You have spoken Cincinnati. Here are the community dancers you nominated. Scroll down to learn more about the Dancers of Cincinnati. All photographs were taken by Angie Lipcsomb.
Brian started taking classes at age 9 after begging for years. “My parents were a little reticent about their little boy taking dance because it’s not a boy thing. Yeah, and this was in 1976,” says Brian. His sister had been taking class and wasn’t nearly as into it as Brian. Finally, he just asked, “When is she stopping so I can start?” That was it. Brian has been dancing ever since including a few international Broadway tours. Brian continues to dance in community theatre around Cincinnati. During a performance in 2016, he felt his knee go out. He was forced to choose between two surgical options; the complicated one with a more difficult recovery was the only option that would keep him dancing. The decision was clear. He had dance. After a long recovery, Brian is back to kicking up his heels! To describe how he is feeling when he dances, he borrows the words Elton John wrote for the musical Billy Elliott. “It’s a feeling that you can’t control. I suppose it’s like forgetting, losing who you are and at the same time something makes you whole.”
Darnell started dancing at a young age, however, there came a point when he was told he didn’t have the feet or the turnout to “make it” as a dancer. He pursued a career in acting receiving his MFA in Classical Theatre Performance. However, upon moving to Cincinnati in 2009, Darnell found dance again. “I immediately got connected with a dance world in Cincinnati and slowly got reminded that you can do both.” He dances and choreographs around the Cincinnati area but one of the things that makes Darnell stand out is the way he experiments in the medium. For example, he brought rollerblades to the photoshoot! Darnell was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and movement became a type of therapy for him. He has a series of exercises that he utilizes in moments of panic. “All bodies are different, and all minds are different…dance was a space where I could be honest with myself and with the world around me.”
In the first grade, Emily attended her first Celtic Lands Festival at the Cincinnati Museum Center. She watched the crossed sword dance; she went home grabbed some yardsticks and jumped over them again and again. She was hooked and has been dancing Highland dance for 19 years. She received a scholarship to Alma College for her dancing and it has taken her all over the world. “Scottish dancing is very independent, very individual.” Emily’s favorite performance was her first tattoo at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in 2016. A tattoo is large military show where Highland dancers audition and are selected to perform. She is going back this year and is feeling sentimental. She says it’s like reliving her first one.
Ian started dancing in college at 19. They say, “I’ve always danced, but I am not a person that started technique at 3 years old. And then, you know, did that whole track.” They’re grateful that they started later than many because dance still feels fresh. “It’s like a new juicy thing to me that I’m still, I’m still learning.” They won’t define their style of dance but rather will say that they are always practicing new forms, from ballet to Gaga to jazz to hip-hop. Dance infiltrates everything they do. You can find Ian dancing all around the city, whether it be teaching for DANCEFIX, creating performance art with Pones or feeling the flow on his roof. Ian dances to make the world a better place. They were also one of the organizers of the Greater Cincinnati Artist Relief Fund, the money collected from this campaign provided relief to over 30 artists in the Greater Cincinnati area.
As a little girl, Abby saw Cinderella at Cincinnati Ballet, and it made her want to dance. She formally trains in many forms of dance and says, “I dance everywhere…grocery shopping, dancing down the aisles. It’s just like every time I hear music, I want to dance.” Dance helped her through some difficult times. She says it has allowed her “to break out of [her] shell” and become more independent. “When I dance, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Like I’m floating, but also super grounded at the same time.” Abby has an incredible support system in her family, especially her mom, who attends every performance, recital, and competition. “Anything I ever do, she’s there, watching me, and cheering me on. When I come home from practice, she’s the first one to ask me what I did and how I did. She has been the most supportive person.”
