On stage, Antuan Raimone is known for his ability to quickly analyze and execute choreography — seeming to move between characters and tonal shifts with superhuman ease. It’s why he’s called “Magic.”
Raimone refined this talent early in his career, performing on cruise ships after earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre from Missouri State, then dancing with the world-famous Radio City Rockettes before landing his first Broadway show, “In the Heights.”
Now, he’s the universal swing for the smash musical “Hamilton,” which means he covers roles for the entire ensemble. This demanding position requires Raimone to master the choreography for several parts in multiple productions across the United States. It’s an ideal use for his particular brand of dance magic.
“There are hundreds — if not thousands — of dancers who have more technique than I do, or more flexibility or physical strength. My strength is that I can quickly learn the choreography and present it in the manner it was intended,” he says.
“I can tell the story, and that’s something I pride myself on.”
Life as a universal swing also calls for adaptability. After all, it may mean dancing with the Broadway production one night, then traveling to Chicago or San Francisco to cover roles for the show’s touring companies. Raimone says his ability to embrace such adventures goes back to his childhood.
“My mother raised us to be independent because she’s an independent, strong woman. She wasn’t heartbroken for her children to leave the nest, so it made it easy for me to go after my goals,” he says. “I knew my mom wanted those opportunities for me.”
Living as a Soldier of Love
Now, outside the rehearsal hall, Raimone is taking on a new role. He’s become a “Soldier of Love,” his way of describing his disciplined commitment to choosing love over fear.
“I believe the root of anything that’s not love is fear,” he says. “We may paint it with anger, annoyance or dismissiveness, but the root of it is fear.”
He’s sharing this perspective on social media and in a recent presentation for TEDx, a program “designed to help communities, organizations and individuals… spark conversation and connection” through experiences modeled after the iconic TED talks.
For Raimone, being a Soldier of Love is about focusing on his own choices and his personal morality. Even when conflict seems to overwhelm public discourse, he consciously resists the impulse to react out of reflexive fear.
“By being afraid of what may happen, we aren’t able to live in the love of what is happening,” Raimone says.
Facing the past
Living as a Soldier of Love has been a natural evolution of Raimone’s efforts to come to terms with instances of sexual abuse he suffered as a child.
He says, “I learned at a young age that people you trust can do horrible things to you. And once that lesson was learned, it made it very difficult for me to trust anyone.”
But he found ways to trust again after seeking therapy with the Crime Victims Treatment Center in New York, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling services to trauma survivors.
Confronting this past pain took courage and grit. But, Raimone says, “I knew what it felt like to live with these issues unresolved, and I knew that whatever was on the other side (of the healing process) had to be better than that. Even when the process — A to Z — was uncomfortable or scary, I knew that when I got to Z, I would understand something new.”
And in some sense, Raimone’s history as a trauma survivor deepens his identity as a Soldier of Love. Despite clear eyes about the world’s potential for cruelty, he says, “it’s still about making the choice to move forward from a place of love.”
Paying it forward
In addition to the fulfillment he finds sharing his journey with others, Raimone enjoys mentoring young artists. One spring afternoon in New York, he generously shared his time with today’s crop of Missouri State theatre and dance students. His practical tips covered a huge range of topics — everything from acing a dance call to practicing self-care in such a physically demanding profession.
When asked what advice he’d give himself if he could travel back to his own college graduation in 2002, Raimone says, “Keep dreaming. The dreams you have are going to be met, and then they’re going to be increased. Keep wanting. You’ll get those things, and then there will be a whole list of things you never saw coming. Enjoy it. Let it excite you. Let it scare you. Let it push you.”
Then, like a true Soldier of Love, he adds, “And I love you, man.”