Gary native Renaldo Gardner and member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York instructs South Shore Dance Alliance students during a master class at the Franklin Center in Griffith March 11, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
For more information about the South Shore Dance Alliance, visit www.southshoredance.org or call 513-9368.
Updated: April 27, 2013 6:01AM
At age 22, dancer Renaldo Gardner has come a long way in a short time.
The Gary native, who is a company member with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, recently returned to the Calumet region to talk about his career and also teach a master class for intermediate and advanced dancers at the South Shore Dance Alliance studios in Franklin Center in Griffith.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I still have family and friends in the area, so it’s been a great trip. And it feels good to see such young talent here in Gary.”
Earlier that day, Gardner found time to talk with students at his alma mater, Gary’s Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts (now called Wirt/Emerson Visual and Performing Arts High Ability Academy). He had some words of wisdom to impart.
“The biggest challenge for dance students is to stay focused. There’s so much out there that can be distracting,” he said. “And you must stay humble.”
Dance student Chandler Stewart, 15, hadn’t met Gardner before his visit, but had heard about him from Larry Brewer, South Shore Dance executive director.
“Brewer told us many stories about Renaldo and how he developed a strong work ethic,” she said. “That’s an important goal, and he is an inspiration.”
Fellow classmate Imani Dixon, 14, also commented while stretching for the master class.
“It’s so impressive how Renaldo made a career out of doing something he loves, although it was hard work,” she said. “I’m hoping to learn some new techniques today, as well as listen to his advice on acquiring a work ethic.”
Also during his time in Northwest Indiana, he completed a nine-day performance with his dance troupe at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago before returning to New York.
Former Emerson School dance teacher Michal Davis was excited to see her former student back in Gary. She has followed Gardner’s career, keeping in touch and attending his New York debut in 2011 with Brewer.
She observed the recent master dance session held in the South Shore Dance studio, beaming with pride.
“This makes it a reality (for dance students) to see one of their own make it,” Davis said. “He will definitely challenge them in this class.”
Although Gardner is content to be in the company of his dance troupe, he also has an eye toward the future.
“I would like to dance somewhere across the sea for a few years, maybe London. I’d love to get immersed in the culture,” he said. “After that, I’d like to come back to Indiana and open a studio. This is where I started, I want to give back.”