I had no clue how drastically my life could change in a matter of a little over a year. As I was approaching the age of 40, I figured I needed to start exercising so I could maintain my good health. The problem was I hated exercising. I started doing yoga that was being taught at my amenity center, but once the instructor started teaching at another location, she could not maintain the class in our neighborhood.
As a member of the Charlotte Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, I was on the Delta GEMS Committee which is a program designed to mentor and mold high school teens. We had a community day and Ana Ogbueze, the founder and former owner of NC Dance District came and taught a beginner hip-hop class. I had a blast. As a result, I actually went to the studio to take a class a few weeks later and quickly fell in love with the choreography and its members.
Early on, I felt a spiritual connection to Ana and I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I had always been a natural dancer and performer, starting with talent shows in middle and high school and then field shows with the Blue and Gold Marching Machine to steps shows with Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority in college. But it wasn’t just Ana’s choreography I became enamored with. I was impressed with her business sense and her love of Christ. I found myself watching her behind the scenes and at some point, I felt she was someone that God put in my life for a particular purpose. I saw us becoming business partners and the day I was going to ask her if she could use some help with the studio, she announced she was not renewing the lease as she wanted to pursue other projects.
While we as her students were excited for this next chapter in her life, we were saddened because we as adult hip hop dancers would not have any regular weekly classes to attend. At that time, many of us were preparing for our seasonal showcase, Project Full Out and once the show was done, I felt empty. I no longer was able to express myself through dance and I figured, I had given up dance to become a physician, so maybe it was time to give it up again and pursue my writing, which I put on pause to prepare for the show.
However, God had other plans in mind. My passion for dance refused to be quieted. Maybe I could open a studio, I thought. I didn’t know how it would be possible, as I had just signed a four-year contract with a medical group, and I knew nothing about the business of owning a dance studio. I just wanted to dance. I texted Ana, informing her of my desire to possible open a studio, but was hesitant that I could actually do it. I asked her to be my mentor and was hoping she would talk me out of it. Why would a physician open a dance studio? Ana actually pushed me into it, and very abruptly at that. In a matter of a couple of weeks, I went from wanting to open a studio in four years to working on opening it in four months. Ana was torn about leaving her dance family in a lurch, but she knew she owed it to herself to expand her horizons. Although we had known each other only about a year, we realized we had the same drive to be our best selves. She thought I was the perfect fit to keep the studio going and she offered her ten years of experience to help me succeed. We are now business partners and although she is going to be ALL THE WAY across the country, she is still the driving force behind NC Dance District. I am forever in her debt, as she helped me to realize that sometimes following your passion is worth taking a risk.
While this journey will be new for me, I have the choreographers to maintain the culture of NC Dance District. Allison Lilly, Alex White, and Tiffany Owens round out the “Fab 5” as Ana is calling us and I am forever grateful for their commitment to the studio and their willingness to continue teaching with me at the helm. Also as important, is the love and acceptance I feel from the members of the studio. They have accepted me as the new leader with open arms and I feel so loved and appreciated. NC Dance District is a family and we are ready to grow bigger and better. As Ana said in her farewell speech, “we all have our part in this vision” and with God’s assistance, we will all live out our dreams in whatever manner that may be.