Oprah and Former Alvin Ailey Dancer, Dwana Smallwood, Open Brooklyn Dance Center

Dwana Smallwood was a premier dancer for the Alvin Ailey company for 12 years. It led to opportunities to dance around the world and eventually a slot performing in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. That performance ignited a new passion for teaching for the dancer, considered one of modern dancing's best, and helped both build and realize a dream for Smallwood.

It began with an invitation from Oprah Winfrey to teach. "I said please, please, please would you go to my school in South Africa and teach my girls what you know," Winfrey said. "First I was begging for a week. Then I was begging for a year."

Smallwood's stay as a teacher there lasted four years. "It unleashed this person that knew that I could reach young people. I could figure out what's going on with a young woman and I could help her figure out the brilliance within her," Smallwood said.

Her time in South Africa inspired the dancer to return to her Brooklyn home and open the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood she'd grown up in. Winfrey donated more than half a million dollars toward securing the 4,000 square foot space.

As she did in South Africa, Smallwood is molding her students' lives in all areas, not just dance. "Ms. Dwana has inspired me to become anything I want to become," said student Sahai Heyward.

Student Imani Smiley Herring concurred,  "She taught me how to be a better person, how to respect myself."

Visit dwanasmallwoodpac.org for more information on the center.

Source: ABC 7 NY


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