Dancer takes talents learned at Mississippi university to prestigious dance festival

Published 9:45 pm Sunday, July 30, 2023

Mikail Samuels, a spring 2023 graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) dance program, was selected to participate in the prestigious American Dance Festival’s (ADF) International Choreographers Residency (ICR) program for a five-week summer residency at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Since its founding in 1984, ICR has brought together over 500 choreographers from 93 countries on 6 continents. ADF, celebrating its 90th Anniversary, is hailed as one of the most prestigious and renowned dance festivals in the world, attracting dancers, choreographers, teachers, and students from across the globe.

It is particularly an extraordinary experience for students and aspiring dancers, as they get to engage with a global dance community and participate in diverse classes, master workshops with renowned instructors and choreographers, and performances by acclaimed dance companies.

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Mikail was introduced to the prestigious ADF while attending this year’s American College Dance Association’s (ACDA) National College Dance Festival with USM dance students and professors Meg Brooker, Kamali Hill, and Lauren Soutoullo. During ACDA, an opportunity presented itself to audition for ADF, and Mikail’s performance secured him a spot at the competitive and sought-after festival.

“Attending ADF is a highly coveted opportunity for dancers worldwide,” said Brianna Jahn, professor and dance program coordinator. “It showcases some of the most exceptional talents in the field, and Mikail’s selection serves as a testament of his outstanding abilities as an artist. It has been a pleasure to see him tap into his potential during his time in our program at USM.”

Mikail’s journey into the world of dance was serendipitous yet transformative. As he reflects on his artistic journey, he mentions he discovered his talent and passion for dance relatively late in his life when he was back in his hometown in Kingston, Jamaica. Once he discovered his talent, dancing proved to be what ignited a profound passion, joy, and sense of purpose in his soul.

It all began under the guidance of esteemed mentors, including Tony Wilson, Micheal Holgate, Marlon Simms, Kyshia Patterson, Renée McDonald, and Liane Williams, who recognized his abilities and encouraged him to pursue a career in dance. This support laid the foundation for Mikail’s resilient pursuit to excel in the field.

“To be a part of the 90th celebration of the ADF was truly an honor and a memorable experience,” said Mikail. “I was able to present my first choreographic work outside of USM, which was a life-changing experience.”

However, this experience didn’t come without the challenge of conquering self-doubt as Mikail says: “When I first stepped into the festival, my imposter syndrome made me doubt myself. I questioned whether I could ever truly shine amongst the world’s most exceptional dancers that were selected to attend. As the festival unfolded, I found myself embracing a newfound realization: I am, indeed, an extraordinary dancer who belongs among the very best.”

Throughout his time at ADF, Mikail was fortunate to interact with many teachers and dancers who provided invaluable insights into his artistry and reignited his love for dance. Among the many encounters, Mikail expressed appreciation for Brenna Monroe Cook, an exceptional teacher and choreographer.

“The teachers and dancers at ADF taught me so much about myself, most importantly, they reminded me why I cherish the art of dance so deeply,” Mikail said. “I particularly appreciated working with Brenna in the Limón Repertory class. I now aspire to audition for and join the prestigious Limón Company based in New York City.”

As Mikail’s dedication to dance remains steadfast, he plans to move to Pennsylvania to pursue a Master of Science in Exercise Science to delve into the science behind the human body. His goal is to combine this knowledge with his passion for dance to become a physical therapist for dancers and create preventive exercises that ensure the longevity of their careers.

“At ADF, I shadowed a physical therapist for an entire day, working with her aiding dancers,” said Mikail. “That’s why opportunities like the ADF have been pivotal in shaping my path as an artist, and also as a future performance specialist.”

Mikail adds: “For all aspiring dancers and current Golden Eagles who are interested in attending festivals like ADF, my advice would be to be relentless in your pursuit. Once granted the opportunity, do so with an open mind and a willingness to dive in and dance. Embrace the intensity, be present, open, and ready to dance. This festival showcases the versatility of dance and offers unique classes that will enrich the skills you learn during your time at USM.”