Taylor grew up in a “wee town” called Motherwell, just outside of Glasgow in Scotland. When the sun came out, which was rare, the whole community would dance in the streets! Inspired by this childhood pastime, Taylor started her own freestyle dance pop-up session in Hoffner Park every Wednesday or Thursday depending on the weather. “When Covid hit, I just said here’s my thing. I’m going to take it onto the street, and people just started coming out…These last few years have really tough, and I just wanted people to feel good. And you know, people feel good, they’re smiling and dancing even for the second they’re sitting at these lights.” Taylor dances for and with her community. “I just think it’s made a big difference in the community. I really do because people say, ‘You’re dancing in Northside; we love Northside.’”
Mary is retired, but she is the first to admit she’s not very good at it. “I’m retired but I’m busier than ever,” she says. She is performing more frequently and teaches dance 5 days week. Mary is staple in the Cincinnati dance community as founding member of multiple dance organizations including Dancing with Parkinson’s. As a child, Mary attended Windsor School in Walnut Hills, and it’s there, at 6, she started to learn tap and ballet. Not long after, she began liturgical dance, and that dance form continues to bring her all around the world. In fact, liturgical dance has brought her to every continent, except for Australia and South America. Through the Sacred Dance Guild, in 2017, Mary performed at a church in England that was built in 960 AD. “It was a pretty big deal. We were the first people to dance there since the church was built.” Passing along her grace and vast knowledge, Mary teaches ballet to students of all ages. “I tell parents of the students that I teach all the time, ‘What you learn is not really about dance, it’s about you.'”
Kamellia started dancing at the age of 5, learning the posture, characters and expressions that are essential to Balinese dance. She was a professional dancer as a teenager in her hometown of Jakarta, Indonesia. However, after moving to the states, she took a 10-year break. While in Cincinnati, she connected with a friend who had just returned from Bali and who begun learning Balinese dance. “We got together. She played the music, and it slowly came back to me.” Now Kamellia performs and teaches around the tri-state. She says the hardest thing to learn is the posture. “We dance without shoes, and the basic posture is 90-degree angles, moving up and down with your toes curling up.” She also points out the storytelling and the expressions can be a struggle to a new dancer. To encourage her students to use their eyes in the dance, she says think of a cookie and look to it! When teaching, you may hear Kamellia say, “COOKIE! COOKIE!” While she loves her students, her favorite part of dancing is the connection to the audience. “When the audience loves it. It pays off. We are trying to tell a story. We let the audience interpret the story themselves, and then at the end they come to me with their own interpretations. That makes me happy.”
Joshua’s training started at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. At 16, he moved away from Cincinnati and his family to focus on his training at the Orlando Ballet. During this time, he was forced to grow up and become an adult. Dance was the reason he did that but also the thing that helped him through it. “Moving away from home is what really showed me that dance is who I am. It just opened my eyes that I can do this.” After opportunities in Houston, Sarasota and Tulsa, Joshua returned home to dance at Cincinnati Ballet in 2019. “In the morning, I wake up knowing I’m going to start my day coming to work and being able to really live my dream. Not a lot of people get to say, you know, I get paid to do what I love to do.” Joshua loves sitting back and watching his colleagues dance “I’m living through them and I’m enjoying that freedom that they’re expressing through their movement. I think it’s almost just as exhilarating being in the audience watching as it is being on stage sometimes.”
Lyrciss is a CincyDance! scholar at the Otto M. Budig Academy and is in the seventh grade. She started dancing in third grade during an in-school CincyDance! residency. She fell in love and was chosen to receive a lifetime scholarship to the Academy. She has continued her dance training even during days of “tiredness and stress.” She also likes to dance in her room with the music way up and pretend she’s on TV. Her goal is to be in a big production on Broadway. “I really want to go on Broadway. One of my teachers was a Rockette so that is really motivating. I want that; that seems cool.” Lyriciss is spreading her love of dance throughout her family. Her twin sisters are currently in the CincyDance! program. “Lorielle, the short one, said the other day ‘I look up to you.’ She just said it and I thought, ‘Awww, that’s sweet.'”