Check out this article to see how Cricket thinks about art and dance!
But first... if you don't know who Cricket is! Learn a little about him and check him out in action in the below YouTube clip.
James “Cricket” Colter is a world renowned professional street dancer. He is also a well versed visual artist (sequential art, children’s book illustrations, etc) and director. Mr. Colter (Cricket) has taught globally at numerous hip hop dance festivals including Bates Dance Festival and the Illadelph Legends Festival. Cricket was a featured dancer in the Disney movie Step Up 2 the Street and has danced for various recording artists including, Boys II Men, KRS-1,Will Smith, Eve, Avril Lavigne, Fall Out-Boy and was a host MTV Japan’s "Dreamers" television show. Cricket has worked with the legendary street dance pioneer Bill "Crutch Master" Shannon, Urban tap dancer, Tamango Van Cayseeleas and London’s best know urban theatrical word smith and curator, Jonzi D. Cricket has produced and directed various dance pieces in Philadelphia, New York City and London, including “Heroes,” a London based hip hop theater show where he was acted as director and principal costume designer.
Mr. Colter is a part of the “Step-Fenz” dance crew, a NY based dance group that is known for its mix of Bboy and House dance. He is a founding member of Rennie Harris Pure Movement (RHPM) and has worked with the company for over 16 years. He is an original cast member of Rennie Harris’ Bessie award winning multidisciplinary hip hop theater presentation, “Rome and Jewels.” During his time with RHPM, Cricket was involved in teaching and performing through out the globe and was the leader of Puremovements educational outreach program.
Cricket’s artistic mission is to push the limits of the various movements that exist in Hip Hop and in other contemporary dance forms, by blending various art forms in order to tell a viable story on the concert dance stage, and rid the stigma that Hip-Hop it is merely an athletic form of dance that can only be performed in a showcase setting. Cricket believes through Hip Hop complex stories can be told and the boundaries of theater can be pushed by adding the urban/hip hop aesthetic to costume design, set design, soundscapes, etc. Mr. Colter has recently founded his own company “Concept Kinetics” to accomplish the goal.
MoveMakers students are SUPER lucky to get to join Cricket for a virtual workshop. They also get to rep MoveMakers gear designed by Cricket. You might wonder how he can be such a distinguished dancer and still have time to put into his visual art practice. To him, the two are connected in a lot of ways you might not expect. Check out his perspective:
I spoke with Cricket about his dance practice, his visual art practice, and the interplay between the two.
Throughout our conversation, the idea of possibilities kept coming up. As a dance and visual artist Cricket argues that it is vital to open yourself up to infinite possibilities. With possibilities, a dancer is able to make choices in real time, rather than just throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall. When you have possibilities, you have power.
But how do you discover possibilities? Cricket has a suggestion: Play! He states: “In play, you find options. [In visual art] that’s why we sketch. In movement practices we go to a session or practice and play with movement because we want possibilities…. You want to expand on as many possibilities so that when you do get finite it punches harder because it is backed by a lot of substance.” In sketching, a visual artist is playing with options, making mistakes, erasing, editing. Through this process they discover what they like and where they want to go with their project and then finalize it with the materials they are working with (paint, pen, fabric, etc). You can think of a dance session or practice as sketching- discovering and playing around with the options that you will then finalize in a performance or freestyle. He notes that in order to see all of the options available to them in a freestyle, a dancer needs to slow down. He says: “Take your time! Speed is not your friend. Don’t rush it. If I’m ahead [of the music] I can't catch my mistakes, but if I’m a little bit laid back- a little bit more relaxed-I can see all my options.”
Discovering the possibilities and being open to them in the moment is only part of the never-ending process of development for an artist. Cricket also highlighted the importance of self-reflection and editing in both dance and visual arts. Talking to Cricket I quickly learned that he’s incredibly self critical. But whereas some may become overwhelmed or bogged down in the process of self critique, Cricket uses it as fuel and inspiration. He described his love of dance through a feedback loop. During a freestyle, a dancer makes a choice, sees the reaction of the crowd, then makes decisions in real time based on the outcome. You can ask yourself- ‘Did the audience like a move I just did or a concept I played with? Ok, build on it! They’re not feeling it? Ok, lets try something else!’ His eyes lit up as he talked about this real time decision making and feedback process. He noted that this same feedback loop happens in visual art, just at a different pace. In both practices, he warns, it is important to hear the feedback- be it positive or negative- and process it on your own. Listen, be respectful- maybe even come back to it later- but think for yourself about how, and if, the feedback resonates with you. Cricket comments:
“In art we need to put out the work, see how the audience perceives it and then look at it for ourselves. Maybe everybody liked it but you didn’t. Take a moment to think about that- ‘well, why didn’t I like it?’ And then make changes. It doesn’t have to be so heavy. Start to be comfortable in your journey and don’t let these competitions be so heavy. Because everyone thinks their whole life is being judged. Look at a moment and review it- and then play play play!”
You decide for yourself how, and in what ways you want to improve. Dancers and artists must be inspired by their communities, while at the same time figure out for themselves what they like and who they want to be.
Cricket’s design for the new MoveMakers T-shirt holds all of these values. I asked him how he came up with the design. He said that he pulled inspiration from the bold design around the mirrors in Studio A at MoveMakers. The black lines through bold colors made him think of how often you see arrows come up as a theme in street art. And then it clicked for him! Arrows not only are closely linked with street art (which is a big part of hip hop culture) they also show movement and- you guessed it! Possibilities! He used an example of watching Vince dance to describe his use of arrows in the design: “I thought about Vince as a mover. He’s really good at locking. The thing about when he locks- you don’t know where he’s going to go! I giggle cause I’m like- ‘oh! I didn’t know you were going to do that!’ The arrows [in the design] then were giving possibilities. He’s in his locking position and the arrows represent all the possible options.” Cricket’s T-shirt design for MoveMakers encourages students to explore, play and find all the possibilities available to them- in dance and in life.
Thank you so much to Cricket for the thought and care that went into this dope MoveMakers T-Shirt!