Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Hip Hop Toward Greatness 

Posted by James at 12:07 PM ET

By Nick Johnson
St. Petersburg Times
Last summer 20-year-old Eboné Johnson said goodbye to family, friends and students at the Soulful Arts Dance Academy just before heading off to New York to become an official New York Knicks City Dancer.

She told well-wishers that it was only the first step for her, a door opening to greater things in her career, and then she showed them.

Just before returning to St. Petersburg for a quick vacation and to teach a class or two, Johnson auditioned for a role in the upcoming movie Step Up 2.

When she leaves Florida she will head back to Harlem just in time to hop on a flight to Japan on Aug. 1, where she will be teaching and performing with her dance partner, Janelle Cambridge.

Ebone, Knicks City Dancer
Her recent success has been the result of almost 19 years of training and hard work.

"People think that dance, period, is just something that you get out there and do. But there is a lot of training that goes into it, " Johnson said.

Her mother, Paulette Walker Johnson, is the artistic director at Soulful Arts and has been teaching dance for 29 years. She said Eboné began dancing at a tender age.

"I put her in class when she was 2 years old and ever since then, that has been her passion, " Johnson said.

That passion paid off last summer when she was accepted as one of the New York Knicks City Dancers.

The experience didn't turn out as hoped but it took her to New York, putting her in the right place at the right time.

Johnson, whose passion has always been hip-hop dance, loves old-school '80s style break dancing and skateboarding. She didn't feel she fit in with the cheerleading scene.

"They wanted her to become somebody that she's not," Paulette Johnson said, but her daughter made the best of her situation.

She joined Rhapsody the Company, the dance company run by choreographer Rhapsody James. There she was able to hone her skills and perfect her style.

"If you talk about New York choreographers, Rhapsody is the first person who comes to mind," Eboné Johnson said of James, whom she considers a mentor and friend.

It was also in James' dance company where she met the dance partner she will be touring Japan with, Janelle Cambridge.

Cambridge had been in James' company for about six years and had toured Japan numerous times.

Johnson, who has never been out of the country, can't wait to experience the celebrity treatment that hip-hop dancers like her and Cambridge are greeted with abroad.
Ebone, Knicks City Dancer
She said she hopes that when she returns it will be time to begin rehearsing for the movie Step Up 2. Although Johnson hasn't learned if she has the part, she's more than optimistic.

"I'm ready. I've been ready. I've been waiting for this forever"

While in New York, Johnson has performed on BET and Show Time at the Apollo and was in a music video for upcoming R&B artist Natasha.

She has also worked with numerous industry players and rubbed elbows with celebrities of all sorts, but she says her biggest accomplishment is the friendships she has made:

"I just feel blessed with all the people God has put me with."

Online home of the Knicks City Dancers here.

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