Some dancers in the Charlotte area will watch Tuesdays 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.
Its like an ongoing drama here. Were 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 Tuesdays 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 Theatres Nutcracker one year.
Both her former teachers say its been thrilling to watch their former student build her repertoire, her confidence and a national following. Theres been only one disappointment: The show hasnt 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 familys 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. Its a lot of preparation for a two-hour show, she said. Were there like 24-7.
But she says shed 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 doesnt watch the show its a bit commercial for her taste but she remembers Harper as very talented, a hard worker, very versatile.
Harpers 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 shes been urging on her former student via social media. Asked what shed tell Harper going into the final show, Binford said, Keep doing what youre doing. Know that youre representing the Queen City well.
McCloud-Glovers message? Im proud of the woman youre becoming. It just makes my heart smile.
Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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