Dancers jam at festival

Dance was celebrated in a big way at the ninth annual Dance Jam Festival at Richland on Nov. 17. More than 250 dancers in 17 groups participated by performing in styles ranging from jazz, tap and hip-hop to modern, ballet and western swing.

A dancer from the Terrance M. Johnson Dance Project performs.

A dancer from the Terrance M. Johnson Dance Project performs.

Groups ranged from high school level to independent companies and dance groups from the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas (UNT). Students gathered in the breezeway to watch the event and support the dancers. The festival was free and open to the public.

Lydia Corwin, the ballet folklorico instructor at Lake Highlands High School, said the event “allows a vast majority of schools to get exposure to what other schools work on, to see other dances, to see other dance styles so people who really focus on hip-hop can see more ballet and then they can get to work with other teachers.”

Corwin said this event benefited her girls because “they [had] the opportunity to perform for people their age to be more known in the community.”

Her group is the only ballet folklorico company in the Richland Independent School District and she said they are “very proud” to represent their heritage and to have demonstrated their dance at the event.

J.J. Pearce High School dancers perform western swing style moves.

J.J. Pearce High School dancers perform western swing style moves.

Spectators were entertained as each dance was more distinct than the last. A dance routine for a hip-hop group had a loud, fast beat followed by a passionate solo to instrumental music. Regardless of where the dancers or dance group were placed on the program, each performed spectacularly.

One audience favorite was a very young girl named Riley Casimir who performed a jazz dance solo to “Life of The Party.” Casimir’s energy could barely be contained on the dance floor. Her movements were fierce and spunky. She charmed the audience with her smile, twirls and outfit the minute she stepped onto the dance floor. 

The UNT dancers performed to the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” The contemporary dance was controversial from the start as it quickly called out police brutality. Instead of music, the first thing the audience heard was police sirens. That was followed by dancers dressed in “rags” mimicking an arrest based on racial profiling.

They captured the audience’s attention and proceeded with their soulful dance.