Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Dance dreams take stage at Open Streets 704 Fest

The JCSU Repertory Dance Company performed Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018 at the Open Streets 704 Festival. Powered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, the event opened a length of city streets for the purpose of encouraging more biking, walking, and exploring with neighbors. The community-building event attracted thousands to Charlotte’s West Side, near JCSU’s campus.

Repertory dancers Essence Mayhew ’21, Janiya Miller ’20, and Neja Ervin ’21 took the afternoon stage by storm, under the direction of Jaclyn O'Toole, assistant professor of dance. Sound arts major Michaya Mason ’19 also collaborated on the production, under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Weise, associate professor of music.

Mayhew, who is majoring in business administration with a minor in dance, was thrilled at the opportunity to perform in front of the community. She felt the performance improved her stage presence.

“Dance is a passion of mine, so when I move I want onlookers to see my heart and feel my movements as part of themselves. I hope I sparked someone's interest at the performance and made them say ‘Hmm, that was deep’,” she said.

Dancers performed “Longitude,” a collaborative work exploring the use of space, time and dimensions between the dancers and live musicians. O'Toole choreographed the dance with music composition and live mixing by Weise. 

“The music and dance coexist on the same playing field, as opposed to one being greater or more powerful than the other,” O’Toole said. “The students work in the same fashion. The dancers react to the music, and the musicians watch for specific moments to add accents. This is then repeated again and again until it has a consistent flow.”

Themes of unity and community were emphasized in “Longitude.” At times, the dancers moved in unison. At others, a dancer might initiate a movement that the other dancers would pick up and repeat, for an astonishing ripple effect. The dance department prepared students for the show by utilizing hands-on teaching methods and visual examples.

“Professor O’Toole is very helpful with breaking down steps, both verbally and physically, so that I could catch on,” Mayhew said. “I never felt left behind during rehearsals.”

Although dance has been a part of her life for her entire college career, Mayhew, a transfer student from New York, had not done much performing. Prior to JCSU, most of her dance education came from watching and mimicking other, more experienced dancers. The fact that she was able to perform a choreographed work before a crowd pushed her confidence to new heights.

“Being able to execute movement with an emotional attachment means everything to me and at JCSU I am finally doing that. It really uplifts me and gives me hope that someday I will be on the same level as my fellow company members,” Mayhew said.

Aside from her own personal validation, the sophomore saw the public performance as a way to draw JCSU and the community closer together.

“JCSU is a staple in the Charlotte community and it was wonderful that the public could see all that the University has to offer, as far as dance diversity and skill set,” Mayhew said. 

Return to Latest News