Student Stories: Peace, Love, and Dance

By Gabrielle Jones

Buzzing with the hum of tucked away lounges and dive bars, the stretch of H Street, east of Union Station, attracts DC residents looking to escape the hum-drum, discover new spots, and quickly buy up the property of rising value. In the heart of this mecca-on-the-rise sits the Joy of Motion Dance Center Atlas, where I first began interning the summer of 2012. For me, the memory of dance was as faded as my outgrown leotard, save for my weekly ventures to the salsa club. I began interning at the studio for experience with graphic design work. Consequently, I received some free classes and, knowing that I needed to get active again, decided to try out some and see what happened.

Gabrielle Jones poses backstage before her Studio to Stage performance.
Gabrielle poses backstage before her Studio to Stage performance.

Well, the first thing that happened was an altercation between my body and me for who was in charge. I signed up for Beginning Contemporary African with the marvelous Taurus Broadhurst. However, as fate would have it, I showed up late and was casually signed in to the Advanced Beginning class, which started next. One step up couldn’t be that different, right? Wrong! So, in essence, my body was not pleased with that decision, and let me know for the next week. However, I never know when to stop. So I continued on in this fashion until my body gave way, and I was ready to take on something else. Next stop – Jazz!

The inspiring and lively Maverick Lemons was an excellent teacher for someone like me who had forgotten almost everything she had ever learned about dance technique. To top it off, the group of students who are loyal to Maverick’s classes are some top-notch people. In fact, there are quite a few great people who one can find around this building: cancer survivors and poets, doctors, mothers and students. Needless to say, it became a destination spot in my week.

I ventured off to the Friendship Heights location to be challenged and pushed by Maurice Johnson in Advanced Beginning Jazz, and began to perform in the quarterly Studio to Stage performance classes that offer students a chance to learn choreography and star in their own show at The Jack Guidone Theater. One day I looked up and my body had changed…… from that of a couch potato, to that of someone who MOVES. Salsa was much easier, and I felt inspired to ride my bike again and work out in the park on Saturdays.

While all of this was happening, somehow I discovered what it is that I want to do with my life. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not to be a dancer. That ship has sailed! But being on the move gave me the courage and the freedom to explore myself. What I found is that humanitarian architecture is my true passion. And I want to help people who have not had all of the opportunities and privileges that I have. If I can somehow design for those people, better places to live and work, I think that I will have helped in some small way. My dancing has died down only because I am focusing on my first big project, a modern mud hut in a rural village outside of Kumasi, Ghana. My fundraising campaign kicked off at a happy hour last Wednesday at the Ghana Café. Click here to learn more about the project and to contribute to the cause!

I am extremely excited to be starting this phase in my life, and am eternally grateful to Joy of Motion Dance Center and JOMDC’s Director of Production Rachel Pearl (my ex-boss)  for being a part of my DC experience. Peace, Love, and Dance.