The Triangle is an expanding domain for choreography and with numerous dance companies in the area, uniqueness and execution is vital to stand out. N.C. Central University’s Repertory Dance Company’s unique attributes helps them do just that.
Catering to many audiences, the dance company performs many different styles of dance, including jazz, modern, contemporary, and West African.
Dance director Kristi Johnson, a former Fabulous Dancing Doll at her alma mater Southern University, wanted to be able to give young dancers an opportunity to showcase their talents and experience what it means to be a professional collegiate-based dancer.
“The company came about because the dancers wanted to perform. At the time, they were all enrolled in the dance concentration under the Theatre Department and were training every day in various dance styles. The dancers voiced [that] they wanted something that was structured and would allow them to experience what a professional dance company would feel like,” Johnson explained. “I thought it was a great idea because I wanted to share their talents with the NCCU and Durham dance community.”
After taking over as director in 2015, Johnson has helped perfect the craft of many aspiring dancers throughout the Repertory Dance Company by highlighting the importance of knowing the body and having a strong foundation.
“I want to know if you understand alignment or how to support your body while in motion. Once the foundation is there, I emphasize the importance of performing with your whole body. I remind them [that] we don’t just dance from the neck down, but we also use our eyes and facial expressions to engage our audience,” she says. “We work on understanding the intention of each choreographic work, so they have a personal connection to the movement and can convey that authentically to the audience.”
During the past four years, Johnson has been intentional about the overall purpose and outreach of the company, especially as the program is supported by the university’s theatre department. Under Johnson’s watchful eye, the company not only presents the work of guest artists and faculty on campus to their peers, but also presents demonstrations in local schools and performs throughout the Triangle in various festivals and concerts.
Repertory’s hard work has paid off as they have received numerous invitations this year to perform throughout the Triangle and received rave reviews at both the African-American Cultural Festival and last year’s Bimbé Festival, where they dedicated a dance to NCCU alumnus Ernie Barnes. The company wishes to continue their exceptional choreography as they prepare for performances in the near future.
“Our next performance is a lecture demonstration at Spring Valley Elementary School where the dancers will not only perform but share with the students their experience as college students and talk to them about the different styles of dance,” Johnson said.
As for the cornerstone of Repertory’s philosophy, Johnson described the company as, “versatile, dynamic, and empowering.”
Continue to look out for NCCU’s Repertory Dance Company as they continue to showcase choreographic masterpieces at theaters and festivals near you.