Living healthy, eating right and checking your blood pressure is the focus of high-energy dance classes every week at W.D. Hill Recreation Center.
The classes are part of a free workshop organized by the African-American Dance Ensemble every Wednesday evening.
The workshop offers free weight checks and blood pressure monitoring, as well as breathing and stretching exercises. Then it’s time to get down to work with choreographer McDaniel Roberts.
After the work out, a nutritionist shares tips about how to develop healthy eating habits.
“I came up with the idea of ‘Mzima,’ which is developing the strength of the body, mind, soul and spirit,” said Chuck Davis, the founder of the African- American Dance Ensemble. “The world is from Swahili meaning ‘strength for all.’”
Davis said he started the program and turned it over to Roberts, who was born and raised in Northeast Central Durham,
“Because McDaniel has the inner strength and personality to reach out and keep this going,” Davis said. “He loves to teach and he loves. He is perfect for this position.”
Roberts said he has wanted to be a dancer since he was 5 years old because he used to watch ballerinas and would tie a shoestring around his ankle to imitate ballerina slippers. Now he dances with the African American Dance Ensemble, and is the Artistic Director of The Harambee Collective. He has performed with many companies, including the NC Central University Dance Group, and has traveled abroad to perform.
He remembers his first audition in 1985.
“I saw this listing saying, ‘we need a dancer,’” Roberts said. “The Durham Arts Council was located at Northgate mall. It had Chuck Davis name on it and I was excited. I went auditions and got the role. From that point on dance ain’t never stopped for me.”
He said overcoming obstacles in the dance community is extremely hard.
“My hardest challenge in the dance industry is capturing roles within a company,” he said. “That comes from perseverance, integrity and having a stable mind.”
Roberts said his biggest career accomplishment is “being an ambassador for the United States with the Culture Movement African Dance Company.”
I like “sharing my talents with others,” he said.
One student in his class, RáChel Fowler, said she enjoys the class because it is “high energy.”
“It also gives you an opportunity to work at your own pace,” Fowler said.
“In our community, especially in the African-American community, we do have an issue of obesity,” she added. “A lot of people don’t want to work out, but this is an opportunity where you can have fun and sneak the work out in. And that’s how this class is different from other classes.”