LET'S GET LOUD: Miller channels her passion for Jamaican dancehall into her colourful dancing life; (below) with her DanceJA girls.
For the second year in a row, 28-year-old Kimiko Miller sat at the judges’ table for the grand finale of the World Reggae Dance Championships at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in Kingston. It was a moment that served to reinforce just how far this St. Ann (by way of Kingston) native has come as an active member of Jamaica’s vibrant dance community, particularly that cohort of expressive and fearless creative artists who are intent on taking Jamaican street dance to the four corners of the globe. But, as Miller makes clear, it’s a ‘hustle’ that doesn’t get enough respect.
TALLAWAH: How has it been making the transition from rising dancer/choreographer to serving as a judge on a show like the World Reggae Dance Championships?
Kimiko Miller: It’s been a very fulfilling journey for me; I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. From I appeared on Dancin’ Dynamites [in 2006], people have been approaching me to come and judge different dance competitions. I was also a judge on Dynamites in 2009, so that’s where my career really started.
TALLAWAH: You’re one of the principals and founders of Dance Jamaica (DanceJA). What’s your main objective?
Kimiko Miller: It’s basically a dance company that we want to use to take Jamaican dance and culture all over the world, doing performances and teaching dance workshops. But a big part of our mission is to help develop street dance in Jamaica and get more support for the dancers.
TALLAWAH: Speaking of the street dance phenomenon, what is the biggest misconception folks have about the work of street dancers and making a living from this aspect of the performing arts?
Kimiko Miller: Street dance is basically a celebration of Jamaican dancehall, but I don’t think they give dancehall enough respect and support. A lot of people out there think street dancers are dumb and not worth it, so we don’t get enough credit as members of the arts community. I’m a graduate of the Edna Manley College School of Dance, and I’ve been making a living off street dance, touring, choreographing and getting to judge a competition like World Reggae Dance. I’m trained in all areas of dance, but I love dancehall.
TALLAWAH: You’re also a very busy woman. What creative projects are you currently working on?
Kimiko Miller: I’m always working on new choreography either by myself or with my group. You have to stay sharp. And Dance Jamaica has some projects in the pipeline that you’ll hear about soon.
TALLAWAH: Not to state the obvious, but it’s evident that making the finals of Dancin’ Dynamites was a major launching-pad for you.
Kimiko Miller: It was. It was my first major appearance on TV, and you know Dancin’ Dynamites runs for like two months, and we came second that year, so every week I was on TV and people started getting to know my group and me as a performer. It was a life-changing experience.
TALLAWAH: As a graduate of the School of Dance, how do you see the role of that institution changing in the years to come?
Kimiko Miller: I think they need to help put dancehall on the pedestal because dancehall is also an important part of the history, and it needs to be added to the vocabulary. But other than that, I think Edna Manley is doing a good job of teaching and spreading awareness about Jamaican and classical dance.
TALLAWAH: What kind of contribution do you ultimately want to make to the local dance/arts community?
Kimiko Miller: What I want to do is help introduce the arts in some of the schools. More needs to be done because a lot of the youngsters are so talented, and if you can groom that talent from early, imagine how great they can be as a part of the future generation.