Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!
Dexter Carr sees dance as his one true love, and he’s here to spread that energy from Miami to the rest of the world and beyond. A true multi-hyphenate, Dexter describes himself as “a choreographer, actor, dancer, peace lover, food lover, all the things.” The Nike athlete has danced with everyone from Janet Jackson and Beyonce to Lil Baby and DaBaby… and he shows no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
With over 2.5 million views on his dance videos, Carr is best known for his passion in both worlds of dance and fashion, serving as PLAYGROUND LA’s most sought-after instructor with sold-out classes weekly. In fact, he’s currently shooting a television show on the dance studio produced by BRON Studios.
Dexter is no stranger to being the center of attention, humbly. With his background doing Broadway, Carr was a part of two incredible musicals: Bring It On: The Musical (National Tour and Broadway) and later, In The Heights. As an actor, he’s appeared in numerous shows such as FOX’s 911, Hulu’s East Los High, and Nickelodeon’s Game Shakers as a choreographer.
In November of last year, Dexter was revealed as a Nike athlete, teaching exclusive dance classes on their app. And still, he somehow finds time to do it all, such as be a celebrity judge on Tinashe’s new Facebook Watch show “choreo cage fight” and choreograph for Maddie Ziegler in her newest film The Fallout, premiering on HBO Max on Jan 27th.
And if you can’t catch him in-person, you can join his online dance community Outlet by Dexter, where he showcases online tutorials, merchandise, and more. Flaunt caught up with Dexter Carr virtually on a Sunday, moment after he wrapped up a shoot. Read below as we discuss his background, his first real gig, doing Broadway, dancing with Janet Jackson, how he got into teaching, shooting a TV show with Playground, dancing for Maddie Ziegler in her new movie, being a guest judge on Tinashe’s Facebook Watch show, his fashion sense, his online community, goals, and more!
What was a young Dexter like growing up in Miami?
Young Dexter played sports. He did a lot of sports: soccer, track, football when I was young young, then my best friend pulled me up on stage during an assembly and made me dance with her. I decided to go ahead and let go, be free and really do the thing. I realized that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life so I joined a dance studio that she was a part of. Took everything: ballet, tap, jazz, and immersed myself in the dance world at 16 years old after being an athlete my whole life. [laughs]
What do you feel when you dance?
Mostly freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want, freedom to say whatever you want, with your body, with the songs you dance to, whatever you wear. It’s the ultimate form of expression to me.
How was dancing in Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” video at age 16? That was your first real gig.
It was incredible. It was awesome. I was 16, I went to an audition that I heard on the radio. I decided to go with the same best friend who pulled me up on stage. She was my agent for the moment. I went to the audition, it was an open call so there was a thousand people there. I took the dance audition and I was sitting outside waiting. His manager, who was his mom’s best friend at the time, came outside and said “can we see you for a second inside?” I thought “oh my god I’m in trouble. They know I’m not a dancer for real, they’re going to kick me out.” But no, they said “we really like you. We’d love for you to be not only in the video, but Chris’ new body double for some of the parts.” That was awesome, got to work with him closely. Got to work with his OG dancers closely, it was an amazing learning experience for my very first time.
Did you take off from there? What happened next?
Well, I didn’t because I was still in school. My mom said “you’re not about to go and move to New York or LA, you’re gonna stay right here and finish school.” I did that and took a 2 year break to finish high school and train at my studio. After that, I moved to New York where I started auditioning again. That’s when my career kept going.
How was your experience doing Broadway? That’s so admirable.
Broadway was cool, Broadway was so different than anything I was used to. I was not a music theater person growing up, so it was a new experience. You have to learn about schedules. You have 8 shows a week and you have to really condition your body. It’s not you do one music video and then you’re done, you do 8 music videos a week. [laughs] It’s definitely conditioning, stamina and endurance, but it also teaches you a lot of discipline. I’m so happy it taught me that because that obviously stays with you in the career that you decide to go on. I didn’t know if I was going to be Broadway for the rest of my life, but whatever it was, that discipline would always stay with me I feel.
You’ve danced with everyone from Katy Perry and Tinashe to Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce. What are the highlights?
It’s just those moments. With Janet, being on stage with her. That moment when you’re like “okay, I did it.” All the hard work that I worked for, all the times that I cried in my room because I didn’t get whatever I was trying to audition for, these moments really really make it all worth it. That magic that you felt, that magic that you always wanted to feel as a kid, these are those moments so I appreciate those forever. Being on stage more so than anything. Even the choreographing, working with the artist, that moment with the crowd, the music and the artist, it’s so surreal. There’s so many people who will never feel that and I always have to remember that, it’s not something that’s common. 99% of the world won’t feel that feeling, but the ones who know what it feels like, it’s incredible.
