AAPEX Interview: Linda James-Johnson — AAPEX Interview , Linda James-Johnson — AAPEX

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

AAPEX Interview: Linda James-Johnson

Linda Johnson

While actors, directors and playwrights may be plentiful, a good choreographer is hard to find, which was why I was pretty psyched to connect with Linda James Johnson, a native of NYC who is now down in Atlanta, Ga. Figuring other folks would like to know a good choreographer, I asked Linda - what's up with you? Here's what she has to say for - and about - herself.
Jaz Dorsey

Theater and the Arts played a very very significant part in my childhood. At the age of 8, I was enrolled in dance, singing, piano, and sewing lessons. My life was filled with creative activities, and I loved every moment of it. My parents always said that they wanted to expose me to the things they were not exposed to.

My evolution as an artist? I knew by the time I was 13 that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Usually around that time of your life, folks are always asking you what do you want to be when you grow up. I always said either a dancer or an entertainer. But I was always discouraged. "We mean what do you want to do to make a living?" My answer was always the same: I want to be a dancer or entertainer. I tried to convince my parents that I wanted to go to the High School of Performing Arts in NY. They said No. I even had my dance teacher (the late great Bernice Johnson) speak to my parents to let them know. Attending this school would mean that my academics would have to be up to A, or B average. My parents would not even consider it! "No performing arts school for my daughter!" It was all about the academics. So off to a public high school I went.

I thought, OK when I graduate from High School, I'll go to Howard University where Debbie Allen went and they have a great arts
program. Again the answer was No. "You're going to school in NY."

So I went to Queens College. I started out majoring in Math. My third year in I saw this Dance Company - Fred Benjamin Dance Co. - perform at my school. After the performance, I immediately went to my guidance counselor, and changed my major to theater/dance. I graduated from school in 1977 and started hitting the pavement.

I actually started choreographing in College, but I knew then I really wanted to perform, so I focused all my energies on performing. I figured I could always teach and choreograph in my later years. I had a strong desire to perform at 22yrs of age. As I continued to perform, I gradually became interested in the entire productions and started looking at the production a little differently. After about 10 years of performing, I began to assist different Choreographers and Directors. I Liked it and then Loved it! So Here I AM!

Once I read over a piece, I identify the era and the music and dance style of the era, then apply that in designing and developing the choreography. Then there are:

Dancers that sing
Actors that move
Singers that dance
Singers that move

So after the audition process, I see what I'm working with and, based on the performers' fortés, bring out their best through choreography.

My process is simple: Follow your dream-- and Study! Study! Study! Learn All You Can About Your Profession/Business!

Why Atlanta? I'm born and raised in NY, lived there for almost 50 years. Atlanta is close enough to NY for me to return when I need to for work and it also affords me the opportunity to live in an environment in which I can comfortably exist and artistically create!

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