Courtney Celeste Spears (Baltimore, MD) is currently a professional dancer with the world renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Ms. Spears graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and degree in Communications. While at Fordham, she received the Denise Jefferson Memorial Scholarship for academic excellence as well as the 2015 Princess Grace Award for her artistic capabilities.
She has attended summer programs at Cedar Lake 360, The Juilliard School, and American Ballet Theater where she was recognized consecutively for two years as The American Ballet Theater National Training Scholar. Ms. Spears has performed and taught dance all over the world in locations such as Japan, The Caribbean, The UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece, The Netherlands, and Germany, where she performed for Former President Barack Obama.
She has performed in a variety of works choreographed by Alvin Ailey, Matthew Rushing, Aszure Barton, Robert Battle, Donald Byrd, Rennie Harris, and Camille A. Brown. She’s been featured in publications such as VOGUE, SELF, ALLURE, The New York Times, New York Post, and Vanity Fair.
In 2017, Ms. Spears founded her own company, ArtSea Dance, (https://www.artseadance.org) which is a Caribbean based workshop aimed at bridging the gap between young island dancers and the vast dance world abroad by providing workshops taught by world class professionals and entertainment by international performers.
Most recently, Ms.Spears enrolled in Harvard Business School through their #Crossoverintobusiness program to further her business knowledge while continuing to dance with Alvin Ailey and use her platform to inspire the next generation of dancers.
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?
Dancing has always been my passion. It’s what I want to do every morning when I wake up. I knew that if I were doing anything other than dancing every day, I wouldn’t be living my truth. There was no other option.
2. Why is your profession important?
Dance is one of the most beautiful and authentic forms of expression there is. It allows people of all backgrounds to come together. I had a teacher once tell me that dance is the universal language. It can be understood and loved by any culture, race, or ethnicity. It pushes boundaries, artistically and physically.
3. Did you have a mentor or coach who helped or encouraged you to pursue your dreams?
I’ve had so many people guide me along the way. My very first ballet teacher pushed me to go to a performing arts high school. I had a mentor who taught me all about arts administration. And currently I have a mentor who helps me with professional company life. I encourage everyone to find people in your life who can guide you in the right direction.
4. Did you encounter any obstacles along your path to this point?
So many. I’ve heard more NO’s than YES’s. I’ve gotten turned away from so many auditions that I can’t even remember. But giving up wasn’t an option. The NO’s only fueled me to be better and want to get stronger. There will always be bumps in the road, but you have to decide if and how they affect your course.
5. What is the most amazing experience you have had so far?
Traveling to Greece. My first stop with Alvin Ailey was to Athens, and I never thought I’d see that part of the world. You grow up learning about the Acropolis and the Greek Gods, so to see it in real life was priceless. And then to be performing at the same time, was just unreal.
6. What is your favourite written work (book/poem/quote etc) and why?
“She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future”- Proverbs 31:25
My strength and willpower all stem from my relationship with God. This verse reminds me that I am clothed and covered in his Grace, and also that the future is for me to work for and for Him to plan. It’s all in His plan.
7. What do you think is the most important issue facing the world today?I don’t think I’ll be able to name just one, but I do believe that the majority of the issues stem from Hate. There is so much judgment and hate living inside of the hearts of the human race. We have to learn to love, regardless of class, race, religion, and all other earthly factors. We are all one and we must learn to truly love the person next to us, even if they are different from who we are.
8. Please complete this sentence: "If I could change the world, I would..."Make sure that every child feels that Art empowers their voice and that their voice matters.
9. What three words of advice would you offer to young persons as they consider their future?
Above Photos by: NYC Dance Project
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The INSPIRE Group thanks COURTNEY CELESTE SPEARS for inspiring excellence in the Performing Arts and for proving that a "NO" is not the end of a dream, rather the impetus that should strengthen us to push forward with determination to succeed. We wish you continued success!