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The A&T Register

The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

An exploration of the E. Gwynn Dance Company here at N.C. A&T

Photo Courtesy of E. Gwynn Dance Company Instagram Page

N.C. A&T  is home to many different forms of creative expression. Taking a deeper dive into the artistic culture of A&T’s campus is where an internationally known dance company can be found.

The E. Gwynn Dance Company began in 1985, by Dr. Eleanor Gwynn, a former professor at the university. Since she was a little girl, she knew dance was where she wanted to be. 

“I always had that feeling in me, that I wanted to dance,” Gwynn said. 

Growing up as a little girl in Atlanta, Georgia, she began dancing at an early age, taking lessons at the local dance school in her community. 

Noticing her peers and neighbors could not afford to attend the dance school, she began teaching dance to her friends from her backyard.

“I charged 5 cents to take a class and 25 cents to come in and see the performance,” Gwynn said. “I think that is how I got to be a leader.”  

Little did she know then, that her backyard dance studio would grow into her passion, and it helped her form her own dance company at N.C. A&T.

“I was just inspired because I had it in my blood and I couldn’t stop,” Gwynn said. “Dance means the world to me because I think it is important for people to be exposed to the arts.”

As a growing dance student, Gwynn had the opportunity to study under the great and wildly successful dancer and choreographer, Katherine Dunham.

“Katherine Dunham was so tough,” Gwynn said. “But she was an amazing person. She inspired me to travel the world.”

Under new leadership, the E. Gwynn Dance Company has continued to flourish and maintain the legacy of its creator. 

Dr. Melanie McLaurin is a full-time teaching assistant professor in the visual and performing arts and dance minor program. 

However her journey with the dance company began as a student at A&T. Studying elementary education, McLaurin was required to take a course called Movement and Dance, which Dr. Gwynn taught. 

“[Dr. Gwynn] saw me in that class and asked me to audition for the company,” McLaurin said. “That is my dance background, it started here at A&T.” 

As time has passed, dance has continued to influence her life and allow her a way to express herself through creative art.

“Dance is a form of expression for me. I dance when I am happy, I dance when I am sad, it is just a way for me to release emotion,” McLaurin said. 

Dr. Cheryl Stevens is also a part of the dance faculty in the visual and performing arts department. She is a huge part of the dance company and works alongside McLaurin to lead the dancers here at N.C. A&T.

Like McLaurin, Stevens also began her experience with the E. Gwynn dancers as a student in the company. Now as an instructor in the program, it is a fulfilling experience to be able to continue sharing the gift and lessons passed on by Dr. Gwynn to the next generation of dancers. 

“Being in a position now, to carry on Dr. Gwynn’s legacy is rewarding,” Stevens said. “It’s a

blessing to be able to be in the studio now, giving to the students what I received, when I was here as a student.” 

Photo Courtesy of E. Gwynn Dance Company Instagram Page

Some of the dancers in the company chimed in to give their views on dance and answer some questions. 

Maya Sadler, an alumnus of N.C. A&T, still dances with the E. Gwynn Dance Company. She expressed what dance means to her and how she uses art.

“Dance actually means a lot to me,” Sadler said. “It’s my way of escape, my way to release any tension and things like that throughout the day.”

The E. Gwynn Dance Company continues to use the art form of dance as a celebration of a creative art form that has influenced their lives and them as people. 

Be sure to follow the E. Gwynn Dance Company on their Instagram to learn more about the dance program and upcoming shows and performances.

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