After three nights of splendid, cutting-edge choreography, innovative costume designs, and intense creativity during COCA’s December production of wUNDERland, choreographer Anthony “Redd” Williams aims to continue providing top-notch opportunities to St. Louis’ creative community.
Originally written and produced by Williams in 2015, wUNDERland was born after he watched Tim Burton’s 2010 remake of Alice In Wonderland. Moved by the story and beauty of the film, Williams set out to reimagine the story through Hip-Hop dance. After working with Williams during the 2015 production, COCA invited him back to close out the 2021 holiday season with a bang.
“It’s one thing to just tell a story that’s already been done but it’s another thing to take a story and completely reimagine it to show people something they’ve never seen before,” Williams said.
With a cast of 90 percent youth, Williams desired to take the 2021 wUNDERland production to a new level by incorporating new creative, dance, and design elements into the show and by working with some of the best of the best in St. Louis creative talent.
“We worked with so many gifted St. Louis artists while putting this production together and it’s been such a great collaborative effort in bringing in different people to add to my vision,” Williams said.
A St. Louis native, Williams recognized that oftentimes talent in St. Louis is overlooked in exchange for talents outside of the city. The wUNDERland production is a step in the direction of changing that narrative.
“We have a lot of gifted artists around St. Louis and before we outsource, we need to insource,” he said. “We need to use the resources accessible to us in the city.”
One of those creative artists employed for wUNDERland was fashion designer Brandin Vaughn, a St. Louis native who is known for his unique flair.
“Brandin Vaughn is one of the most unique fashion designers I’ve seen come out of St. Louis and that’s the bottom line,” Williams said.
Tapped by Williams for costume design, Vaughn’s spontaneous and keen eye for turning fashion differences into beauty was the perfect fit to bring the wUNDERland vision to life.
“It’s great to work with people who not only get your vision but will work to execute and elevate your vision to the highest capacity because they are just as meticulous about their own work as you might be about yours,” he said. “That’s what Brandin Vaughn is to me.”
Believing that all St. Louis artists need is an opportunity to shine, Williams knows the work he’s done on wUNDERland will set a new precedent for hiring creatives that reside within the city.
“It’s important to work with artists who are in the immediate proximity in St. Louis because, in order for St. Louis to grow as a network, we have to start fostering back into what we have here,” Williams said.
With a cast ranging from age 10 to adulthood, wUNDERland is an excellent example of what’s to come from St. Louis artists and from Williams dance company Kode Redd. Through his efforts, Williams hopes to one day transform St. Louis into a hub where artists flock from around the country for creative opportunities.
“The biggest thing I hope people take away from this experience is that St. Louis is capable of doing anything that you see on tv or on the stage,” he said. “We are capable.”
Although he has returned from wUNDERland, Williams has plans in motion to continue to support and influence the growing St. Louis artist community by connecting them with greater opportunities outside the city and equipping them with the resources they need to succeed.
“I’ve worked to bridge gaps and forging relationships with people outside of the city so that I would be able to give dancers an opportunity to go outside of the city to do major things while still living here in St. Louis,” Williams said.
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