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‘So You Think You Can Dance’ finalist Jasmine Harper honed skills in Charlotte

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  • Jasmine's favorite routine on the show
  • See them dance

    • The final episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 10 airs 8-10 p.m. Tuesday on Fox (WJZY Channel 46).

    • The top 10 dancers will begin a 42-city tour on Oct. 1. Charlotte isn’t on this year’s tour. The closest stops are in Durham on Oct. 22 and Greenville, S.C., on Oct. 24. Tickets are available at www.fox.com/dance.



Some dancers in the Charlotte area will watch Tuesday’s finale of “ So You Think You Can Dance” with added interest: Jasmine Harper, one of two women competing for the national prize, honed her skills at N.C. Dance Theatre and Northwest School of the Arts.

“It’s like an ongoing drama here. We’re all big fans,” said Amelia Binford, a dance teacher at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg arts magnet that Harper attended off and on from seventh grade to senior year.

So far Harper, 20, has survived every round of elimination by judges and viewer votes, winning praise for her ability to master different dance styles and her long, flexible legs.

On Tuesday’s results show, airing from 8-10 p.m. on Fox (WJZY Channel 46), the male and female winners will be revealed. Harper, who now lives in suburban Atlanta, is up against Amy Yakima from Michigan. Aaron Turner and Fik-Shun Stegall are competing for top male dancer. Each winner will get $125,000 and be featured on the December cover of Dance Spirit magazine.

“I remember her in middle school. She was super-fantastic,” Northwest dance teacher Chandra McCloud-Glover said of Harper. Her original focus was classical ballet – she was Clara in N.C. Dance Theatre’s “Nutcracker” one year.

Both her former teachers say it’s been thrilling to watch their former student build her repertoire, her confidence and a national following. There’s been only one disappointment: The show hasn’t mentioned the Charlotte connection.

In a phone interview last week, Harper said she moved back and forth between her native New York and Charlotte, where her grandparents lived. She said she attended East Mecklenburg High for a while, then returned to Northwest at the start of her senior year. When the family’s lease expired they moved to Union County, where she graduated from Monroe High School in 2011.

Northwest was “a fun school,” she recalls, and she still gets cravings for Cook-Out, a fast-food chain she frequented while living in the area. After graduation, she says, she danced briefly with EleKtriK, an all-female hip-hop crew based in Charlotte, before getting an agent in Atlanta and leaving North Carolina.

Harper says the on-air competition has been even more demanding than it looks. “It’s a lot of preparation for a two-hour show,” she said. “We’re there like 24-7.”

But she says she’d urge other young dancers to give it a shot: “On the show you grow, not just as a dancer but as a person.” Her favorite performance, she says, was when she was first partnered with Turner to do a jazz routine to “Bottom of the River.” The duo – the two tallest dancers on the show – clicked with each other and with viewers.

Harper says Kathryn Moriarty and April Berry, dance instructors with N.C. Dance Theatre, helped shape her career.

Moriarty said Friday she doesn’t watch the show – it’s a bit commercial for her taste – but she remembers Harper as “very talented, a hard worker, very versatile.”

Harper’s former teachers at Northwest agree, and make no apologies for avidly watching and lobbying students and friends to vote for Harper.

Binford says Harper has natural talent – and yes, those eye-catching long legs. But she believes what has propelled Harper to the top are the attributes she displayed at Northwest: Eagerness to learn and a fascination with all aspects of dance, from choreography to lights and costumes.

Binford, who once auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance,” says she’s been urging on her former student via social media. Asked what she’d tell Harper going into the final show, Binford said, “Keep doing what you’re doing. Know that you’re representing the Queen City well.”

McCloud-Glover’s message? “I’m proud of the woman you’re becoming. It just makes my heart smile.”

Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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