Step Into the Choreographic World With James Alonzo White
February 13, 2024

James Alonzo White’s teaching/choreographic career went from slow burn to fireworks show in an instant with his 2020 viral video, “A Brand New Day.” Now, his joyful choreography is captivating audiences around the country—making everyone want to jump up on their feet and join in on the fun.

White took his first dance class as a senior in high school at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, in North Carolina. Up to that point, his dance experience stemmed from watching and imitating MTV music videos he had recorded on VHS. He always enjoyed dancing, but it was that modern class that confirmed just how much he loved it. “I was so invested,” he says. Then, while studying business marketing at North Carolina Central he joined a dance team, Eclipse Productions, where he further explored hip hop and contemporary.

It wasn’t until after White graduated college that he decided to take dance more seriously. “I was trying to catch up, so I went to dance competitions like The Pulse and Monsters of Hip Hop with friends,” he says. “We would travel anywhere there was a workshop or class to learn from.” In 2013 he made the move to New York City to earn his master’s in dance education from New York University. At the same time, he took classes at studios around the city, like Broadway Dance Center. “I got a lot of my training from street jazz teacher Candace Brown,” White says. “Then, in 2015, she went out of town and asked me to sub her class at Peridance. It was my first time teaching in the city.” That single opportunity as a substitute slowly turned into more teaching gigs, but the journey was longer than White would have liked. “I knew I wasn’t super-popular, so it wasn’t going to be easy or quick,” he says. “I had my struggles as I tried to keep going. I used to get really upset with my friends for not coming to my class. It took a couple of years for me to decide I didn’t care and that I just needed to appreciate the students who actually came, instead of worrying about who didn’t.”

Photo courtesy White.

White eventually expanded his reach as a teacher by posting footage from his class on YouTube, participating in showcases like Carnival and Sybarite, and dancing himself. “It took a minute, but I got more notoriety eventually.” He then had a regular class slot at BDC, taught at competition studios in the tristate area, and even spent a year as a middle school dance teacher in the Bronx. “It was super-rough, but I made it through,” he says of the experience. 

In 2019 his classes finally started selling out, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. And after “A Brand New Day,” went viral in 2020, his popularity exploded. “People started hitting me up and my choreography career really took off from there,” he says. Since then, White has choreographed for Disney Cruise Line, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and a Cirque Du Soleil Vegas show called Mad Apple at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino, in addition to working closely with famed pianist Chloe Flower.

When it comes to teaching, White’s priority is to help his students become the best dancers they can be. “If they take my class, I want it to be challenging and push them, but I also want them to have fun,” he says. As for his goals for the future? He dreams of creating his own convention or commercial dance program. 

Here he shares a bit about his teaching attire, how he keeps his energy up on long dance days, how he spends his time off, and more.

His tried-and-true teaching attire: “I love Nike Airs. They’re really comfortable. I also love Adidas sneakers. Clothing-wise I like anything comfortable and oversized so I can get a little breeze.” 

Go-to energy booster: “I like to have a strawberry açai refresher from Starbucks with lemonade. That gets me through.”

Favorite snack: “I’m addicted to the Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips and Mountain Dew. I know it’s not good for you, but it gives me a little boost.”

Photo by Mike Esperanza, courtesy White.

Beloved nondance activities: “I love roller coasters and theme parks like Six Flags, Universal, Disneyland, and Busch Gardens. I enjoy any kind of thrill. Oh, and reality TV.”

His ideal day off: “Laying in bed under the covers and watching a good show on TV.”

Bingeable TV: “I like the ‘Real Housewives’ franchises, ‘Love Is Blind,’ of course, and ‘Vanderpump Rules.’ ”

Recommended Instagram accounts: “I like following @miketyus, who is a contemporary dancer and has a company. He combines contemporary and videography together in an interesting way. He has a really cool page.”

Items he never leaves home without: “My laptop or my ChapStick.”

His guilty pleasure: “Sweet potato pie.”

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