Honoring cultural heritage through dance

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Vaughn Newman brings contemporary dance to Greenville. Photo by Will Crooks.

For local entrepreneur Vaughn Newman, dance served as his saving grace. Now, Newman shares this creative outlet with the Greenville community through his contemporary dance studio, Vaughn Newman Dance. 

“I’m alive today because of dance,” he says. “Dancing was the outlet for me to bring me out of myself.” Newman describes his younger self as shy, anxious, and depressed until he discovered dance in eighth grade. 

“My life had afforded me a level of spirit and experience that my peers did not have, and I use that,” he says. “I use it to this very day. I teach that to my [students].”

Newman brings his cultural narrative and perspective to his work. Since November, VND has offered monthly African master classes. 

To honor Black History Month, this month’s class will be dancing the “Wolosodoun Jondon,” representing slaves’ journeys during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Participants will wear white clothes and bring items to build an ancestral memorial shrine. 

“There’s no other place for African-American kids to go and take classes and take advantage of the arts at affordable prices and competitive rates,” Newman says. “I’m here to offer my people an opportunity to take advantage of what was provided to me when I was their age.”

Newman feels his position in the dance community provides the opportunity to bridge a gap and continue the legacy of those before him. 

“Dr. King believed that nonviolence was the way, and he believed that he was a conduit to help nonblacks to understand how to have a relationship with the black community,” he says. “To offer the black experience in ways that Greenville is not used to, that is my purpose and why I’m here today,” he says.

VND’s inaugural concert is scheduled for June 22 at The Kroc Center.

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