Photos courtesy of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre

The Dallas Black Dance Academy is prepared to dance the night away during The BIG Dance, as it celebrates the launch of its 50th season. In June, the DBDA will continue a legacy of producing disciplined professionals in a spectrum of industries including dance.

The night of live music will showcase traditional and contemporary local Dallas artists, including the premier Cuban-style orchestra Havana NRG!, the full-experience salsa band Fusión Latina, and the captivating atmosphere of Mariachi Zacatecas, sets the pace for the evening. The event includes dance lessons by Amanda Alvarez of Amanda Cristina Salsa, social dancing, food, spirits, festive décor and professional dance vignettes by Dallas Black Dance Theatre dancers celebrating the flair of Latin and Afro-Latin culture,

The annual performance, held June 3 from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, located at 2301 Flora St., is a celebration of different culture and music genre. Guests can also experience the festivities via a live stream.

Every year Dallas Black Dance Theatre celebrates a different culture and music genre during the dance. This year the theme is “La vida es un carnaval!” – translated: Life is a carnival! It will feature a fusion of Latin and Afro-Latin music. Including different cultures is part of the legacy of DBDT, which has been inclusive in the way it operates since it opened in 1976. In 2019, The genre was The Roaring 20’s with the theme of Harlem Renaissance. In 2021 it was Big Easy. In 2022, it was Country.

“Dallas Black Dance Academy has been inclusive from the beginning with Black, White and Hispanic students. Within a few years, the academy also had Indian and Asian students,” said Academy Founder Ann Williams.

The annual performance is also a fundraiser that benefits the 49-year-old academy, providing a 40% reduction in tuition fees for more than 300 students enrolled in on-site academy training classes at the arts district facility. It also helps to support in-school dance residency programs for 2000+ students in 24 area DFW schools with student populations whose families are economically challenged and primarily Latino and Black.

Since 2012, every senior in the academy has graduated from high school and gone on to attend college.

The academy is the only modern dance company of color in the nation certified to teach the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum to students. Many of the accomplished students from the Academy have been scholarship students who could not otherwise afford formal dance training. Without the early attention and rigor provided at the Academy, these promising students may never have been accepted to Booker T. Washington HSPVA and then went on to prestigious universities and conservatories across the nation.

The academy produced the first Presidential Scholar in dance in America. Eight other Presidential Scholars who graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts trained at Dallas Black Dance Academy. Four Academy students have received full scholarships to the prestigious dance program at The Juilliard School. Many more Academy students have received the Texas Young Masters Award, the state equivalent to the national award.

Dallas Black Dance Academy alumni have not only made their mark in the dance industry, but in various careers. Avalyn Pace is a retired IBM executive in Dallas, Dr. Avia Wilkerson is a physician in St. Louis, Missouri., Liz Mikel is an actress on Broadway, Dr. Nicole Hubbard-Muestercher is a pharmaceutical researcher in Boston, MA., Angelia Williams is a vice president at City Financial in Tampa, Florida., Dr. Karlen Lewis is a physical therapist in Dallas, Wendy Calhoun is a producer/director/writer in Los Angeles, Sharon Holland-Carnell is a magnet coordinator at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas.

Academy alumni who are in the dance industry include India Bradley with the New York City Ballet, My’Kal Sromile with the Boston Ballet, Layla Brent and Jordan Willis who are both in The Lion King, Alysia Johnson with the Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago, Jared Brown with the Hofesh Shechter Dance Company in Germany and McKinley Willis who is an 8-year member of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

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