Do you still get nervous?
Yeah, I still get nervous teaching classes. I was nervous for this Zoom call. [laughs]
How do you get over your nerves?
Yeah, you just have to do it. You have to start. I’ve used those nerves as a catapult to push myself, as a fight or flight thing. In the moment going on stage with an artist, or doing a music video or teaching a class in front of a thousand people, you gotta do what you gotta do. You gotta do your thing, so that’s what I always fall back on.
Talk about your classes at Playground in Los Angeles? I love that they’re always sold-out!
Yes, they’re awesome. Playground is home, Playground is my family, it’s where I really got to make my voice heard in LA and around the world. It’s the place that’s given me the inspiration to keep going. There’s so many people that walk through that door that are completely different, all walks of life. You got grandmas in there, you got kids in there, you got TikTokers, whatever. There’s so many inspiring people for so many reasons, that makes me want to keep going, pushing, and trying things. It’s awesome, I love teaching there every week. Although some would think it’d be taxing, it’s what keeps me fueled and keeps me going, to do the stuff I do outside the studio.
You teach 3 hip-hop classes: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. How did you learn how to teach?
I was teaching since I was a kid, 18 or 19 in my studio at home. I decided when I moved to LA, if somebody asked for a sub, I’d say “yeah sure, I’m down.” But not really thinking it’d be a career move. Once I found out how much I loved it, how much I loved being at Playground the studio specifically, I thought “yeah, I should make this a thing.” My friend Kenny [Wormald] who’s the owner of Playground asked “do you want a spot?” I said “a regular spot, like every week?” He said “yeah.” I said “okay, yeah sure.” It really was that organic and random. It started off with 7 or 8 people in the room. We were there every Tuesday, doing what we do. It grew and grew and grew. Now I have 3 classes a week and they’re all pretty full, so it’s good. It’s awesome. It’s been a great ride for sure.
Talk about filming the TV show based on PLAYGROUND LA, produced by BRON Studios.
It’s a show about Playground, about some of the faculty that goes to the studio. Just our lives: our sadness, our happiness, our craziness, all of it. You’ll get to see everything about us. You’re going to learn a lot about the dance industry in LA: the ups, the downs, the successes, the failures. You get a real insight on what it feels like to be a dancer, let alone a professional dancer in Los Angeles, California. I’m biased because I’m on it, but it’s a good show for anybody who wants to know. People watch our videos online, people see our videos playing on these artists’ Instagrams. They see us dancing behind these artists, but they don’t know what we did to get there. How hard we worked to get there, you’ll definitely get to see that.
How did you end up being a guest judge on Tinashe’s Facebook Watch show?
That was so fun. I worked with Tinashe so many times, she’s a good friend of mine. She’s incredible, she’s so talented. She called me one day like “hey, I’m doing a TV show. Do you want to be a guest?” She’s so chill about everything. I said “what do you want me to do?” She didn’t even tell me what she wanted me to do. She said “I want you to be a guest judge on a choreography TV show where I have these choreographers and they go through these crazy challenges. The prize is to choreograph for me and win some money.” I said “aw hell yeah! That sounds fun.” It was so dope to be part of a process that’s something I know about, something I could give my opinion on or give my expertise on. It was a great experience. There were so many talented choreographers, talented dancers. They went through a lot. They had to do a dance in the rain, they had to do a dance in dirt. It was real, it was very real. [laughs]
You also choreographed for Maddie Ziegler in her latest movie, The Fallout, premiering on HBO Max on Jan 27th.
Maddie is another amazing, extremely talented dancer. Maddie started coming into my class a couple years ago and we’ve been cool ever since. When her role came up in the movie, they wanted her to do this solo that was wild and crazy with her in a party. She said “I know the perfect person to do it: Dexter.” She called me and we got in the studio 1-on-1. It was during 2020 so we had somebody literally at the studio testing me every 3 hours. They’d come in: test again, test again, test again, so it was super Covid safe. It was an amazing experience. It was just me and her. We never really had that intimate of an experience together, but she was so hard-working. She wanted to really go there because this is her first big movie role of her, being her as a character and not as a dancer. I was so happy she chose me to be a part of that. It’s apparently really really good. It comes out really soon and I can’t wait to see it.
You’re an actor yourself, how’s that journey been?
