DANCIN' IN THE STREET
Easton native choreographs new possibilities for Mid-Shore youth
By Amelia Blades Steward
When Erinne Lewis of Easton stepped on the stage for the first time as a child, she knew she could sing. What she didn’t know then was that dancing and eventually, choreography would become the passions of her life. Lewis, now 32, has choreographed and performed with a variety of prestigious companies and troupes across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., hoping to instill in the next generation the love that she shares for performing arts.
Lewis’s foray into the performing arts began when she enrolled as a singer in the Avalon Theatre’s Cricket Theater and Summer Fame productions in Easton.
“I didn’t know I could dance. I liked to dance but didn’t see myself as a dancer. It wasn’t until Debbie Beasley of Dance Harrison Street also used me as a dancer in Summer Fame when I was in eighth grade that I realized I had a gift. She said to me, ‘I want you to come dance for me because you are a star,’” Lewis recalls.
“I want to keep learning and I want to share my love of dance and expand that gift on a larger scale with my community. —Erinne Lewis
She says that opportunity had a tremendous impact on the rest of her life. She then received a scholarship to attend classes at Beasley’s Dance Harrison Street for grades nine through 11 and later received a scholarship to Eastern Shore Dance Academy in Cambridge so she could dance in her senior year of high school. Lewis went on to attend Bowie State University. In 2011, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in theatre arts with a concentration in musical theater and a minor in dance.
“I knew I wanted to be a musical theater major in college, but my senior thesis on Alvin Ailey’s Revelawtions fueled my desires even more. I went to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City and danced and interviewed people continuing his work. We discussed how his piece, Revelations, a modern dance classic which pays homage to and reflects African-American cultural heritage, changed choreography forever,” she says.
Between 2008 and 2013, Lewis worked as an award-winning competition choreographer at C and N Dance Studio in Charles County, Maryland, and with Capital Kids in the Washington, D.C., metro area, a performing arts group for youth that spread the messages about anti-bullying, health and fitness, and self-confidence through television and touring.
“I wanted to help kids have the experiences I had as a child — to be that someone who gave them a chance that might otherwise not be given,” Lewis says.
In 2013, Lewis came back to the Eastern Shore, where she began teaching at Mid Shore Dance Academy in Easton and teaching special needs children in Dorchester County. She later served as the arts curriculum coordinator for the Dorchester County Public Schools’ Summer S.T.E.A.M program.
Lewis says her passion for dance compels her to share her gifts and unique style with her community. This has included choreographing and performing with various companies and troupes, including Crashbox Theatre, Pure Gold Dance Team and the Harriet Tubman Performing Arts Center, and most recently the Talbot County Public Schools’ musical theater productions, Tred Avon Players in Oxford, and The Groove Theatre Company in Cambridge. She also worked with For All Seasons’ “Heart & Music,” and Kappa Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s “Pearls of The Eastern Shore.”
“To be able to be a musical theater performer, you need more than the ‘triple threat’ (a theater term for singing, dancing, and acting),” she quips. “You need that extra something special to set you apart from everyone else.”
“Even before I was a choreographer, I was able to grab the attention of an audience and get them interested in whatever I was doing,” she says. “Knowing what visually captivates an audience, I can take my experience as a performer and choreograph a piece with the same appeal, passion and respect when showcasing someone else’s work.”
As a former president of Continuum Dance Co., an inaugural member of Allegra! Women’s Choir, as well as a board member of the Talbot Arts, Lewis continuously strives to create original and intriguing opportunities for song, dance and performance on the Mid-Shore.
“I want to keep learning and I want to share my love of dance and expand that gift on a larger scale with my community,” she says. “To come back to Talbot County and help elevate the next generation so that they can exceed what I have done is a special gift and opportunity.”