Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self

Matthew Karas

When Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards taps, people listen. She performs with grace, elegance, precision and speed—not to mention that she can hit as hard as any of the guys. After an early start at age 3, Dormeshia made her Broadway debut at 12 alongside Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, Buster Brown and Jimmy Slyde in the revue Black and Blue. Not bad for a pre-teen! She has also performed with L.A.'s Jazz Tap Ensemble, was featured in the movie TAP and was the first female dancer in Savion's Tony Award–winning Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.

Last year, Dormeshia starred in the film The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang as a former tap prodigy who rediscovers her love of dance. She currently directs Harlem Tap (harlemtap.com) with her husband, fellow tapper Omar Edwards, and teaches at tap festivals around the world. Where can you catch up with this busy dancer, teacher, choreographer and mom? At press time, she was already on the lineups of the St. Louis Tap Festival (July 21-26), Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Rhythm World Summer Festival (July 21–August 3) and the Bay Area Tap Festival (August 10-17)! —Kathryn Holmes

Dear Dormeshia,

Since your goal is to be a tap dancer, you must understand that it comes with great responsibilities.

Your teachers, Paul and Arlene Kennedy, introduced you to Honi Coles, Frances Nealy, Ralph Brown, John Bubbles, Eddie Brown and so many others at a very early age. You've had the chance to grow up around these great tap dancers. They let you in on some of their secrets and share steps and sing songs with you. These great and successful tap dancers are sharing their knowledge of the dance—with you! They are passing it on and you must do the same. But before you do, understand your responsibility. You must not mistreat this information. You are being given precious and valuable jewels, so take them, get to know them, make them your own and share them with other dancers who love tap the way you do.

You have a responsibility to keep learning and to pass on what you've learned. Being a tap dancer is really not about you; a tap dancer's responsibility is to the dance itself. You're representing a whole artform, and the dancers who came before you. You're inspiring your peers in the dance. You're nurturing the generation of dancers after you. Passing it on—that's what it's really all about.

I know that you love and respect the dance wholeheartedly, so remember your foundation, stay focused on your goal, maintain humility in your success and your life in tap dancing will be fulfilled.

Your Sole-Sister,

Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Emma.

There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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