She's ready to dance, cheer and all that jazz
By MARLON A. WALKER
Published August 6, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - She wandered back and forth throughout the main hallway at the Soulful Arts Dance Academy on Thursday, stopping occasionally to talk to a mom, hug a student or laugh at an old memory.
There, she was just Ebone Johnson. Twenty-year-old. Daughter. Dancer. Teacher. Friend.
When she lands in New York City this afternoon, she'll be one of the newest members of the New York Knicks City Dancers.
Before she got there, however, a list of loose ends needed to be tied up. One was to say goodbye to everybody. And that included the dozens of people whose lives she touched at the dance school, located at 290 Dr. M. L. King Jr. St. N.
So they had a party.
"I've been preparing myself for this since she was 6," said her mom Paulette Johnson, 48, an owner of the dance academy.
Ebone started dancing shortly after she learned to walk and has been training ever since. She said she's always dreamed of becoming a dancer, never seeing her life any other way.
"I live, I eat, I sleep, I breathe dancing," she said, sitting in one of the academy's dance rooms Thursday evening.
She said she happened upon the notice for auditions for the group by chance, retelling the story of how her boyfriend saw the notice while surfing the Internet. He told her she should audition.
She was Girl No. 199 when the auditions began on July 23. She performed and watched as the number of participants was cut slowly from nearly 500 to 20 over several days.
After short interviews, she was told she'd made it. She called her mom, also a former dancer who now teaches, to give her the good news.
"She called and said, 'Mom, you're actually talking to an official New York Knicks City Dancer.' And I screamed," Paulette Johnson said, imitating the sound she initially let out.
It won't be an easy task for Ebone, who wants to be a choreographer.
The dancers get paid $75 for each of the thrice-weekly rehearsals, and $150 for game-night performances. She's already lined up a few gigs teaching dance to make ends meet. And one of her mom's friends from college who now lives in Brooklyn is taking her in, easing the burden of having to pay New York's outlandish rents.
"This is the beginning," Ebone said, surrounded by about 70 well-wishers who gathered to send her off to start the latest chapter in her journey. "This is a door that's opening for me that's going to lead to other things in my career."
Marlon A. Walker can be reached at 727 893-8737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified August 5, 2006, 21:00:43]
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