MEET DEANDRA | STUDIO 4 DANCE COMPANY | FOUNDER of RVA DANCE AWARDS
My dance inspiration growing up was Janet Jackson. I studied Janet, her background dancers and other iconic performers on TV during my entire upbringing. It wasn’t until I was almost a college graduate that I decided to start pursuing dance professionally. My senior year at VCU, I was finishing up my Radio Broadcasting degree, interning at WBTJ 106.5 The BEAT and performing with a college based hip hop dance group. Once I graduated from VCU, I became an actual employee at WBTJ (as an On-Air Personality), but I still felt like I was unfulfilled. One night at the station, I was explaining this to my co-worker and mentor at the time (Zxulu) and he made a life changing suggestion. “Why don’t you start your own dance group?”
Soon after I founded 4 THE STREETZ CHOREOGRAPHY. A professional dance company mainly for college students to continue to dance past high school. In 2003, the Richmond dance community was incredibly small and opportunities were few and far in between. But I wanted to create a professional, performance based, dance company for aspiring dancers to fulfill their dreams without having to leave Richmond for other major cities such as New York or Los Angeles. Providing them with similar opportunities to build their dance resumes, continue to perform, gain experience in the dance industry and help prepare them for the time when they did decide to make that move into a major professional dance city.
2008 was a challenging year for me. I was let go from WBTJ and 4 THE STREETZ CHOREOGRAPHY had dissolved. I felt incredibly defeated, I thought that I may have been pursuing the wrong paths and I was unsure if was making an impact on dancers in the way that I wanted. But I wasn’t completely ready to give up. I started teaching at the Village Dance Studio and Jadore Dance as a way to maintain a living and quickly realized that teaching and guiding aspiring dancers was my true purpose. I was making an enormous impact on the kids I was teaching and witnessing them grow not only in dance skills but also in confidence. After a few years of teaching, I wanted to give my vision of a professional dance company one more try.
I (along with my new business partner) started off small with MOVE! Dance Workshops. A traveling workshop circuit series, providing hip hop and contemporary masterclasses featuring established choreographers in the industry. This circuit made stops all over the country, providing training in various cities that, at the time, didn’t have a large dance scene or opportunities (Atlanta, Chicago, Tallahassee, Norfolk, and of course Richmond). Throughout this time, I also coached two Minor League sports dance teams (Virginia Hornets Football and Norfolk Sharks Basketball), started coaching Midlothian High School Dance Team and choreographed for several local artists.
As my individual choreography career started expanding, I wanted to help other dancers explore these same opportunities, if they also desired growth in their dance careers. So I started to focus my attention on home and founded/relaunched STUDIO 4 DANCE COMPANY in 2015 (borrowing the “4” from my previous company). Similar to 4THE STREETZ CHOREOGRAPHY, Studio 4 Dance Company was a professional hip hop dance company based in RVA that focused solely on the training of semi-professional dancers. In additional to private company rehearsal training, these members were provided performance opportunities to showcase their talents. Not limiting the training to only company members, Studio 4 Dance Company additionally offers open company classes to the public on Wednesday evenings. After 3 years of great success, performing as a group all along the east coast, I decided to expand the business to STUDIO 4 DANCE AGENCY. A boutique talent agency; representing professional choreographers, dancers, instructors and performers for commercial television, live stage, dance theatre, industrials, music videos, marketing campaigns and more! In our comprehensive 4 years of business I’ve proudly booked dancers for Capital One, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Valentine Properties, Richmond Dance Festival, YELP!, Black Restaurant Experience, Afrikana Film Festival, Springfield Towne Center, Small Plates Dance Festival, and so many other companies/organizations. In addition to connecting instructors and choreographers to established area dance studios, such as Momentum Dance Center, Chesterfield Dance Center, Village Dance and 804 Dance Place.
As I was in the midst of creating these opportunities and bringing these professional workshops to Richmond I started to take inventory of how much the Richmond dance community had grown in the past few years and noticed how incredibly hard some of my peers were working and how dedicated they were to their crafts, just as Studio 4 Dance Agency members were. None of us were doing this for any type of recognition, all of us were leaving Dogtown Dance Theatre, dripping in sweat, strictly based off of our love and passion for dance! There were so many of us who were making a strong impact, a creative change and creating artistic experiences for this city. I strongly felt compelled to create a space for all of us dancers, in all genres, of all ages, across all platforms to come together and celebrate one another. The RVA Dance Awards. This inaugural event will take place on December 11that the Hofheimer. Throughout the next few months, the entire dance community will have the opportunity to nominate the dancer or dance professional that they feel has been making remarkable strides within this community at www.RVADanceAwards.com. And I’m beyond excited to present 20 deserving dance professionals with an award, thanking them for their dedication and creativity at the end of this year.