By Rick Baraff | Photography by Rick Baraff
Ronnie Reddick is perhaps the Bay Area’s most illustrious yet
enigmatic choreographer, dance teacher, and performing artist.
Hardly a household name outside the world of dance and fashion,
inside it he’s known as a true legend, not only for his amazing natural
abilities, but for his humility, selflessness, passion, and for doing
things his own unique way.
It started not by performing at a tender young age, or with any formal
training, or even with a dream. For the self-proclaimed shy kid from the
virtually unknown South San Francisco neighborhood of “Little Hollywood”
a six by three block spot between Candlestick Cove and Brisbane, where
Charlie Chaplin and Mae West supposedly owned homes–it started on a
whim to enter a modeling show in high school. Reps from a local agency
happened to be there and singled Ronnie out for a scholarship to modeling
school. To the boy who really wanted to work with animals, this was the
pinnacle of artistic success. Little did he realize that he was only standing
on the tip of his own iceberg.
Quickly establishing himself as a modeling and fashion prodigy, he entered
the Barbara Davis Modeling School where Ms. Davis herself instilled in him
the presence, confidence, and power to overcome his introverted nature and
embrace his professional potential. Creativity coursing through his veins, it
was a natural transition for Ronnie to blossom into one of the most sought
after choreographers of fashion and live music shows. He again thought it
couldn’t get much better until a friend (who went on to dance with Madonna
and other luminaries) convinced Ronnie to take his extemporaneous “for
fun” dancing seriously. After a few half-fulfilled semesters of ballet at City
College and a choreography class (which he aced), a local studio asked him
to teach. That was great, he thought. He just had no idea what to teach or
how to do it.
As any great artist will do, Ronnie fused elements of those he admired—
from break dancers to jazz to house party freestyling to Michael
Jackson—to become the Bay Area’s first hip hop teacher. There was
nothing like it at the time (the late ‘80s) and there was no one else like
Ronnie Reddick who could combine dance, fashion, choreography, and
modeling. Young dancers started flocking. The legend started to grow.
Despite being called constantly to work in L.A. and abroad, where he
could hold any number of high profile gigs such as choreographer for
The Voice (a gig that one of his prized students currently has), Ronnie
remains in San Francisco because it’s home and he’s not a fame hound.
In fact, he still lives in the house in which he grew up.
Recognizing an opportunity to again do things on his own terms, he
started a Bay Area artist’s agency. Today, he’s the hub of local dance
and fashion talent. He manages many of the female dance troupes
for the area’s pro teams (Raiderettes, Warrior Girls, and more). He’s
the resident choreographer at AsiaSF, the city’s famous transgender
nightclub. He choreographs (and dances and sings backup) for Bill
Hopkins Rock’n Orchestra as well as for Grammy winning artists. And
now, L.A. people call him because of his reputation for finding the best
Bay Area talent.
Ronnie’s legend has been solidified because of what’s inside as much as
what is outside. Yes, at 51 he can still out-dance people half his age, but
after twenty-five years of teaching, he still gets goose bumps showing
up for work. He remembers every step along his road to success, much
of which is attributed to a holistic approach that includes everything
from the five, six, seven, eights, to the business of the industry, to a
performer’s real value, and even how to dress for success.
For Ronnie, dance is a family business because of the intimate bonds.
He has picked up or dropped off members of his flock from as far away
as Monterey and Sacramento more times than he can remember. All his
clients and students call him personally.
As with most legendary tales, Ronnie’s has both a lesson and some
mystery. The lesson here is obvious: Do what you love and be kind,
and good things will come. The mystery herein lies in how his next
movement motifs will be developed and what tales he will narrate
through his dancers.