Take 5 with St. Louis-born choreographer Rashad 'Wizdom Truth' Rounds
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 1, 2013: Rashad Rounds grew up Olivette and graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School in 2001. Shortly after that, he launched himself into the LA dance scene. During his time there, Rounds -- who uses the name Wizdom Truth -- danced for Usher, on “Dancing With the Stars” and worked with major choreographers. But finding his way from St. Louis to Los Angeles wasn’t easy.
“I had an audition for Mariah Carey when I first moved out there and when I tell you I dropped all of my eight counts on the ground and was looking at them, I was like, oh my God, there goes the whole routine.”
Rounds could free-style, but he didn’t know how to learn and retain choreography, so he took six classes a day for six months to catch up.
This month, Rounds returned to St. Louis to help other dancers with what he learned in Los Angeles. Rounds’ Famous Fresh Studio offers a number of classes and styles, including hip hop, breaking and popping, as well as more traditional forms.
Famous Fresh, which is at the St. Louis Outlet Mall, just began offering classes last week. Rounds talked with the Beacon about his start in dance and what he hopes to share with other young dancers. The interview has been condensed.
Beacon: Do you remember when you really first started dancing, and, after that, when you realized that you wanted to do so professionally?
Rounds: I started dancing in high school, just doing talent shows. I was doing it for fun, all of my friends used to do it when I was a little younger, so I just decided to pick it up. It was kind of a cool thing to do in school, not everybody was doing it but I could.
Do you remember ‘In Living Color?” The Fly Girls used to come out and dance and I used to think that was really cool. I picked up some moves off TV, and I used to dance at a skating rink -- Saints Skating Rink -- a long time ago.
When I didn’t take my basketball and track scholarship, I had to figure out what I wanted to do that would be fun, because academics weren’t my big thing, and I didn’t know if I wanted to go to school again.
About 18, I just decided I’m going to take my chances in the dancing world and see what happens. Two months later I ended up auditioning for this guy named Pretty Willie and I made the audition. Next thing you know, I was on tour for two years.
In high school, you were a founding member of the dance crew The Flyboyz. Once you moved away from home and on to bigger things, what did you take with you from that time?
Rounds: Since St. Louis was so small, I had to learn how to network. It’s a beast to be able to just live and survive after only dancing. I made my mind up when I was about 20, 21, that I wasn’t going to work anymore. Everything was going to be me working for me and me creating my own brand as a dancer. That was really what helped me out in LA, to start creating my own brand.
St. Louis has a unique dance style that is very big in L.A. that a lot of people across the world want to adapt ... Little things like that, It was just in the water and it just stayed in my foundation.
You’ve performed with a number of stars, including with Usher at the MTV Video Music Awards. From your career so far, what are the biggest highlights for you?
Rounds: The biggest highlight in my dance career was just actually being able to dance with Usher. We kind of crashed his rehearsal, me and a friend, we had some choreography that we wanted to show him, so he was in a rehearsal and .. he was just like, OK, you guys come to my rehearsal, let me see it. Let me see your choreography. We just started dancing...
What inspired you to come back to St. Louis and open this studio?
Rounds: It’s always been a dream of mine ... to actually open up my own dance studio and inspire the kids who need a place to dance, the raw and uncut dancers of St. Louis. I think that’s a big thing that people don’t understand, there’s more talent than what you see in a regular dance studio environment.
A lot of boys don’t want to go to dance schools because you’ve got to take jazz, put on little tights and do ballet. I’m offering those all-boy classes. If you don’t know what’s going on in LA, you can come to me, you can ask. I have a lot of major choreographers and instructors who have lived in LA and now live back in St. Louis.
I just created an environment for people to actually be able to come and dance and learn the industry dance world as well as kids who just want to start dancing. I just wanted to create something that was new and different for St. Louis.
You mentioned wanting to impart the knowledge gained in LA to St. Louis dancers. Is there anything you wish you learned early on?
Rounds: Everything. I tell you the truth, when I left here to go to Los Angeles, I couldn't pick up choreography that fast.
I think that was one of the major things I felt like St. Louis lacks. You have these people who can do super freestyle, and they have their own style, but when it comes to learning how to pick up a routine, I was killing myself ... My brain couldn’t hold choreography that well, so I wish I would have been able to gain that side of the industry before I actually left St. Louis.
The business part, that’s just a brand, you can get that from anywhere, any marketing class, but it’s the insight of how it works.