Rickey Tripp is a fiery performer, choreographer, and teacher. He has appeared on Broadway in Motown the Musical and In the Heights. Other performance credits include the off-Broadway production of In the Heights (which received a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance), the AIDA national tour, and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes.
He has served as assistant choreographer for In the Heights, Desperately Seeking Susan (West End premiere), 9-5 The Musical, The Wiz, Bring It On, and Hip-Hop with Seth Stewart. Now, Rickey has joined the ranks of BOUNTIFUL, R.Evolución Latina’s 2016 Choreographer’s Festival, to add his vision to one shared story about what makes the human spirit soar.
Rickey took the time to share part of his own story with us.
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What was the first dance performance you saw and how did it impact you?
So, the first dance performance I remember seeing was in high school. No, it wasn’t going to see Ailey or a musical but those who rallied our teams to V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! Yes, you guessed it—the cheerleaders. Grover Cleveland HS Cavaliers Cheerleaders were ridiculous. They weren’t a traditional cheer squad—they DANCED! I remember being at the football game and seeing the sheer athleticism, precision, groove, funk and swag they embodied.
I, along side another young man, became the first male cheerleaders at C-House for the 1996/97 school year. It was also my senior year and I went out like a soldier. However, the pivotal moment came as our coach showed us an old video of a showcase she directed and choreographed for the school. A click happened for me. It was “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin performed by three beautiful cheerleaders. It was my introduction to lyrical dance which I obviously didn’t know at the time. I was mesmerized by how they conveyed emotion and storytelling through a type of movement and music that I’d never seen. My inner dialogue was simple: ” I wanna do that.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t accessible to me. Not until college, and even then I spent a year and a half toiling with other things before I finally made it the center of my universe. Cut to current day: I’m happily living and thriving both in my life and career in New York City. And I’m just beginning!
How do you overcome choreographer’s block when making a dance?
Overcoming choreographer block is funny to me! There have been many times when I’ve been in the studio for hours and came up with one step. First, I try not to judge and say “well, that happened.” I then look for inspiration, be it literature, be it music, a lyric, or people watching (my favorite). Because I approach my movement from more of a humanistic standpoint than a “dancer”. Human behavior and emotional/mental states inform me of what the step needs to be. And let’s be honest, sometimes a step is just a step—to let go and dance. Another thing I do is push myself to move and think differently. Maybe the step should be backwards, on the floor, simple, or maybe the piece needs stillness, which then opens the flood gates to various possibilities.
What advice would you give to dancers hoping to perform or choreograph professionally?
Oh advice. What do I know?!? HAH. Be kind to yourself and others. Everyday I wake up and try to be the best human BEing and artist that I can. Each day is an opportunity to do just that. Be about the work not the bullshit. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you love to do. Be open to any and everything. Be uncomfortable because THAT is where the growth comes from! Train and learn until you die and even in the after life! LIVE. LOVE. SERVE.