Professional Profile: The Incredible Career of Director-Choreographer Jamal Sims

Eric Schwartzman

Sep 5, 2022

Jamal Sims is a highly versatile film, television, stage, animation, and commercial choreographer and stage director who fuses traditional and modern dance styles to create new forms of choreography. 

Sims is also the director of the documentary film When The Beat Drops about a unique style of dance called bucking, which has grown into a national force for both education and affirmation of gay rights. The film won the grand jury prize at the 2018 Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival.

Using Latin and Colombian dancers for authenticity, Jamal Sims choreographed the Spooky Dance for the song We Don’t Talk About Bruno in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Disney animated motion picture Encanto

His choreography for the expressive skeleton dancer Flamenco number drew inspiration from cumbia, a traditional folk dance from Colombia similar to salsa; joropo, a dance style similar to fandango; champeta, an 80s dance step from the Caribbean; and reggaeton, a 90s step from Puerto Rico.

For Disney’s live action motion picture production of Aladdin, Sims fused Bollywood with spin-down sweep hip hop breakdance. He choreographed the Hoedown Throwdown in Disney’s Hannah Montana motion picture with Miley Cyrus, combining popping and locking with country western two-stepping. And he combined dancing, acting and sword fighting into the choreography he created for director Kenny Ortega’s Descendants 3, which he also appeared in. Sims is a master of reimagining disparate styles to create trendy, new dance steps.

Sims choreographed Rupaul’s Drag Race, Paramount’s hit reality competition television series with untrained dancers. His popular Rupaul’s Drag Race dance numbers include Glamazonian Airways, a musical theater sketch comedy featuring old school stewardesses (season 7, episode 2); Bitch Perfect, a good vs bad girl dance-off (season 8, episode 2) and Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical, featuring 80s throwback street jazz (season 12, episode 7).

For the dance movie Step Up Revolution, the original production that set up the franchise, Sims choreographed large-scale, flash mob style hip-hop dance numbers featuring mixed martial arts, capoeira, and trampoline acrobatics. For the sequel, third, fourth, and fifth installments, Sims returned as a choreographer, and his celebrated LMNTRIX dance number in Step Up All In featured a variety of East and West coast hip-hop dance steps known as B-boying, krumping, tutting, shuffling, and waacking.

Jamal Sims choreographed the Neil Patrick Harris production of the Broadway musical Rent, the Afro-Latin choreography at Teotihuacan in the Jennifer Lopez music video I’m into You, and the hip hop ode to burlesque chair dancing in the Usher music video You Make Me Wanna.

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