Jose Williams, a Brooklyn-Based Dance Teacher Combines Contemporary Hip-Hop with Theatre
By Bridney C.
The scene is set. While behind the scenes, Jose Williams, a choreographer, goes through a few dance numbers with his students for a practice run of his upcoming production at the end of the summer.
At 20 years old, Williams is a passionate, energetic choreographer working full time teaching hip hop and contemporary modern dance to middle school aged-youth. He accepted a job offer in January from the New York City Department of Education at The Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School in Brooklyn, New York while still residing in New London, Connecticut.
Williams packed up his belongings and set out on the journey of his lifelong dream of working in the world of theatre. Since then, he has worked with students on a multicultural showcase and a talent show this past spring where they performed a medley.
“I'm more of a Broadway hip-hop-infused choreographer,” says Williams.
Williams teaches 15 children for an hour at the school’s after-school program. Williams starts off his dance classes with warm-ups such as stretches and freestyle circles.
After warm-ups, he then goes into work mode teaching choreography. “I usually break the steps down and present it at its full speed until they [the students] get the rhythm,” says Williams.
Williams developed an interest in working with adolescents after observing how youth rarely allow time for themselves to detach from technology and their constant desire for gratification on social media, a period he cynically refers to as the “Time of Chaos.” Williams also believes positive outlets for youth, such as theatre will keep them track to further success and keep them off the inner-city streets.
“At a time of chaos, we need to give the future generation some kind of outlet other than negativity. ‘Time of Chaos’ to me is a time when negative imagery is promoted to our youth,” says Williams.
Williams is currently working on the choreography of an upcoming dance tribute concert honoring African-American icons and artists. Williams is also working on his production, a comedic, disco hip-hop rendition of his favorite musical titled “Ease on Down the Road.”
“Ease on Down the Road” will debut at the end of August 2019 and Williams, along with his students, has completed two full rehearsals of the production.
“I think that the youth can be inspired by these familiar tales, but will walk away with a message or a good time. If either is achieved, with at least one person in the audience, my mission will be served,” says Williams referring to his upcoming production.
Williams left Connecticut to New York City to chase his lifelong dream working with youth in theatre. Stuck between Connecticut and New York City, Williams has happily found his calling on stage at a theatrical after school program.
Williams grew up around theatre, hip-hop, and R&B all his life, which would later inspire him to work in theatre productions. When he was a toddler, he watched dance films and music videos from his favorite entertainers, Michael and Janet Jackson.
Williams recreated the same moves he saw, “little by little to try to catch what I could until I could piece it all together.” At the age of 8, Williams attended the BP Learned Mission, a performing art after school program in New London where he participated in musical performances and productions.
“I did that until 2010 and moved to New York City. I planted my seeds involving performing arts with whatever opportunity came,” says Williams.
Once he moved to New York City, Williams involved himself in performing arts programs in Brooklyn. In the eighth grade, Williams worked alongside Pop singer, Nick Jonas and was given an Alumni Award by Academy Award-winning actor, Denzel Washington.
For three years he was a part of The Shubert Foundation, a performing arts organization that funds theatre programs and venues around New York City. He later enrolled at Brooklyn High School of the Arts and was educated in musical theatre by coaches Jill Balch Coon and Frank Proudfoot.
So what is in store for Williams?
“I plan to do my productions. I plan on analyzing classic productions, then seeing how I can flip it into a retelling that the audience will find fresh, but recognizable.”