By- DeoVonte “Deo” Means
This article is perhaps one of the most proudest moments in the history of my column; because the person featured is not just a peer of mines but someone whom I witnessed burst unto the Chicago scene-years ago as a young lad- with an exhilarating energy that immediately conveyed to everyone present, he was gonna go far! Even as a youngster, he possessed that rare charm and allure of a divinely manifested talent, that spoke to the masses and conveyed a message that he was truly endowed a special gift by God. I fondly remember him captivating the crowds in the urban night clubs with his unique and invigorating form of dance. Within a short time, he went on to not only master his art form, but completely revolutionized the presentation with a flawless execution. I remember him relocating to NYC to pursue his dreams of dance, and within a couple of years, I remember proudly sitting in the great hall of the Auditorium Theater Chicago among the most wealthy and socially elite of the city, and watching him grace the stage and perform in the iconic “Revelations” with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This legendary dance company is no small feat. They are crowned as the cultural ambassadors of the world and travel internationally performing in front of kings, queens, presidents, heads-of-state and the culturally elite! My friends and I agree, you have not seen the human body and music, immaculately become one and cohesively manifest itself until you’ve seen his performance of “Wade In Da Water.” I’m a yearly patron of Alvin Ailey and each year I am delighted to see him and as his repertoire continue to grow. Not many of us are able to hold fast to our dreams or talents and allow them to make a successful career for us in this harsh world, but Renaldo did it! And for this I am most proud and intrigued.
Renaldo Maurice (Gary, IN), began his dance training with Tony Simpson and is a graduate of Talent Unlimited High School. He attended the Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts and studied with Larry Brewer and Michael Davis. Mr. Maurice was a scholarship student at The Ailey School, has trained on scholarship at Ballet Chicago and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, and had an internship at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. In 2008, he received second place in modern dance from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and received the Dizzy Feet Foundation Scholarship in 2009. In February 2012, Mr. Maurice was honored with the key to the city of Gary, Indiana, his hometown. He was a member of Ailey II and joined the Company in 2011. He has incorporated his passion with the need of social responsibility by recently joining as co-artistic director for South Shore Dance Alliance back home in Indiana. In anticipation for Alvin Ailey’s 2016 performance in Chicago, what better way to start the year off than with my bro Renaldo. It was an honor and privilege to speak with him and here is what he had to say:
FL– When and how did u realize dance/performing arts was your life passion?
RM- I was 7 years old in my hometown, Gary Indiana when I saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at the West Side Theater Guild. I saw people who looked like me, having so much fun doing something they loved doing and that’s when I told myself that’s what I want to do.
FL– What has been your greatest challenge breaking into the performing arts industry?
RM- Consistently reminding myself that “I am enough and I have nothing to prove only to share.”
FL– You’re a Gary IN native that also made a mark on Chicago before relocating to NYC. What do you miss most about home?
RM- My family. I LOVE my family and moving away at 17 years old to follow my dreams, missing my little brother and sister special moments growing up was hard for me. But my family supported me not only mentally, but spiritually as well and I’m so grateful for them. They are my light at end of a long dark tunnel.
FL– Becoming a member of Alvin Ailey is no small feat. You travel the world as cultural ambassadors. Describe that experience.
RM- The feelings is rejuvenating! We have a responsibility. Mr. Ailey said “Dance comes from the people and it should always be given back to the people” and that’s what we do. God has blessed us all with a beautiful gift and that gift should always be used to cultivate the greater good. No matter where we are in the world, before I step foot on the stage I always ask the creator to use me to do his will so it’s never about me.
FL- What is your biggest insecurity?
RM- Honestly, at this stage in my life I’m very secure with who I am as a black man in creation. I have nothing to be insecure about. There are things I wish I could change but once again it’s not about me.
FL– What is a normal day like for you?
RM- I’m usually touring 7-8 months out the year. But When the company is home (NY) I work Monday-Friday 10:30 to 7 and on my weekends I go to the gym and rest for the rest of the day.
FL– Your love for fashion has driven you to branch off into modeling as well. What are some of the things you have planned in respect to your modeling career?
RM- I recently started branching off into modeling. I’m taking my time, no rush. I’m working with different photographers across the world to get the experience and learn all I can. I’m truly excited about this new journey in my life it’s something fresh and new which is always fun for me.
FL– Describe your personal style.
RM- I love being comfortable. A nice hat is always fun too. I love wearing anything all black. I also enjoy a light denim rip jean (any color) with solid white or black t-shirt with a nice sneaker or shoe. I also love a classic 3piece suit.
FL– You are currently working with your studio South Shore Dance Alliance located in your hometown. What role do you play with the company and how has this endeavor impacted your life?
RM- My role is co-artistic director of the South Shore Dance Alliance. It’s impacted my life a great deal. I enjoy teaching dance especially at my studio. It’s always refreshing because there so much talent and being able to groom the next generation of dance artist is great deal to me. I once was in their shoes and I was fortunate to have mentors and great teachers who pushed and believed in me.
FL– What is the mission of your dance studio and how do you plan to influence and guide your students?
RM- The organization was founded by Larry Brewer, SSDA’s executive director, in 2008. It was also founded on the premise that no aspiring dancer shall be denied access to training due to lack of financial resources. He built SSDA on principles of strong work ethic, outstanding discipline, technical expertise, and a love and passion for dance that is embraced by students, performers, and audiences alike. I plan to continue Mr. Brewer’s vision. Installing what my teachers installed in me. 3D vision discipline, dedication, and determination.
FL– What has been the most fulfilling moment with the youngsters under your leadership?
RM- Each moment is fulfilling and I know we have even more to come. What brings my spirit joy is watching them do the work. Nothing is handed to us and we must do the work to achieve greatness.
FL– You’ve accomplished so much already. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
RM- I would be 30 years old if God willing. I would love to be living overseas performing/modeling and giving back in any way possible.
FL– What message would you send those young performing artist whom aspire to accomplish some of your feats but find themselves hopeless and discouraged.
RM- I would definitely say keep God number one in your life and follow your dreams because dreams really do come true I’m living proof.
To learn more about Mr. Maurice, you can follow and connect with him at: