so pure. A virtuoso. A cool guy, very polite and respectful to the photographer… We kept in touch over the years and even met up in Stuttgart, Germany when his company “Rock The Ballet” came to town. Now he has a beautiful family, his company has been all over the world and Rasta is the new Artistic Director and C.E.O. of Showbiz and primetime. I even see him on buses in Switzerland!!!… and even after all these years I still cant do those poses………….
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Actor… Actually…let me rephrase that and say ACTION HERO! Living that beautiful life with that beautiful wife… I just knew Hollywood was calling me any day now.
Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?
No no no… I wanted to be an action hero let me rephrase that the biggest action hero ever like Van Damn, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Lee and Batman in one… but Hollywood never called and through a weird series of events dance found me. Looking back perhaps, I was too afraid to follow my dreams… I guess in the back of my mind I didn’t want to fail, so I stuck with what I was good at… and am still livin’ that beautiful life.
Favorite Things to eat?
As a vegetarian (aspiring vegan) Ethiopian is by far my favorite cuisine. Shout out to Italian, Burmese and Thai (and Japanese pumpkin curry).
Anything and everything by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, the Alchemist, The Road Less Traveled, The Fountain Head, and Siddhartha.
The Last Dragon
Thomas Crown Affair
Anything Pixar or Marvel
Favorite Dance Piece or Show/Musical or both?
Hmmm… Le Juene Homme et la Mort, The Prodigal Son and Apollo, anything Cirque and a good Swan Lake, Michael Jackson Beat it, Thriller and his 25 Motown Anniversary Special and anything Gene Kelly and Kylian. Shout out to Savion, Carlos, Tetsuya, Sylvie, Vishenva.
I like dancers who…
Translation: the few that don’t just do steps… rather their artistry, passion, commitment, technique, acting, spirit and soul bring the steps to life and they take shape and transform the air and space around, compelling the audience to feel and not just observe.
I am afraid of…
2.Not being the best Dad I can be for my beautiful Anami Halo Ramacandra.
3 As I am bipolar, having another manic episode… by far they have been the hardest things to come back from and have plagued me my whole life. My apologies to all those I have hurt and caused grief (love you mom and dad).
4 Disappointing those I love and living up to my expectations.
5 Death of my loved ones
6 losing purpose motivation and zest for life.
A dance piece should…
All the things I can’t even say, because dance is its own language that can only be witness and experience in the moment.
Something you like to do other your current job?
I cherish time with my daughter, mom and pops, TV shows, movies and Dreaming. Oh, and Tennis playing and watching (bravo to Federer #Basel and the few other GOATS out there, Mayweather, Em, Ronaldo, LeBron etc…)
One of the happiest moments in your life?
Every smile and “I love you Daddy” I get from my daughter.
One of your most unusual or coolest experiences?
#1 getting the best training was definitely the coolest period. It allowed me to buy a house at 17, took me to over 50 countries, and provide me with enough to support those I love (shout out to mom and dad and all my amazing teachers, I love you and will till the end).
#2 I had the honor performing at the Oscars hosted by Whoopie Goldberg in a piece directed/choreographed by the one and only Debbie Allen, with Savion Glover, Joaquin Cortez Desmond Richardson and Tai Jimenez. The highlight however was feeling like a star back stage and in the green room. I kid you not, Jennifer Lopez was on onesies and Catherine Zeta Jones on the other and I was sitting in the middle of them on the couch all while watching Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Ben Afflict chat it up… not to mention the other performers were Aero Smith, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carrey, Celin Dion, Andre Bocceli. Man! I tell you what! I felt like the biggest action hero that night, #dreamscometrueifyoubeliveinyou
#3 performing at temple in Kyoto
#4 on an exchange program teaching some children in Brazil and India.
#5 opening night of my fist broad way show Twyla Tharp “Movin Out” (shout out Twyla, Kim, Stacy, Sean Kelly, the entire cast, the wardrobe department, Manny, the amazing Abbie and magical Greg)
#6 working the great late Patrick Swayze who taught me what brotherhood and unconditional love was.
#7 learning and being mentor by the legendary Arthur Mitchell.
#8 could also be number 1, meeting and have a chance to talk and spend time with the greatest entertainer that ever lived Michael Jackson.
One of the most embarrassing moments in your professional career?
Falling on my head in a show in Japan (falling in general) and dropping Nicole terribly in the Nutcracker pas (I am so sorry and will always be).
Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?
Too many to mention… I had blessed upbringing a blessed life… it takes a village and I am grateful to all those who’s paths I’ve crossed for only better thank you for making me who I am today. I will say that the most influential person in my life at the present is my daughter and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, “love you and always will”.
One of the hardest things about your job?
Wheeeeeeew…. I guess staying in shape, staying relevant, hustling and learning the business side of this art game, not losing my mind, growing, finding the next challenge, finding positive people to vibe with, not taking the bad reviews personally, balancing a personal life, exuding a tremendous amount of energy to keep it all together and get through this thing called life a dance student, teacher/coach, director, producer, choreographer.
Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?
Learn how to play the harmonica and piano. Learn Latin.
Take some cooking lessons.
Build a Garden
Build a house.
Choreograph more (eventual a full length).
Write and direct something on film.
Spend more time with family and loved ones.
Watch my daughter grow older for as long as possible.
Scuba drive more.
If you could change one thing in the dance world, what would it be?
How dance is taught.
If you could change one thing in the REAL world, what would it be?
That’s a long list… but at the top I would make it mandatory to obtain a license before having a child.
A question you want to know the answer to:
Is there anything more I can do to keep my Namichan safe and happy for as long as I live?
A piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Use dance as an art form to stay Healthy, just like yoga. Let your practice and class be its own reward… look no further than you for validation. Work your ass off and expect nothing. Do this and you will succeed in many level, even if you ever make 1 dollar, euro or pound… you will be rich inside and full of life and that is more valuable than any show for that is the greatest performance of all. Love yourself and your imperfections, let them remind you, you are human. Let your daily improvement validate yourself, your being and your soul. Do not dance to be a professional dancer, dance because you must and can’t live without it. I learned this after 25 years #realtalk #realitycheck #dancechoosesyou #loveyou
Rasta will be in Basel! With Armando Braswell at the Braswell Arts Center (Austrasse 19). October 28th and 29th – A workshop series for all levels and all body types! Join us!
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