MEET KALYN JAMES, Dancer and Choreographer
The Miami Dances blog features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene special.
In this post we feature, Kalyn James, an accomplished model, dancer and choreographer with more than 30 years of dance training. Kalyn has taught dance classes at In Motion Dance, Dance Exchange, Sixth Street Dance Studio and is currently teaching ballet-based fitness classes at Iron Flower Fitness Miami. She is the Emmy award-nominated host of ART LOFT, a 30-minute weekly art program showcasing local and national artists, openings, installations, performances, and art organizations, that are positioning South Florida as an emerging leader in the world of art. The show is designed to be a collaboration between WPBT2, local artists, producers and other PBS stations around the country.
Kalyn was named one of Legacy Miami Magazine’s 25 Most Influential and Prominent Black Women in Business and Leadership for 2014, was awarded the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation’s 27 Annual In The Company of Women Award for Arts & Entertainment in 2015 and was named one of Miami Today’sBest of Miami in Arts & Culture in 2015.Kalyn can currently be seen every night towering over Miami’s downtown as the new 2016 Skyline Dancer on the InterContinental Miami’s outdoor digital platforms. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Sociology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is Manager of Donor Relations at the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts.
ABC: Tell us about your journey as an artist/dancer?
KJ: I had a natural talent for dance and learning choreography at a very young age. I was placed in dance classes at nine years old and took to it like a bird in flight. I studied classical ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics. I was also a cheerleader in middle and high school and choreographed award winning routines for our squad. I trained in dance throughout high school and began professional work the day after high school graduation. I taught dance camps for Universal Dance Association and, after my first year of college, danced for Walt Disney World in a brand new stage show at Hollywood Studios.
At 19 I auditioned for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and was accepted to the school in New York. However, my single mom did not have the funds to send me to New York. So, I worked at finishing college and continued to dance. I entered my college scholarship pageant to win scholarships and won several preliminary contests that would lead to me becoming the first (and still the ONLY) African-American woman to become Miss Alabama in 1993. Dance was my talent and was always the highest scored portion of the pageant which worked to my advantage. I was in the top-ten of the 1994 Miss America Pageant and $56,000 in scholarships later I graduated from college debt-free.
After that I continued to teach dance classes and fitness classes and choreograph award-winning dances for local dance studios. I came to Miami in 2003. I was a new mom and wanted to get back in shape so I took dance classes. I was offered an instructor job at a studio and I started auditioning for dance and modeling gigs in Miami. This lead to appearances on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA’s), the Latin VMA’s, a national commercial for Old Navy called “Bermuda Shorts” and dancing and choreography for Univision and Telemundo for shows like “Sabado Gigante.” I also appeared as a model in international and regional commercials, and in a few magazines. I choreographed a show called “Temptation” which ran for six months at Passion night club at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino back in 2010. I now teach barre fitness classes at Ironflower Fitness Miami and can be seen during all of 2016 as a Skyline Dancer on the iconic Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami!
ABC: From your perspective, how can we leverage the arts to build a more connected community?
KJ: Incorporating the arts into social events is a great way to engage non-traditional arts audiences. Hiring local performers (at a fair and decent rate) can add so much flair to an event and it increases interest in the arts and whets the appetite for more that the city has to offer culturally. The arts are a natural conduit that connects all walks of life through music, visual art, performing arts and theater. I have watched Miami grow culturally and I am thrilled that I have been a contributor to the Miami arts scene for the past 12 years. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
ABC: Tell us more about your role as skyline dancer for the InterContinental Miami?
KJ: This ties into the question above. Being featured on the iconic InterContinental Miami Hotel is such an honor. The building welcomes visitors from South Florida and around the world to downtown so it gives me great visibility and exposure and a chance to share my talent with more people than I ever imagined. It also provides a platform to feature dance and to give visibility to dancers. The building was featured in the opening of a major movie so even more people are aware of what it is when I mention it. The staff at the InterContinental has been wonderful to work with. They organized the taping of the dancing, media interviews for our New Year’s Eve launch and they continue to organize ways for me to be a part of their brand including teaching special fitness workshops for events hosted at their spa. They are first class and really keen on helping to promote the dancers to the community. I thank General Manager Robert Hill and his staff Christine Corson, Ashley Sewell and Eddie Sarria for always making me feel like part of the InterContinental family!
ABC: Who was your biggest influence in your dance journey?
KJ: My biggest dance influence was Debbie Allen and the movie FAME. I also loved watching TV shows like Solid Gold that featured dancers. And when MTV came around and In Living Color, I always thought I’d grow up to be a fly girl like Jennifer Lopez. When you grow up in a small town in Alabama, most of your influence comes from around the world through television. My dance teachers Mary Lou Sheffield, Joanie Noletto, Teresa Noletto and Cecilia (Celi) Shinn were great inspirations to me. They always believed in me and supported me and gave me such great training. There was a girl named Marla in my dance classes who was exceptional and she was always a great inspiration to me. I don’t know if I ever told her.
ABC: What excites you about Miami?
KJ: Miami’s weather, diversity and culture excites me. Here you have so many influences from Afro-Caribbean and Latin American to African…it’s so amazing and all of that becomes a part of you when you live here. Also, I love the fact that we have so many great schools for the arts including Miami Arts Charter, where my daughter studies music, Thomas Armour Youth Ballet where my daughters took dance lessons after school and New World School of the Arts where so many talented people have graduated and gone on to do amazing things, like Robert Battle, the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I also love Miami’s weather just like everyone else. Beaches in the winter…yes and thank you.
ABC: Tell us about the company you dance with?
KJ: I teach barre classes at Ironflower Fitness Miami and I really enjoy using my dance training to inspire women to be “physically fit and fierce”. The class is for dancers and non-dancers alike and combines Pilates and ballet to tone the entire body and create symmetry, balance, poise, grace and strength! I love the ladies who own Ironflower. They are all about female empowerment and I grew up with mostly women in my family and I love to be a positive part of a woman’s life!
ABC: What is something awesome you are currently working on?
KJ: For my upcoming birthday I am raising funds for my scholarship – the Kalyn Chapman James Scholarship that is awarded annually at the Miss Alabama Pageant to a minority contestant. I am in my fourth season as host of a TV show of ART LOFT on WPBT2 and I am enjoying seeing myself as one of the 2016 Skyline Dancers on the side of the Intercontinental Hotel. I am working on getting more fitness training under my belt. I recently modeled in an Alessandra Gold fashion show for Funkshion Fashion Week and I am the Team Captain for the Adrienne Arsht Center Team in the Mercedes Benz Corporate Run coming up in April.
Miami Dances Blog
Miami Dances is a program of the Arts & Business Council and Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs to build new audiences and outreach for our communities amazing dance community. The blog features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene unique and shine a light on some of our dance leaders. Follow us @MiamiDances on twitter and Like us on Facebook.