By Val Wallace, Contributing Writer
When she returned to her hometown of Woodbridge after studying, teaching and performing dance for years in New York and Los Angeles, Lucetta Furr came to a realization.
“I just thought of all the opportunities I had and that it’s a shame that wasn’t already here in our area,” she said. “A lot of times people feel they have to go to New York and LA and that there’s not enough places or companies in our own area to just stay here and still dance. … I realized that people who train their entire childhood have nowhere else to go after they graduate.”
So about two years after her return, Furr started Woodbridge Academy of Dance and a year later founded Woodbridge Dance Company, a nonproﬁt organization now in its ninth year based on when it received nonproﬁt status.
“We opened this avenue of choreographing and performing professionally within our own community. This way dancers don’t have to either stop performing or travel at length to be a part of something like this,” said Furr, artistic director of the dance company and academy, located at 14000 Crown Court in Woodbridge.
Furr said that in starting Woodbridge Dance Company she wished to help “all of the young talent and artists in the area because they don’t have a company where people from other dance studios and avenues could come together to create.”
“Dancers don’t have enough opportunities to perform,” said Catherine Furr, executive director of the dance company and president and chair of its board of directors. She’s also Lucetta’s mother. If dancers want to continue to dance after going onto college “they pretty much have to go to New York or California,” she said. Lucetta has “brought professionals back to dancing in Prince William County,” she said.
Every January the dance company puts on “A Coﬀee House Concert Collection,” a performance bringing together eight to 10 choreographers and about 50 dancers from throughout the area. “The main focus is to highlight artists in the area,” said Lucetta. There’s also an academy recital in May or June at a local high school. This year’s, June 29 at Forest Park, celebrates the studio’s and company’s 10th anniversary.
Also this year the company’s adding a performance in August that Furr hopes will become an annual event. Like January’s performances, August’s show is at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas.
Along with other dancers, the academy students are encouraged to audition, Furr said. Some are in the performances—including Dawn Whitaker.
“People come from various studios across the area,” said Whitaker, a Woodbridge resident. “It’s always interesting to see what pieces they’ll bring, and I’ve always been impressed with the high caliber of the choreography and the execution that the dancers give to the pieces.”
Whitaker said she’s fortunate to attend Woodbridge Academy of Dance. “I had a very hard time ﬁnding a studio that oﬀered adult classes that weren’t entry level,” said Whitaker, 32. Also, many dance studios only teach the young, she said. Furr’s school accepts students age 2 through adult.
Eight instructors, including Furr, teach the academy’s 150 students. “They’re all very professional … and passionate about what they do,” said Whitaker. “Studios have diﬀerent vibes to them. Woodbridge Academy of Dance is a very inviting family-type environment.”
In addition to Catherine Furr, other Furr family members are involved in the company and academy.
With impressive professional credentials that include cheerleading for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and more recently for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Lucetta Furr’s sister Sabrina taught dance and cheer at the academy most of the years it’s been open. Sabrina, who was also the company’s co-artistic director, retired last year from the studio, company and as captain of the Redskins’ cheerleading team, Lucetta said.
Their brother Jason teaches tumble part-time at the academy. He’s a former junior Olympic gymnast who has performed nationally and internationally and has national championships to his credit.
Lucetta Furr’s credentials, which include two years of study at Juilliard, are impressive as well. According to her bio on www.woodbridgedancecompany.com, she also attended the Joﬀrey Ballet School, has won several choreography awards at local competitions and is an American Ballet Theater certiﬁed instructor.
She brings all this to her academy, which provides classes on a variety of dance programs, including ballet, tap, jazz, tumble, cheer, contemporary dance and hip-hop.
Shontal Snider, of Waldorf, Md., teaches hip-hop at the studio. She said academy students can expect “high energy, fun atmosphere, always something new. Come expecting something new every week.”
Kelly Hogan, 17, can attest to that. In her second year as a student at the academy, the Woodbridge resident is taking classes in hip-hop, ballet, point and contemporary dance, “and I love them,” she said. “All the teachers are really great, and they’re knowledgeable in all subject matters.”
This year Hogan is on the academy’s competition team, which participates year-round in dance competitions throughout the area. Her younger brother and sister, also academy students, have been in competitions, too, said Hogan, who graduates from high school this year and will leave the academy. “I’ve learned a lot, and it will help me in college when I further my dance career,” she said. She plans to major in dance.
Other students, including Aaron Gilliam, 20, of Lake Ridge, continue taking academy classes while in college and performing for the dance company. His mother Debby Gilliam, secretary on the company’s board, said her son has been an academy student since his high school sophomore year and in numerous dance company performances. She and her husband Felton Gilliam, also Lake Ridge residents, regularly attend performances, although not just to see their son on stage, she said.
Each show “leaves you wanting more and deﬁnitely not disappointed,” she said. “I equate the performances to something I’d spend $80 in New York City for and not blink an eye. … [the dancers] are really enjoyable to watch. They are sharp, crisp, on time, on point … and very entertaining.”
Manassas Park resident Val Wallace is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader and a frequent contributor to Prince William Living. She can be emailed at [email protected].