TU alum turns passion into dance career

By Brianna Stranieri
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

Dancing was never just a hobby for Jessica Pinkett. It was her passion.

As a child growing up in Baltimore, the now 24-year-old former dance major at Towson University would dance in her room until late into the night, all the time trying to stay quiet enough so she wouldn’t get in trouble from her parents.

The hours she spent in dance class has also work paid off. A dancer in the famous Ailey II dance company, Pinkett has spent the past two years traveling the United States to perform modern dance – one year as an apprentice and one year in the company.

“I suppose I have always known that dance was going to be my career,” Pinkett said in an interview. “Even as a child I worked at a level that was beyond a ‘this is just a hobb’ mentality. I would put on my headphones with my CD player and listen to music past bedtime and simply be dancing in my bed, while trying not to get caught by my mother for being up past bedtime.”

Though she always knew she wanted to be a dancer, Pinkett said watching Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for the first time confirmed her decision to become a professional.

“I have dreamed to perform the works of emerging choreographers and world renowned and infamous works choreographed by Mister Ailey himself both nationally and internationally,” Pinkett said. “It is a great honor and opportunity to spend each and every day doing what I love.”

Towson University graduate Jessica Pinkett dances for the Ailey II dance company. Photo provided by Ailey II.

Towson University graduate Jessica Pinkett dances for the Ailey II dance company. Photo provided by Ailey II.

Pinkett said her biggest supporters throughout her dance career have been her family. Her biggest mentors have been Stephanie Powell, her first dance teacher, and Linda Denise Fisher-Harrell. Fisher-Harrell was an Ailey dancer and is now a professor in the dance department at Towson.

“She [Fisher-Harrell] performed with such grace and power and I wanted nothing more than to be just like her,” Pinkett said. “Once I was accepted into Towson, she has been my second dance mom and biggest advocate.”

“Jessica was an amazing student because she was very self-motivated,” Fisher-Harrell said.

Pinkett graduated from Towson in 2016. She said that through the Towson University Dance Department she was able to perform, teach, choreograph, and grow as not only an artist but a person.

The Ailey II is a popular modern dance company that tours the world.  It performs in New York, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, France, Spain and many other places. The company performs up to eight shows a month.

Pinkett said working with the company is fulfilling. She said the opportunity of being in Ailey II is a great honor because she is able to do what she loves and work with people who have the same passion as she does.

Pinkett was back at Towson in late September for an Ailey II performance at Stephens Hall. While visiting the university, she was an assistant teacher for a master class for the students in the dance department. She and another member of the Ailey II company worked with students for a day.

Christina Dunnington, a student in Towson’s dance department, was part of the master class experience.

“I feel so lucky to be a part of a community that brings these opportunities to aspiring dancers,” said Christina Dunnington, a student in Towson’s dance department who was part of the master class experience. “And to see one of our alumni’s dancing with such an amazing company is a reminder to how important hard work and determination really is.”

Pinkett says that coming back to perform at Towson was nostalgic. By performing at Towson, she said she knows that her hard work has paid off and she is able to come back and perform for all of those who have seen where she started and how she has grown.

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