Movers & Shapers: Melissa M. Young

By July 4, 2023Podcast

PODCAST 160: Melissa M. Young

Release Date: 7.3.23


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Take Up Your Space with Confidence with Artistic Director Melissa M. Young

Episode 160: Show Notes.

Often, as dancers, we have a choice to take up space with confidence or feel defeated and hold back. Our guest on today’s episode is one that continuously chose to take up space and inspired others to follow their intuitions, pursue what they love, and embrace their curiosity. This is an inspiring interview with the Artistic Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), Melissa M. Young. Our conversation with Melissa is incredibly touching as she talks about why she loved the exploration of dance and remembers certain key impressions that impacted her greatly throughout the years. She tells us why she always chose to dance to the beat of her own drum and why she pursues uncovering herself in the most authentic ways before sharing about her time spent in New York City and how she ultimately ended up dancing at the Dallas Black Dance Theatre. She’s an amazing individual with a passion for dance and holds the responsibility of being an artistic director with such fervor. Tune in now to hear about the pure joy derived from Melissa’s life in dance. Enjoy.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Melissa talks excitedly about who she is and where her love for dance ignited from.
  • Why she loved the exploration aspect of dance.
  • She talks about the impact of The Stack-Up by Talley Beatty (Alvin Ailey) on her life’s journey.
  • Melissa remembers taking a class from Donald McKayle and the impression it left on her.
  • Why Melissa never put a timeline on her career and allowed the journey to flow.
  • The pull to New York and the blossoming opportunities to do as they were doing at Ailey.
  • She shares thoughts on her firm belief in doing what you see for yourself.
  • Navigating the shoulds, the coulds, and the woulds, and why she chooses to dance to the beat of her own drum.
  • What you see is what you get: uncovering herself in the most authentic way.
  • How the culture shock of moving to New York City made her feel more alive.
  • We hear about her time spent in New York at The Ailey School.
  • How she came upon the DBDT audition notice and took a chance.
  • How her journey at DBDT has allowed her to discover herself.
  • What it was like to move to Dallas: another culture shift.
  • She shares information regarding the current dance and art scene in Dallas.
  • The DBDT and her journey with the company.
  • Her thoughts on the culture, dynamic, and community at DBDT (as a dancer and as staff).
  • How she transitioned from being a dancer to a staff member after 10 years of performing.
  • Looking back at her career, she reflects on some challenges she’s faced and overcame.
  • How she approaches being the artistic director at DBDT (and any role she’s ever filled).
  • Things that are sparking excitement in Melissa for the future.
  • Why she looks for great human beings first when looking at prospective dancers.

“What I love about dance is I look at it like professional problem-solving. The choreography is the problem and the equation of how you get there working with everyone else, that’s how you get to the “answer”.” — Melissa M. Young

Melissa M. Young is a Honduran American raised in Santa Ana, California. She attended Orange Coast College with a focus in Business Administration. She is a graduate of The Ailey School—The Official School of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. During her Fellowship studies, she was one of five students selected to train as an exchange student at Amsterdam University of the Arts in the Netherlands.

Melissa is celebrating her twenty-ninth season with Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT). Young started her career at DBDT as a dancer for eleven years, then moved up the ranks as Rehearsal Director, Academy Director, Associate Artistic Director, Interim Artistic Director, and was appointed as Artistic Director in September 2018. Her most notable performances include The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and for the U.S. Ambassadors to Ireland and Zimbabwe. She has restaged and rehearsed the diverse repertoire of DBDT, which spans over 100 ballets. She was an Assistant to the Choreographers, Hope Clarke for The Dallas Opera’s Porgy and Bess and Christopher L. Huggins for Dallas Theater Center’s production of The Wiz. Melissa is most proud of thoughtfully leading DBDT through the pandemic by using the many restrictions as a guide to push the boundaries of her imagination into a creative reality.

Teaching master classes both nationally and internationally, Melissa specializes in the Dance Technique of Lester Horton. She was the primary Horton Technique Instructor for the Dallas Black Dance Theatre company dancers from 1998-2017. As an Adjunct Instructor, she has taught at Southern Methodist University, Texas Woman’s University, and Abilene Christian University. Over the years, she has led several movement workshops for Leadership North Texas and Leadership Dallas.

Melissa is a graduate of the Leadership Arts Institute, Class of 2022, a program of Business Council for the Arts in Dallas County. She is a member of the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Inc. Melissa has served as an advisory panelist for arts organizations that include the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, Texas Commission on the Arts and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and is a former board member for the Dance Council of North Texas.

Melissa was presented with The Dancer’s Award in 2000 for her artistic excellence and dedication to Dallas Black Dance Theatre. She was chosen as one of “The Talented Tenth” by The Dallas Weekly in 2010, for being a Young and Emerging Leader. In 2014, she received an Award of Recognition from the South Dallas Dance Festival for her service to dance and in 2016, the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence. In 2017, Melissa received the Shining Star Award from the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for her significant contributions to dance in Texas and beyond. During the 57th Annual South Central District Conference of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. in 2019, Melissa was honored with the “We Speak Your Name” Career Achievement Award.