Collaboration builds social capital through the arts

One by one, about a dozen children file into the multi-purpose room for a dance class at Willows Peake Apartments in the Happy Hill neighborhood.

Brightly colored mats await the students inside. With an occasional reminder, most dutifully slip off their shoes, pull on a pair of purple grip socks and settle into the proper seating position for a warm-up routine.

Monica Johnson surveys the room, then gives co-instructor and younger brother, Jerome Johnson, a nod to begin the music. What follows in the next hour is a combination of ballet and creative movement for elementary-school kids with little or no dance experience.

The Johnson siblings, both alumni of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, have come full circle.

Years ago, when they were children themselves, the Winston-Salem natives received scholarships to attend UNCSA’s Preparatory Dance Program. Their mother, Evelyn, had overheard a coworker talking about the program for aspiring young dancers and inquired on their behalf.

Both went on to become accomplished dancers — Monica performed with professional companies in West Palm Beach and Atlanta before turning her attention to teaching in Washington, DC; Jerome headed straight to the New York City Ballet.

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Originally published June 1, 2018.

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