Metropolitan School of the Arts dancer takes center stage

Metropolitan School of the Arts dancer takes center stage


By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]

Carleigh Jones is a mover and a shaker. Actually.

At first blush, Jones, 16, looks like a usual high school sophomore, but when she hits the dance floor, a little something modifications. Like Clark Kent ditching his eyeglasses for a crimson cape, her physicality results in being additional assured, extra confident, as she moves – and shakes – with the equilibrium and poise of a dancer significantly further than her a long time.

Photo/Cody Mello-Klein

Jones is one particular of numerous dancers at the Metropolitan College for the Arts, an artwork faculty located in the Fairfax County portion of Alexandria, but she has come to be a chief on the flooring thanks to her skill, do the job ethic and drive. Considering that she began dancing at MSA at 3 years previous, Jones has hardly ever appeared back. In the 13 many years she’s been dancing, Jones reported she has identified not only a enthusiasm and imaginative outlet but a community of lifelong close friends that has offered her the self confidence to just take heart stage.

“It sounds so cliché, but it genuinely is just the escape from the exterior reality of harsh daily life,” Jones said. “Dancing, in particular all-around such an astounding team of people today and the friendships I have manufactured – I’ve developed up with all of these ladies – we’re just all so supportive of each other. And it’s just that guidance system that would make it so easy to appear back and so effortless to dance and come do what we all really like to do.”

Stylistically, Jones has embraced the complete spectrum of dance. Musical theater, faucet, jazz, up to date ballet and hip hop: She is capable and eager to learn from distinct styles, one thing MSA delivers her the chance to do. Although Jones admitted she enjoys far more up to date varieties of dance like hip hop and jazz – “That just matches my persona extra I sense,” she explained – she acknowledged that discovering basic styles, this sort of as ballet, is important for any dancer.

Photo/Metropolitan University of the Arts

“It’s so crucial to continue to be in ballet class since which is what provides the method into the jazz course,” Jones explained.

Enhancement in dance is a video game of slow, continual gains. It is as a great deal about listening to the physique and recognizing when to thrust further than reasonable limits as it is about discovering choreography.

“The physique is the instrument of dance, and it’s so important to hold it balanced and pleased, and stretching exterior of class and pushing by yourself to an ideal limit is pretty significant,” Jones stated. “That’s how you get far better, but at the very same time, pushing you far too substantially could in the end guide to an injuries and you could be out for 6 months. So, it is crucial to know your human body and pay attention to it.”

As a result of 13 years of dancing at MSA, Jones has finetuned her instrument, and it reveals. Through one particular Saturday early morning audio theater dance class, Jones led her fellow students via an 80s-themed regimen. Strutting and sliding her way throughout the dance floor, Jones executed the regimen flawlessly, though finding moments to improvise and add to the program, molding it into a thing dynamic and new.

“She’s so highly regarded simply because she just is aware of every little thing. She remembers every thing. She’s been like that her full lifetime,” Sarah Hart, a co-executive director and instructor at MSA, reported.

But Jones has not usually been the assured dancer she is today, in accordance to Hart. Like quite a few adolescents, Jones’ self-assurance came with time – and a lot of pirouettes.

“A ton of situations you come across dancers are type A personalities because they’re so structured from the extremely starting. They are pretty disciplined. A great deal of instances with Carleigh, I’m like, ‘Just believe in what you are executing, and appreciate it a bit a lot more,’” Hart claimed.

Generate has never ever been an challenge for Jones. MSA has three unique dance groups in which college students can perform: the hip hop, jazz and industrial dance-concentrated iMpulse, the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble and the Metropolitan Youth Ballet. Jones dances in two out of 3, iMpulse and MYTE, which requires a great deal of operate during MSA’s springthemed Organization Undertaking.

All through the calendar year, MSA places on various performances for moms and dads and group customers, including a several holiday break exhibits and the Corporation Challenge and Spring Output in the spring. This year’s topic was “connection,” timed to coincide with a return to total in-individual functions at the school just after a hard adjustment for the duration of the pandemic.

For the students and teachers at MSA, the Firm Job was an emotional effectiveness after an unsettling couple several years for the faculty. In contrast to lots of pupils, Jones has a tiny dance studio at her home, which proved to be a boon when MSA went all-virtual for much more than a calendar year.

College students would consider courses on Zoom, and they returned to 50 {99d7ae7a5c00217be62b3db137681dcc1ccd464bfc98e9018458a9e2362afbc0} capacity in the studios by September 2021. When painters, sculptors and even some musicians are utilised to currently being isolated for the duration of the artistic process, the unexpected separation Jones felt with her fellow dancers was enormous. Out of the blue, the support method that she had taken for granted was primarily no longer there.

It helped that this support process consists of not only her dance relatives but her flesh and blood relatives. Jones’ mom is a production manager at MSA and her father aids establish sets for performances. Meanwhile, Jones’ older sister, Danielle, has been dancing at MSA considering the fact that she was 3 yrs outdated as very well, and the two sisters have been dancing alongside one another for years.

Now a senior, Danielle will soon be graduating from the dance ground at MSA, leaving Jones on her possess for the first time considering that she commenced at the school. Jones said dance, particularly for the duration of the pandemic, has supplied her the prospect to create a connection with her sister that she never would have had otherwise.

“She just conjures up me to preserve on dancing and keep remembering why I started off and how a great deal I love it,” Jones explained. “I imagine which is why I have trapped with it for so long – due to the fact she’s aided me spark that interest every single year I appear back again.”

Picture/Metropolitan Faculty of the Arts

Scattered to their personal private bubbles, some college students drifted absent from MSA. In accordance to Hart, enrollment at the school dropped from 850 pupils pre-pandemic to about 600 as of this 12 months. For these who stuck all around, dance and the arts grew to become a lifeline at a time exactly where several people today felt directionless.

“Especially all through the pandemic, for them to have something listed here that they could hold operating towards was definitely handy,” Hart explained.

The Enterprise Job was the initial in-individual general performance Jones experienced done in considering the fact that the start of the pandemic, and it proved an psychological experience for all people involved. The concept – connections – was not just a rose-tinted label slapped on to a overall performance. It educated each element of the demonstrate.

“The pure pleasure I felt just staying up on that phase again was unmatched. It was incredible,” Jones claimed. “I’m so fired up to do Spring Production and be on that phase again due to the fact it tends to make all the hard function, all the dedication, all the motivation that you’ve manufactured, it just helps make all of it worth it.”

The subsequent year will be a noteworthy one for Jones. Her older sister will be long gone from the dance floor and, as a junior, her hopes for the long term will get started to choose kind. She now aims to sign up for a dance staff in university. Further than that, she has dreamed of staying a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader ever considering the fact that she satisfied a former member of the squad at a dance intensive summer camp.

Regardless of where the future can take her, Jones is aware of dance will be at the middle of her lifetime. She still has additional moves to make.