Dancing since she was 10 years old, sophomore Gabrielle Langevine of Middlesex County continues to study her craft at Rowan University’s College of Performing Arts. She is part of the Dance Extensions group and the university’s NAACP chapter. As a Black artist, she hopes to encourage future dancers of color not to “shrink themselves” but to “work up to that limelight.” Read more on Gabrielle’s experience and how she says “Rowan has given me the perfect place to exercise my activist heart and my dancing in one place.”
How has dancing inspired you?
Dance has inspired me to become more of a disciplined person. When I was growing up dancing … I was very much in my head a lot. And the more I’ve grown with dance the more I’ve grown as a person. And I think that development has created a very strong-willed student, strong-willed person, strong-willed daughter, all these things, disciplined person, disciplined daughter, because of how much I’ve grown in dance and how much I’ve grown as a person through dance.
Let’s say you feel tired, and you just don’t have the motivation. How do you push through to give yourself that motivation to continue on and get better?
I use my support system to push me. If I feel like I can’t do it, I talk to my mom, I talk to my dad or my whole entire family just to have that support or that like “You can do this, you’ve been doing this for so long.” My mom loves to remind me that I’ve been doing this for so long. And that like you can, you’ve pushed past it before you can do it again. And that inspiration or that support and those words from people that I love really pushes me to do more, do better. And also look at what I’ve done in the past and know that I can do it again.
You talk about your parents in the support system. But what about the support system of your peers and the people that you dance with, talk a little bit about the importance of that.
One of the main reasons why I dance, having that comfort in the studio with fellow people who are also going through the same struggles as college and social life and academics and battling all those things. It’s important to have those people to count on or to talk to, even professors who have also gone through this as well who have graduated from college, who have these careers. Going to them and using them as people just to talk to and like to have an open conversation with is very important. And I’ve had that support system here. And it’s very, very important, especially in the studio. You want that comfortable, safe space, knowing that you can come to the studio just as you are without having to think too much.
Can you talk about the relationships with your instructors and with your dance professors?
The relationships I’ve had I’ve cultivated through dance or just through Rowan and dance started since I auditioned here. So Dawn Marie Bazemore, I met her when I was 12. I already had that frame of reference when I came here, like “I’m going to be, I’m going to be training with Dawn Marie again, and it’s going to be fun.” Paule [Turner] was somebody that I also first met when I auditioned and that he also created that safe space and that [comfort] within the dance studio from day one. And I’ve gone to him for recommendation letters and gone to other professors for recommendation letters, because I know, they know me not just as a dancer, but as a person.
I’ve done other things outside of dance, and they support me in those things. And I love the family in the sense of camaraderie that we have between each other. And it’s very, very much moving for me.
Talk about the dance department at Rowan and what stuck out to you to come here to further your career.
I auditioned for Rowan in 2020, right before COVID hit, so I got the feeling of my professors and peers or people who I was going to dance around very early on from that day. And that was a very exciting day. Literally after the audition, I ran outside to my mother’s car jumping and screaming and happy and all these things. I felt really, really excited.
The professors created a place where all students can feel very comfortable. And we can laugh and joke in an audition setting. I knew that if I can do that in an audition setting, anything that I do here is going to be very much comfortable and safe. And because I had that safe space from the first day, I really, really wanted to come here.
Can you talk more about the department as a whole and what makes it so special?
In the dance department, theatre department, you have to know who you’re graduating with because you have to work with these people closely. And I didn’t realize that until I came here that I always have to know who I’m talking to because I’m working with these people every day and I’m improving with these people, contact improv. I know everybody’s names who I’m graduating with, and I don’t think a lot of people in other colleges or other departments have that experience. And that’s really special where our graduation is like a concert. It’s an experience, it’s a performance because that’s what we do. That’s our job. And it makes it very fun and very, very light hearted and it’s beautiful to see.
How many hours a day, a week, do you put into your dance?
As of this semester, it’s a lot. I’m performing in a lot more pieces this semester with student pieces. I’m dancing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. And most of those rehearsals are two hours plus. And that’s a lot of dedication, that’s a lot of motivation I have to have. And because I have that’s been instilled in me at such a young age, I can do it now without blinking an eye. I think that for some people it’s kind of a little bit harder to do. But I think that I’ve cultivated the skills to do that now where I’m like, I can get out of bed at 7 and go to rehearsal until 11 p.m.
What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?
Keep doing it. It’s going to be very rewarding in the end, or just as you’re making choreography, or as you’re in dance class or you want to join a company that dream is not small, and nobody should treat it as such. And nobody should treat you like your dance dreams are not worthwhile. Performing on stage is so exhilarating. And it’s so much fun. And it’s so great, and you get to meet so many great people along the time you are dancing. I feel like younger people should still dance. It’s a beautiful art form.
