Bachelor of Arts in Dance with a Concentration in Performance, Choreography, and Theory, UNC Charlotte (2016)
Hometown: Jacksonville, NC
I’ve always been in love with the arts since my grade school days. My mom was very creative and artistic. It was in 8th grade that I decided to shift my focus 100% to dance and musical theatre.
Can you tell us about the "Dance for George" event?
While watching the news one day, I saw a group of protestors doing the Cupid Shuffle, and a light bulb just went off: to do a huge flash mob. I had already been thinking about how I could use my voice in a way that felt honest to me, and this felt right. I started thinking about popular line dances that everyone could do or learn on the fly - flash mob style - to bring awareness to the importance of Black lives, and Black art and culture - and came to the Electric Slide. I held on to the idea for a few days, but it wasn’t until I went and saw my mentor, George Faison, that I decided to fearlessly put the plan in motion. With the help of a co-organizer, Allison “Buttons” Bedell, and seven peacekeepers, including UNC Charlotte dance alumna, Shannon Thorpe, the event brought together 400+ peaceful protestors from all walks of life, including The New York Times, photographers from CBS and the Washington Post, and a representative from CNN. The main mission was to intersect dance with social change in the way that Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham did.
What have you been up to since graduation?
After graduation, I was asked by George Faison to reprise my Suite Otis solo (learned in a residency with Faison at UNC Charlotte) for a performance at Dance Theatre of Harlem. A month after, August 2016, I moved to "The Big Apple." It’s funny because I had never visited or planned to move to NYC prior to George asking me to perform - I originally was heading to LA - but after praying on it and considering distance - to and from NC - NYC ended up being my new home. In addition to founding a creative services and production company, Pinilla Productions, I’ve worked with Reebok, Netflix, Laurie Ann Gibson, choreographed for NYFW & Fashion Institute of NY, placed 2nd at Showtime At The Apollo (Youth Division), and modeled for NAACP awarded publication “I Am Dance: The Words And Images Of The Black Dancer” by Hal Banfield.
How did UNC Charlotte's Department of Dance prepare you for where you are today?
The Department of Dance helped me prepare for the professional dance industry in many ways. The voices of professors Gretchen Alterowitz and Sybil Huskey have played in the back of my mind since graduating in 2016, mainly because they always held me to SUCH high standards, which forced me to take my training more seriously and trust in myself. I can honestly say being cast for Suite Otis, staged at UNC Charlotte by George Faison and Rachel Tucker, was the point where I said “Ok, I’m ready now!”
What would be your advice to current dance students?
To the current dance students, I would tell them to take their training 200% serious. Training in NYC and LA is quite competitive and expensive, so it’s best to come as polished and ready as possible. Whether training to be in a company or become a commercial dancer, take as many industry-level outside classes as possible, especially if seeking to have a commercial career.