University of Southern Mississippi senior dance major Jennifer Johnson has been selected to live and learn in the heart of downtown Chicago for a Summer Dance Intensive with Deeply Rooted Dance Productions (DRD).
Johnson, a Meridian native, was also awarded a $3,500 merit-based tuition scholarship for four weeks. Called Chicago’s answer to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre by the “Chicago Sun Times,” DRD is a critically acclaimed, African American dance theater company established in 1995.
“I feel really honored to be chosen for this summer intensive and the opportunity to dance with such a prestigious company,” said Johnson.
Participants in the Summer Dance Intensive experience a rigorous, technical and artistic pre-professional training program under DRD company members from June 28-July 24. Johnson will perform a range of contemporary, modern, African and ballet movements with opportunities to advance to the Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre.
“This has all come about in the past three weeks or so. Before attending the American College Dance Festival (ACDF) in March, I had been planning to go to graduate school, but just being in that conference brought back my passion for dance that I thought I had lost,” Johnson said.
After a chance encounter at ACDF with her role model T. Lang, an assistant professor of dance and director of Spelman Dance Theatre at Spelman College, Johnson decided to audition for the DRD Summer Dance Intensive.
Before attending her audition, Johnson traveled to Chicago and met with DRD’s artistic director Kevin lega Jeff, who was impressed by her ability.
“I sat in and observed their rehearsal and tried to catch on,” Johnson said. “Afterword, I told him about the summer audition and then performed improvisation for him for a couple of minutes. He really liked me and said he would like to work with me.”
Standing poised and ready to enter the professional dance scene, Johnson credits her four years in choreography and performance at Southern Miss.
“People probably underestimate Southern Miss dance, but every time I’ve gone to ACDF we’re some of the best dancers there. We’re top in technique, but we’re also the best in theory based.”
In addition to the curriculum and performance opportunities, Johnson feels especially influenced by assistant professor of dance Meredith Early.
Early describes Johnson as a gentle and humble being that transforms into a dynamic bright light on stage,” said Early. “Her balance of expressivity, dynamism, embodiment of qualitative information assures you that she goes deeper than the body, deeper than the movement. Upon completion of a summer intensive workshop with Deeply Rooted, Jennifer will continue to work with their second company bringing the same level of skill, dedication, and professionalism that she has put into practice here at Southern.”
Johnson will leave behind a legacy of hard work and service after commencement in May. She is a current member of the Mu Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and a Luckyday Scholar.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.