Where do you want to be when you graduate? Your dream job.
My dream job is to be a choreographer and also a company member in Philadanco, a dance company based in Philly. I’ve been following them on Instagram since I was maybe 12 years old. I’ve been aspiring to be a part of their company or companies like it since I was very young. So that’s where I see myself. I’m also into activism. I also want to be a public figure in that aspect as well, in some way, shape or form.
What other opportunities are available to you as a student, outside of the campus?
There’s a lot of students who perform in Philly to this day, and there’s just so many things that you can do outside of just, I’m in the studio, I also student teach back home. So that’s really fun. I have those opportunities. There’s also internship opportunities for students in New York, and Philly, and all these places. So there’s many opportunities outside of just Rowan to perform and make art as well, not just perform but make things, and that’s really special. I’ve seen people who have been performing in theaters in Philly since they graduated high school. And I’m just like, I want to do that too. Hopefully, I will. But I really think there’s so many other opportunities just outside of Rowan, which is nice, because also the professors put you on to those opportunities as well, if you ask.
Are you involved in any clubs?
I’m part of Rowan NAACP along with Dance Extensions. That’s also just like another dance club that we have. It’s contemporary modern. And we have open class on Fridays, and anybody can join, and it’s very much just like another place to dance. If you’re not even just not even just dance majors join the org. We have musical theatre majors. We have psych majors who just want to dance and take a class one time.
You mentioned activism, can you share more about that?
I’m a Black dancer. So that space is very, not one sided, but just a little bit divided just because most of these dance spaces are white spaces. And because of that, I’ve grown into this activism heart — I like to call it my activism heart — where I’ve been posting and protesting and all these things for just racial equality. I think that there’s a lot of work that the country needs to do. And I think that those things are important that everybody needs to stay educated and stay awake to what’s going on around them. And I think there’s a lot of people who’ve tried to turn a blind eye to those things because they’re not ready to hear it.
Being a Black dancer, you are put into these situations where it’s not an easy, even playing field. And I think that that’s important for me to know as somebody who is of color. And for people who aren’t of color, who want to know, like things like racial inequality or dance inequality, because it’s also very prevalent still today. So those are all very important to me. And I continue to talk about that with my professors and my peers. And it’s really important.
What impact do you hope to have?
The impact that I’m hoping to put on that I can see younger me seeing me as is just like a more willing person to be in the front. I think that a lot of, especially in white spaces, a lot of Black dancers like to, I’ve seen, shrink themselves, go in the back, don’t pay attention to me, I’m not even here. And I’ve been in that space where I just didn’t want to be in the front. Even in places where like the dancers are predominantly Black. I still have to, I feel like I have had to shrink myself. And I’m finally coming out of that. And that’s the kind of impact I want other Black dancers to do is just be in the front, stand the front. Front and center is not a scary place. You don’t have to know what you’re doing in class. It’s a class: you can mess up, it’s okay.
And though I don’t want any Black dancer to shy away from the limelight — it’s fun, it’s great — you should be there, working there. Working up to that limelight that you want is important as well. And as a Black dancer, I think that I’m showing that now, here. And I think that’s really really, really beautiful to see. And I’ve seen my other peers even say, “This is where you’re supposed to be, be in the front, do what you want, solo this, solo that.” These are things I want to do. And I want to keep showing my art to other people.
Would you say that Rowan allows you to exercise your voice? And how would you say it’s allowed you to work toward your work as an activist?
Rowan has given me the perfect place to exercise my activist heart and my dancing in one place. This semester, I’m going to be in all-Black cast. Nothing better than that. I just I feel like that, at a predominantly white institution, it’s so beautiful and great to be in a room with all Black dancers at one time. And I love that Rowan has given me that opportunity to do such also in different organizations that I’m in, the Rowan NAACP chapter specifically. And it is one of the greatest things to exercise my dancing heart and my activist heart at the same time.
What would you say is the importance of the Rowan Black community in dance and also personally?
The close-knit bond I have with my peers who are of color in the dance department has been really interesting to feel because the studio I’ve come from back home is a predominantly Black dance studio. And coming here was like a shell shock for me and a lot of us who also have come from either all Black institutions or not. And it’s been beautiful to experience other people who are like me, dancing with me, having a great time. And just creating as well not just like dancing in the classroom but like creating performances and putting on shows and all these things, putting on choreography. I think that’s why I really chose Rowan, because I have this close-knit community of people who also are just like me, and also different.
See our video with Gabrielle here:
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