Greensboro Ballet asks, ‘You think you can dance?’

by Lenise Willis

Jarvis Wilson’s high-energy hip hop earned him second place at the “Hey Greensboro, Think You Can Dance?” competition. (photo by Lenise Willis)

Rather than the usual sounds of woodwind and percussion, the Orchestra Rehearsal Hall in the Greensboro Cultural Center was filled Saturday with an unusual combination of ballet, belly dancing and the electric attitude of hip hop.

The bold, diverse routines came from the contestants of a dance competition organized by Greensboro Ballet who teamed with sponsors Cheerwine and 105.7 Hit Music Now in search of the Triad’s best dancers.

The first-ever competition was open to dancers ages 12 and up and was free to register and view. Strutting across the stage was a variety of solos, duets, trios and group dances. Categories included jazz, lyrical, ballet, contemporary, hip hop, tap, clogging, ballroom or break dancing. Solos had 90 seconds to impress the judges and group dancers had no more than two minutes.

Maryhelen Mayfield, Greensboro Ballet artistic director, said the idea came from the explosion of dance seen on TV in such shows as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With The Stars.”

“We wanted to encourage a lot of people to just celebrate with dance in this competition,” Mayfield said. “Dance is more a part of our lives than we realize.”

Mayfield said she was also hopeful that the competition would help give the school some exposure and help people to see it as a dance corporation, “and not just as the ‘ballet people.’” Performances were judged by a panel of three who evaluated projection and showmanship, dance technique, choreography and creativity, athleticism and difficulty and overall effect.

Cash prizes for the top three performers, along with a constant free flow of liquid sugar, were donated by Cheerwine. Other prizes given to both winning contestants and special-drawing winners included Train and Maroon 5 tickets, Triad Music Festival tickets, CDs and 105.7 T-shirts.

Awarded $700 for first place was Pride of Carolina Clogging, Jarvis Wilson received second place and $200 for his hip hop, Justin Lee’s interpretive dance earned him $100 for third and Sarah Savage’s Russian ballet performance earned her runner-up.

The winning performance of Pride of Carolina Clogging included Linda Myers, Kaitlyn Hedrick, Chris Kennedy, Nikki Morgan, Brandi Fowler, Hannah Welborn-Lewis and Cody Meadows, who clogged to Aerosmith’s

“Walk This Way” and plans to buy new uniforms with their winnings.

Second-place winner Jarvis Wilson, 20, provided much of the positive attitude and attention-grabbing charisma for the day. Not only did his performance include doing a flip off a wall, but his high energy and love for dance was contagious throughout the audience.

“Every since I was little I’ve been fascinated with hip hop and the hip-hop lifestyle,” said Wilson, who is actually training in ballet with Greensboro Ballet. “That’s the most important part about dance. I know we’re competing, but it’s about support and love.” Wilson said he plans on using his winnings to finish the dance studio he has constructed in his garage, which he leaves open to his neighborhood to provide everyone with an opportunity to dance. Wilson is also a choreographer and dance instructor with Break ‘n’ Out Studio, but plans to eventually open his own.

Another highlight of the afternoon actually occurred once the competing ended.

While the results were being tallied, the floor was open for freestyle, which both audience members and contestants took advantage of. For about half an hour, people gathered in a circle, showing off their moves, and eventually falling upon a game of “pass the dance,” where one person created a certain dance style or rhythm that the next person had to continue until touching and passing it to the next person.

The game, filled mostly with hip-hop moves, allowed the contestants and viewers to share their moves, impress one another and truly come together to simply share their love of dance and music.

“I thought it was very interesting; in the ballet world that would never happen,” Mayfield laughed. “I was very happy with it.”

Overall, Mayfield considers the competition a successful celebration and hopes to continue the new tradition next year. “There were enormous amounts of talent there, some of it in the beginning stages and some of it more advanced, Mayfield said, “but that’s what made me happiest; I love seeing so much potential.

“I thought the overall feeling was happy and celebratory and collaborative, and a lot of dancers got support from the event and from one another. I don’t know how long the dance wave will continue, but I think at least for next year it should still be good.”