She’s choreographed Beyoncé and J.Lo, but Charlotte raised her

She’s choreographed Beyoncé and J.Lo, but Charlotte raised her

Photo courtesy of James Alsop

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Who runs the world? James Alsop.

The Charlotte native and choreographer extraordinaire has worked with big names like Beyoncé, Tina Fey and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few. She’s also worked on shows such as Emily in Paris, Pose and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. 

James Alsop

Photo: Daniel Cobos. Courtesy of James Alsop

Why it matters: Alsop choreographed Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” music video. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

  • But also, Charlotte is a city that’s constantly striving to be bigger, more inclusive and more supportive of the arts. Now here’s a locally raised artist teaching dance moves to one of the biggest female musicians of our time.

Context: In 2011, Alsop was working on a film called Leave it on the Floor with choreographer Frank Gatson Jr., whom Alsop says she looked up to growing up “I always wanted to work with him,” she says. 

  • Gatson Jr., who was also working with Beyoncé at the time, asked Alsop to choreograph a scene for the movie musical and was so impressed that he introduced her to B.
  • Alsop’s big break came when she choreographed the “Run the World (Girls)” video.  

Alsop didn’t always feel comfortable in her own skin. “I knew at four years old, that I was born in the wrong body,” she tells me. In kindergarten, she would play with a toy kitchen and “put on this blue spaghetti strap dress and wrap my hair up in the scarf because that’s what I would see my mom do,” she explains.

  • Alsop remembers knowing at a young age what gay was but not necessarily identifying as gay. “Because in 1988 who had the term for trans or transgender? There wasn’t the verbiage,” she says.
  • It wasn’t until 2016 that Alsop decided to transition. “That’s how long it took me to fully come to terms with the fact that I need to live in the body that I feel inside,” she adds.

Flashback: Alsop, who was born in Virginia, didn’t take a dance class until she moved to Charlotte at 14. “I was like the giant in ballet class with the six-year-olds,” she remembers.

  • At the time, Charlotte wasn’t the metropolitan city it is today. “When I tell you Concord Mills was just land,” she said laughing. And forget about Uptown, “that was like not even a thing,” she remembers of the city back in the late 90s.
  • Alsop says she always had a love for dancing and choreography and honed in on those talents at what’s now Charlotte Ballet, but was once called the North Carolina Dance Theater. “My mom and dad always had music in the house,” she says, “so we were always singing and dancing.”
  • After graduating from Cabarrus High School in Concord and later UNC-Chapel Hill, Alsop moved to Los Angeles, where she lives now.

What’s next: After Alsop finishes in Chicago, she’ll go back home to L.A., but not before coming back to Charlotte to visit her family.

James Alsop

Photo: Alex Millsap. Courtesy of James Alsop. 

More of Alsop’s favorites: 

  • Hang out: SouthPark mall. “I love to hang out in the SouthPark area,” she says.
  • Gym: “No, because I’m lazy and I don’t work out,” she says jokingly. But she does love dance classes and recommends Zeal For Life Dance Company in Matthews.
  • Brunch: It’s a tie between 5Church and Snooze.
  • Dinner: Steak 48.
  • Nightlife:  Broken Promises and Lost & Found in South End and Workman’s Friend in Plaza Midwood.
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