2019 EMERGING ARTS PRIZE FOR DANCE
Characterizing himself as “one of those siblings who just wanted to do everything his older sister did,” Dominic Moore-Dunson started dancing at three because he tagged along when Nakiasha took her classes. “My mom put me in a tap class so I could make a bunch of noise and be tired when I came home so I’d be more calm than I usually was,” explains Dominic, now in his ninth season with Inlet Dance Theatre.
By fourth grade he was dancing every day at Miller South, Akron’s Performing Arts Middle School, all the way through 12th grade at Firestone High School (Akron School for the Arts). Because of Firestone’s partnership with Dance Cleveland, he learned from national dance companies that provided master classes when they toured to Northeast Ohio. One of his biggest moments occurred when he had an opportunity to meet and later take a summer intensive on a full-scholarship with Garth Fagan Dance in Rochester, NY. He was 16, but they quickly bumped him into the 18 and over group. Fagan, who had choreographed The Lion King on Broadway, took him to dinner and tried to recruit him to his company.
Dominic turned it down. He was still torn because of his longtime love for soccer. He was one of the top high school players in Ohio and had been attending an Olympic team development camp for several summers. “I wanted to be a professional soccer player and play in England,” he says. “That was it, so I was balancing becoming a professional soccer player and this emerging interest in dance that was happening in my life.”
He went on to play for the University of Akron, which was then the number four collegiate team in the US. He soon soured on his coach’s if-you-can’t-help-me-win-then-you-have-no-worth attitude. He was taking ballet classes, but lost patience with those, too, and one day after class left and never came back. “Dancing for a grade just seemed weird to me,” he recalls. “I wanted to dance and know it had an effect on something.”
He found Inlet Dance Theatre online, asked if he could train with them, and has never left. He had discovered a knack for choreographing while in high school, but now he had a chance to study professionally with Founder and Executive Artistic Director Bill Wade, who took him under his wing.
“I've mentored and trained many young people and dancers over the past 30+ years,” says Wade (CAP 2012). “Every once in awhile I come across someone whose intelligence, work ethic, growth mindset, and character align, producing an artist of note who will make a positive and meaningful difference. Dominic is that dude.”
Recently recognized as “New Agent” by MOCA Cleveland, Dominic has received numerous fellowships and recognitions as an emerging artist and arts leader including: 2018 Commission by Akron Art Museum of his solo work, “CAUTION”, a 2018 Breakout Artist by the Devil Strip Magazine (Akron), 2016 National Arts Strategies (NAS) Creative Community Fellow (DC), 2016 Colleen Porter Fellow (International Performing Arts for Youth), and an inaugural member of Leadership Akron’s Diversity on Board Program.
Currently, he is participating in National Arts Strategies Executive in Arts Leadership Program (University of Pennsylvania) to enhance his capacity in all aspects of running a successful arts and culture non-profit organization. With Inlet, he was promoted to become Rehearsal Coordinator and Assistant Artistic Director and was selected to be the Company Representative on the Strategic Plan Steering Committee in 2014.
This season, Dominic was appointed to be the Company Dancer representative of the Capital Campaign’s Project Leadership Team. Under Wade’s direction, the young dancer has established a large-scale community-based dance theatre project called “The ‘Black Card’ Project” that premiered in Sept 2018. The project is a live action dance-theatre cartoon that examines the narrow definition of blackness and the African-American ideal of the “Black Card.” They are currently exploring options for a national tour and a televised performance on PBS.
Driven by his goal to create art that has a direct impact, he’s also developing a new piece with a provocative title and an ambitious objective. It will be based on interviews and possibly ride-alongs with Cleveland and Akron police officers.
“With ‘Incognegro,’ I want to make something that is a catalyst for measurable, sustainable change between law enforcement and black communities in neighborhoods,” Dominic says. “I’m going to make it so obvious for audiences that they can’t dispute me.”