U dancer’s personal life moves her

For dance student Roshaunta LaBroi, life lessons count as much as dance lessons

Katrina Wilber

Clad in a leotard, cut-off tights and a “Flashdance”-style sweat shirt with her hair pulled back into a neat bun, Roshaunta LaBroi looks like a typical dancer.

But her road to the University’s dance department – and dance performance in general – is anything but ordinary.

While most dancers start training in studios while young, LaBroi’s first encounter with structured dance classes came years after she found an interest in dance.

“There was no money for dance classes when I was growing up,” she said.

Instead of letting that deter her, she started to teach herself jazz dance when she was 7. She saw Bob Fosse’s autobiographical film “All That Jazz” and learned the film’s choreography. She went to dance studios to observe classes, and her friends would teach her the steps they learned in class.

“I felt bad that I didn’t have the opportunities to learn to dance,” she said, “so I decided to work hard enough to make it look like I took dance classes.”

Now a junior in the University’s dance program, LaBroi presented a lyrical solo in last weekend’s Black Choreographers’ Evening, curated by Kenna-Camara Cottman.

LaBroi and Cottman met five years ago as teachers at the Hollywood Studio of Dance in north Minneapolis where LaBroi taught a little bit of everything, but mostly beginning ballet, jazz and hip-hop.

“Kenna liked what I did, and she asked me to be part of the production,” LaBroi said.

The third annual Black Choreographers’ Evening included newcomers and veterans, classical performers and contemporary artists. A trio of dancers performed traditional dances from Ghana and Guinea. One dancer took the stage to show the quintessential components of old-school hip-hop, and another performer used live musicians for a piece inspired by Afro-Caribbean movement.

LaBroi’s solo for Black Choreographers’ Evening was inspired by her two sisters’ move to Arizona.

The split was difficult for LaBroi.

“I know it was for the better, but it’s hard to let go,” she said.

She also admits that adjusting to University dance classes was not easy.

“I had taught myself leaps and turns, but I had no basic training,” she said.

Yet again, that didn’t stop her. She’s a dancer and choreographer for Collective Rhapsody, a group of dancers on campus who pride themselves on having a wide range of styles and dancers, from classically trained ballet dancers to hip-hop dancers.

LaBroi dances in, among other pieces, one from “A Chorus Line” and a lyrical dance she choreographed with dancers en pointe – which is more common in ballet than in lyrical dance – and traditional lyrical dancers.

Her sisters were the inspiration for the solo she prepared for Black Choreographers’ Evening, but LaBroi has someone else to thank for an interest in dance.

Her mother was a dancer, but was forced to quit early, so LaBroi dances for her mother as well as for herself.

“I’m living her dream and mine at the same time,” LaBroi said.