It’s a long way 399 miles to be exact from New York’s Carnegie Hall to the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, but for those who perform in Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall, location doesn’t matter. Ask RU dance education major Rebecca Brewer, one of four Lewisburg area youth invited to be part of Carnegie Hall’s Third Annual First Stage Concert. Attendance was approximately 200 and she danced with as much passion and zeal as if there were 3,000.
Brewer began dancing at the age of three. Her dance styles are jazz, ballet, tap, liturgical and modern. Each of her presentations requires at least eight hours of rehearsal time and she is faithful to do what is required to be the best she can be. Her favorite style of dance is modern. She says, “Modern dance is my favorite because it is expressive, emotional, organic, and fluid. I recently became skilled in modern and am working on developing my own unique style. I hope to one day perform in a modern dance company to further my experiences.”
An active member of RU’s Wesley Foundation, she and four other dancers perform liturgical dance in local churches and areas outside the New River Valley. The group choreographs at least two pieces a semester.
Brewer collaborated with RU dance department faculty member Deborah McLaughlin for a piece that was shown at RU’s annual Awareness Day. The dance will be performed this spring to address the effects of mountaintop removal. She says, “The piece was about the Appalachian region before blasting, about grief, and also hope.” She was also featured in a fellow student’s capstone project, performing modern, contemporary ballet and jazz works.
Brewer studied at the Greenbrier Dance Academy, The Dance Studio and Greenbrier East High School. She has taught at Joyful Noise, an after-school program, McHarg Elementary School in Radford and other locations.
“Dancing is emotional. It’s more than just about a certain style,” Brewer says. She credits RU dance department chair Margaret Devaney with broadening her horizons. The two have worked together in summer camps and formed several artistic pieces. Her studies have increased her confidence. “I never saw myself as a performer,” Brewer says. All indications are that her heart is in teaching others.
After graduation, Brewer would like to dance professionally and later establish her own dance program in an Appalachian public school. “So many students fall in love with dancing, that have never danced before,” she says. Brewer’s high school dance program was shut down and she says, “I want it back for the school.”
Built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1891, other concert halls that bear Carnegie's name are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in Carnegie's native Dunfermline, Scotland.