Yeah, I’ve been doing it! I was on Broadway, I was a principal on Broadway so that was awesome. Got to work with Lin-Manuel Miranda who’s a dream to work for. He’s so hands-on and so good with character development. Letting you know what you’re doing that’s working, what you’re doing that’s not necessarily not working, but how you can change it. He’s very positive in that aspect. After that, moving to LA, did a couple Nickelodeon shows. Acting like a crazy person. My goal for the next couple years is to really dive into the acting thing. Super fortunate to be shooting this reality show with BRON Studios, who does every movie ever — including Euphoria and all these amazing shows that I’d love to be a part of. That’s my goal for these next couple years, is to really dive into that.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
Fashion is so important, not only for dancers but honestly everybody because that’s what makes you feel really good. When you have on your fit, you feel incredible. Anything you can do in your life that’s going to make you feel good, especially now and what’s going on in our world, that’s the most important to me. I definitely used to be one of those people that would put on a sweat, put on a slide, put on a hoodie, and say “come on let’s go.” But it’s so important to get up, feel good and look good. Put on the things that make you look good. Know your silhouette, know your vibes, know your colors, know your patterns. Know the things that make you look taller, know the things that make you look shorter. Even as a dancer, we’re constantly being judged. We constantly have to go audition, we constantly have to be in front of a camera, you want to make sure your outfit is good. Your shoes are fly and fresh, but also functional. To me, that’s where fashion comes into play: what makes me look good, what makes me feel good. How can I infiltrate my personal style into what I wear? That’s my thing.
What are your favorite brands?
My favorite brands are Nike, Dior. Right now, I’ve been really really stanning the new Louis stuff. Really really stanning the new Louis collection. Everything, I love Carhartt, I’m rocking Champion, I have a lot of different moods. Literally depending on my mood, it could be anything.
What does it mean to be a Nike athlete?
It feels incredible, I never knew something like that was possible for a dancer. What I love most about it is that there’s an opportunity for younger generations to have the same opportunity that I got. I know I’m supposed to be thinking about myself in this moment, but it feels so cool that so many of these young dancers, 8 years old, 9 years old, 10 years old are going to look at this campaign and say “I want to do that when I get older. It’s possible, it’s there. I see it right in front of me, that’s my biggest win for the campaign. It feels amazing to be recognized as a dancer by a top athletic brand on the top of the world. It’s lot of emotions go into it, but definitely proud is the biggest one.
You have your own online dance community Outlet by Dexter. How do you have time to do all this?
I started as soon as the pandemic did honestly because as we all know, everything was going virtual. I decided to put my brains together with a friend of mine who does computer programming. We decided to do tutorials and some online streaming stuff, just make dance available online. It’s been done before, but I wanted to create a community where people could recognize each other and follow each other. “Oh, did you learn this combo? I learned this combo, let’s do it together. Let’s meet up and film it.” Create a community instead of just a tutorial service, and that’s what I feel like we’ve done with Outlet for sure. It’s so dope to see people who come into class from Outlet and say “oh yeah, I know you. I’ve been doing your tutorials for 2 years now, it’s so nice to meet you.” It feels good to be able to reach out internationally and in the country, have them dance with me, but also have them one day come to Playground and us dance together.
You toured across the US with KĀOS Dance Convention, and you have just also launched your own dance tour called NEON?
Yes, we started going on tour in the middle of 2021. Obviously with Covid, everything was super complicated. We had to shut things down and cancel some things, but we got to go to San Francisco and Orlando. That was fun, that was incredible. We basically took the ‘Outlet’ show on the road. Did a couple classes, also did some Q&A. Let them ask some questions about the industry, any questions about me, any questions they wanted to know about LA, New York. Really make the experience personal, 1-on-1. Let dancers feel like they have someone to talk to about whatever. We’re told as dancers to be very quiet. Don’t ask questions, do what you’re supposed to do and move on. In this generation, where we’re at in this world right now, you have to ask questions. You need knowledge, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into before you move out here. What an open call looks like, what auditions should I be going to? All those questions that are really important.
What do you like to do for fun? When you’re not working.
For fun, I like to workout. [laughs] That’s my thing I like to do, that’s my fun. That takes my brain away and my mind off of all of the crazy things that I have to do during the day. That’s where I get to really get to zone in and chill out.
Isn’t dancing working out?
I guess so but as far as when I workout, I don’t do any cardio. I don’t like cardio honestly, which is weird because I dance. But I enjoy lifting and doing HIIT workouts, that get me in the zone. I think it’s my athletic background that makes me feel comfortable there, so that’s where I relax.
Goals yourself at this point of your career?
Yeah, I’d love to host more. I’d love to host television shows, do guest judging more, acting more. That’s really where my head’s at this year, trying to get into that realm. Twitch is a huge inspiration to me, the one who hosts Ellen. That’s exactly what I want to be doing. It’s so awesome that a dancer can have that platform and be able to reach that many people. Not just about dance, but about life. People think we only talk about dance, but we have other things to talk about too. [laughs]