Southwest Tennessee Community College

July 31, 2006

For more information, contact: Kimberly Kreider (901) 333-4023

Written by Pat Obrien

Danielle Currica, formerly of Guyana, S.A., is teaching a Dance Works Residency at Memphis City Schools Downtown Elementary this summer before returning to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the fall. The White Station – and Dance Works – graduate of 2005 is a rising sophomore at VCU’s Dance Department. She recently learned that she has been awarded two scholarships for her second year – one from the Carpenter Foundation, which supports VCU’s Dance Department at the School of the Arts, and one from the University Dance Department – the School of the Arts. She intends to complete her BFA in dance and choreography and a second BFA in editorial journalism.

The Downtown Elementary Residency is an outreach effort by Dance Works to give more children the opportunity to experience the discipline and scope of dance. Currica is teaching with guest instructor Judith Davies of Ottawa, Canada, who was often her instructor at Dance Works along with Mel Tomlinson and Matthew Keefe, among other noted dancers. Other Dance Works guest instructors for the residency are Whitney Branan now of New York and Wayne M. Smith now of Atlanta and teaching at Spelman College. Both are former Memphians.

“Danielle came to us sort of accidentally,” said Dance Works Executive Director Karen Zissoff. “After her family moved here from Guyana when she was three, she took dancing lessons until she was seven. Her mother, a physical therapist, stopped them on realizing the instructor was teaching moves she knew to be detrimental to a child’s development.” Danielle enjoyed athletics and soon excelled at track – named a Junior League Memphis City Track Runner at 15 – and swimming. She tried and failed to find a good and affordable dance school that would accept a 15-year old. Then her mother happened to hear Karen Zissoff on a radio interview. She called, Danielle auditioned, and was accepted.

The following four years at Dance Works included taking a two-year teaching assistantship program. She chose VCU for its dance program, “and also for journalism,” said Danielle. She is studying classical ballet, modern dance and choreography. “I hope, after a fruitful dance career, I can become an arts critic and columnist for dance. I want to study dance around the world and write about how dance, though individualistic, through culture comes full circle with a commonality throughout. Like music, dance is one language.”

Whitney Branan, a former student at Performing Arts of Germantown danced for 20 years and has been teaching seven. Her choreographic successes include Anne Reinking’s Broadway Theatre Project, CSI’s production of Dr. Faustus and Wagner College’s The Glass Slipper.

Wayne Smith earned his BFA in theater at the University of Memphis and his MFA in dance and choreography at Ohio State. As well as teaching drama and dance at Spelman, Smith works extensively with dance organizations in Atlanta, including Moving In the Spirit (MITS) Dance Company and City Dance Ensemble (CDE). He serves on the administrative boards and committees for MITS and CDE. As time permits, he choreographs and performs with Project: Motion, based in Memphis.