Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
By Larissa Kern
Pop music plays over the stereo as young dancers stretch on the studio floor. Christmas lights flash around the mirror of the darkened studio. Instructor Dedrick Perkins has turned off the lights while his students stretch in preparation for their jazz class at his Concord-based D3DanceStudio.
A 21-year-old dance major at UNC Charlotte, Perkins opened the dance studio last spring with business partner Keyon Baker, 29, a Winthrop University graduate and operational risk manager at Wells Fargo. Their act of artistic entrepreneurship defies conventional wisdom: “workforce development” advocates rarely consider the arts to be a practical career choice. And as a college student, an African-American, and a male, Perkins definitely breaks the mold of the typical dance studio owner – white, female, and middle-aged.
|Dedrick Perkins (right) and dance studio partner Keyon Baker|
Perkins, a Charlotte native, had no interest in the arts until his junior year in high school, when he participated in a hip-hop dance class at the studio where his little sister studied. His senior year he took dance classes at Garinger High School. Enrolling at UNC Charlotte, he began teaching at two dance studios, one in Matthews and one in Concord. It was then that he began dreaming of his own studio. “I realized I valued the teaching aspect a lot more than performing,” he says.
Perkins met Baker his sophomore year in college and decided they would be a good business pair, with Baker overseeing operations and Perkins in charge of the artistic development. They created a business plan, but with Perkins still in school, had no immediate plans to launch the business. But one day last spring, Perkins saw a space for lease and contacted the owner. The location and layout were perfect, and the owner was eager for a tenant. Perkins had been saving money from his teaching; Baker also had capital to contribute. The two took their chance. “It all fell together,” says Perkins. “I didn’t know if I would have the opportunity again within five years, so I took it.” They opened the studio in April 2014.
Perkins and Baker were financially prepared to survive the first year with only one student, but several students followed Perkins from other studios to D3. Realizing that there was no dance summer camp in Concord, they quickly launched one. They now have 15 students enrolled and have hired two teachers, in addition to Perkins.
The past nine months have been a learning experience. While balancing both studying and teaching, Perkins has had to handle issues like broken toilets in the girls’ bathroom and a leaking roof after heavy rain. “It’s a tedious process, but I love it,” he says, referring to all the practical problems owning a studio brings.
Perkins believes the dance curriculum at UNC Charlotte has prepared him for this new role. His choreography training not only allows him to choreograph all the dances his students will perform at recital and competition, but also to guide them to create their own dances. He credits his ballet pedagogy teacher and mentor, Associate Professor of Dance Delia Neil, with teaching him how to communicate clearly with his students, in tone and body language. “Their responses changed when I changed my methods because of that class. It helped me enhance and adjust my way of teaching.” And his dance writing and history courses have helped his writing improve – a key element, Perkins says, in establishing professional credibility as he writes grants, creates his website and markets his studio. “Everything I have learned has prepared me for where I am and am going to be.”
Neil says Perkins has a great approach with kids: “He is so affable and endearing, that I think the students will adore him.” D3 student Bekah O’Reilly says Perkins “makes me feel comfortable to make mistakes.” Her step-sister Andrea Martinez agrees, adding, “He’ll let you keep trying.” Perkins demands excellence and proper dance etiquette from his students but still keeps it fun. “I have a very professional relationship with my kids,” he says, adding that they also “view me as a big brother, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.”
Perkins graduates in May and can then turn his full attention to D3DanceStudio. He and Baker hope that in the next few years they will be able to hire more full time teachers and buy the rest of the building complex to create more studio space. Ultimately, they hope to have as many 300 students.
“One day I would hope that the community will see my community as a valuable place for dance education,” Perkins says, “to see my kids progress in whatever they want to do.”
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Larissa Kern graduated from UNC Charlotte in December with a BA in dance and a minor in journalism.
Monday, November 17, 2014
By Phillip Brown
|Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr.|
The UNC Charlotte Alumni Association and Jim Woodward, chancellor emeritus, hosted “Wayfaring Strangers: A Musical Luncheon with Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr” on Nov. 14, at Byron’s South End in Charlotte.
Authors Ritchie and Orr guide the reader on a musical voyage across oceans to capture the stories of the people, the times and the music that many Scots-Irish immigrants brought to the United States.
Born and raised in Scotland, Ritchie attended the University of Stirling. In the 1980s, she accepted an invitation to spend a semester at UNC Charlotte to work as a teaching assistant in the Psychology Department. During her time in Charlotte, she volunteered at WFAE-FM. At the time, the University held the license for the station. She approached station managers with an idea for a new show featuring traditional Celtic and folk music from her native Scotland, Ireland and the rest of the British Isles. More than 30 years later, one can still find her National Public Radio weekly show “The Thistle & Shamrock” on nearly 400 stations around the world.
|Orr (with guitar) and Ritchie (middle) perform at a luncheon in the honor.|
Orr, a vice chancellor at UNC Charlotte when Ritchie was here, later became president of Warren Wilson College near Asheville; he also founded the Swannanoa Gathering music workshops. Orr, who shared a passion for Celtic and folk music, remained close friends with Ritchie during the years, and the two collaborated on “Wayfaring Strangers.”
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014
UNC Charlotte senior Jameka Parker has been recognized for outstanding leadership and service by North Carolina Campus Compact, a statewide network of colleges and universities that are committed to community engagement. Parker is a recipient of the network’s Community Impact Student Award, which honors one student leader at each member school.
Parker is one of 18 students across the state to receive the 2014 award, joining more than 200 college students honored by the organization since the award was first presented in 2006.
A pre-service teacher majoring in Middle Grades Education with a minor in Urban Youth and Communities, Parker believes deeply in service learning, both as a civic obligation and as meaningful pedagogy. As a part of her Community Engagement Capstone, Parker started a girls dance troupe in a high poverty middle school with a curriculum focused on academic achievement, mentoring, and self-esteem. Using the fundamentals of participatory action research, she conducted a needs assessment with students and teachers. The resulting program couples dance, academic support, and mentoring during a special period in the school day. Parker recruited fellow UNC Charlotte students to implement the curriculum, which improved student attitudes and school success. Parker is from Fayetteville, N.C.
Dr. Susan Harden, an assistant professor of Education at UNC Charlotte, nominated Parker for the award. “Jameka really ‘gets’ service learning,” Harden says. “She will make a wonderful teacher who knows how to use this pedagogy in her own classroom.”
Parker and other award winners will be honored at North Carolina Campus Compact’s annual student conference on November 8 at N.C. State University in Raleigh. Now in its 21st year, the 2014 conference will convene 180 student leaders from 25 campuses in 5 states, offering participants a slate of workshops focused on leadership best practices and community issues.
North Carolina Campus Compact is a collaborative network of colleges and universities with a shared commitment to educating engaged citizens and strengthening communities. Guided by an executive board of presidents and chancellors, the Compact supports member schools through professional development and resources related to civic and community engagement. The Compact was founded in 2002 and is hosted by Elon University.