American Utopia


Backing Vocals / Dance & Vocal Captain / Additional Choreography

I first worked with David Byrne in 2009 as an assistant to choreographers Annie-B Parson (of Big Dance Theater) and Noemie LaFrance on his tour Everything That Happens Will Happen On This Tour. Subsequently, I worked on workshop productions of his musical Here Lies Love and also as Associate Producer of Contemporary Color. When I heard he was looking for backing vocalists who could dance, I let DB and ABP know I was available.


Tendayi Kuumba, Myself, and DB

Tendayi Kuumba, Myself, and David Byrne at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA. Photo by Steve Carlson.
TOP OF PAGE: Still with Tendayi Kuumba from David Byrne's American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee.

American Utopia at ACL

American Utopia at Austin City Limits 2018. Photo by Abigail Eva.

I spent most of 2018 on a world tour with David, ten other band members, and an exceptional crew, performing a radical new rock concert that I have often described as, “a dance piece disguised as a rock show.” In 10 months we performed 144 shows in 28 countries, and as Dance Captain, I was responsible for maintaining Annie-B Parson’s choreography, as well as adjusting for the wide variety of spaces and surfaces we performed in/on.


The cast of American Utopia

Photo by Abigail Eva.

Favorite venues from the tour include: Red Rocks Amphitheater, Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, The O2 in London, Austin City Limits, Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge in Seattle, Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, The Shrine Theater in Los Angeles, and the ICC Sydney Theatre in Sydney, Australia.


American Utopia at Sasquatch

American Utopia at Sasquatch Festival 2018. Photo by Trey Busch.

DB and I at ACL

David Byrne and Myself at Austin City Limits 2018. Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III.

Later, I would also add 'Additional Choreography' and 'Vocal Captain' to my credits, the latter being particularly useful for the transitioning from the rawer, rock-n-roll version of the show to the slightly more thoughtful, theatrical version, during which I would also be making my Broadway debut, at The Hudson Theater in Fall 2019.


During lockdown, the filmed version of our show–David Byrne's American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee–was released on HBOMax, and subsequently multiple streaming platforms. The film has also been screened at several film festivals and has had a long-running, widespread theatrical release in Japan.


Official trailer for David Byrne's American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee on HBO.

"Don't Worry About the Government" and "Lazy" from the film version of American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee.

We also performed on several late-night shows inculding being the musical guest on the second-to-last Saturday Night Live before lockdown in 2020, and Tendayi, David and myself were featured in a musical sketch written by the show's host, John Mulaney called "Airport Sushi." In 2021 we returned for a second Broadway run at the much larger St. James Theater, and were honored to receive a Special Tony Award that year. I was particulary chuffed to have my choreography featured at the Tony Awards themselves, when we performed "Burning Down the House," the one number in the show that Annie-B asked me to choreograph, drawing on my color guard and marching band background.


Our performance of "Once in a Lifetime" on Saturday Night Life, February 29, 2020.

Our performance of "Burning Down the House" at the 2021 Tony Awards, choreography by me!

Our performance of "I Zimbra" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Being featured in an internationally released "Spike Lee Joint," and getting to perform hundreds of shows on Broadway for thousands of people, has been truly life-changing. The way I was able to enter into such global recognition while maintaining my truest sense of self, ethics, and love of formal, post-modern performance is something I will be eternally grateful for. I posted this statement on my Instagram page when our show openened on Broadway for the first run, and it perfectly sums up how I've valued this experience:


Tonight is for all the weirdos, dediated art-makers, outsiders, post-modernists, and punks who never really cared about success or money as much as they cared about shape, line, proximity, and the deep emotional truth that bubbles up when you trust the form and stop making sense.


Original cast of American Utopia, photo by Bryan Derballa.

Original cast of American Utopia photographed for the Arts Section of the New York Times by Bryan Derballa.




Our performance of "Everybody's Coming to My House" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Our performance of "I Zimbra" at the O2 Arena in London.

Our performance of "Road to Nowhere" from the film version of American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee.