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UNC alumnus's dance company performs in charity dance festival

When Okwae Miller signed up for a dance class the fall of his junior year, he didn’t expect it to change his life.

The 2011 UNC alumnus fell in love with dance at age 20 and continued to take classes and improve his dance. Miller is now the founder and artistic director of ENIGMA Dance Theater.

Marian Hopkins, Miller’s first dance instructor at UNC, suggested that he attend the American Dance Festival — a rigorous program in Durham — where he realized his passion for modern dance.

Miller has since studied dance at the prestigious Ailey School in New York and danced with the Washington Ballet.

But when he decided to create his own modern dance company, he knew he needed to return to Chapel Hill.

“I decided I wanted to do my own thing and make my own art. I just wanted to create,” he said.

After debuting as a solo artist in Memorial Hall during the spring of 2012, he created ENIGMA Dance Theater and brought in four more dancers.

The company will perform again Friday at the Ninth Annual Triangle Dance Festival for AIDS.

The festival will host performance groups from around the Triangle, including professional companies and student organizations, in an effort to promote awareness and involvement in local AIDS charities.

Sophomore Joycelyn Su, the event’s co-chairwoman, said she was most excited about all of the performers from UNC, N.C. State University, Duke University and professional companies coming together to entertain and support the cause.

“We don’t get to see professional groups that often, and this is the first year a group from Duke is coming, too,” Su said.

“Those performances are going to be a big hit.”

Misconception, a hip-hop dance group on campus, will also perform at the event. Junior Andre Rowe, a member of the group’s executive board, said he was excited because the event is a great opportunity to bond with different organizations.

“The opening set and finale will be a lot of fun, and we’re really excited to come together with other performers for such a good cause,” Rowe, a journalism major, said.

He also said the dance community at UNC provides a place for people to express themselves and form family-like bonds with others.

“It unifies us as a greater Carolina community, and brings people of all different races and majors and backgrounds together,” Rowe said.

After hearing about the recent delay on the dance minor program, however, Miller was less happy about the future of the community, saying that the delay may discourage more creative people from attending UNC.

“This is a liberal arts institution, and it’s kind of bizarre that there’s no dance program,” Miller said. “There are so many resources here that dancers could take advantage of. It’s really something that the university needs.”

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