Story by Viola C. Malone

krystal hicks (headshot)

*As she relived her favorite dance numbers in her head and began moving in her seat, new dancer Krystal Hicks shared her experience with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

Nineteen-year-old Krystal, who is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, uprooted her life to move to Los Angeles on an invite to study dance over the summer at the Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

With an athletic background in cheerleading, track and field, and gymnastics, dance came easily and naturally and has always been her passion. She had graduated from the Cleveland School of the Arts where she studied under Terrence Green for modern dance and Kay Eichman for ballet. The training there gave her a strong foundation to take the next step in her professional dance career.

Her “big chance” came in early 2013 when she attended the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) conference in Washington, D.C. It was there she caught the eye of Lula Washington Dance Theatre’s Associate Director, Tamica Washington-Miller. “I was pretty happy [when she invited me to come work at LWDT]. I knew who she was. I’d seen the company perform at many conferences and they always caught my eye,” Krystal recalled. That July, Krystal came to L.A. where she studied in the company’s Summer Intensive. Following the Summer Intensive, she was scheduled to perform in a show at the Ford Amphitheater.

krystal hicks (graceful)

Unfortunately, Lula Washington felt she was not quite ready. “I agreed with Lula because it takes a lot of mental focus to dance here with Lula. You have to be all in. If you think you are just going to get stuff easy, you’re wrong. I don’t think I had the work ethic then. Now, I work harder.”

Although she did not perform in that particular show, her career as a dancer with The Company was slowly beginning to bloom. Four months later, Krystal performed in her first show during the all inclusive (students, staff, community members) Kwanzaa program. She stayed on with The Company as an apprentice, office worker and began taking evening classes. After only a few more months Krystal Hicks was invited to do a show in Santa Barbara with LWDT.

Krystal says she was skeptical at first and felt she would not be chosen to go, but a meeting with Lula Washington herself telling Krystal she was invited changed her mind. “I was very happy. I’d only been here for about six months.”

During her breakout performance in the Santa Barbara show, Krystal performed in two school shows and had a solo. She was a rookie within the company and knew she was being watched. When it was show time she was sick and fogged by allergies, but still managed to get through the pieces she was a part of.

krystal hicks (motion)

Immediately after Santa Barbara she was invited to travel to North Carolina with LWDT. The excitement and realization for Krystal really set in. “Wow. I’m really going on tour with The Company.” She recalled the behind the scenes work she had done including booking flights and hotel rooms for this tour. “It was exciting when I found out people I know were coming along.”

It was in North Carolina where Krystal grew and learned many valuable lessons in dance. Even though she performed in several pieces including “We Wore the Mask” choreographed by Lula Washington, and felt positive about her performances she had many things to work on. “I kept getting the same note. ‘You look like you’re running a race. ” “It meant that I needed to do something different with my face. You could see that I was pacing myself on my face and I used to run track.” Lula pushed her to work harder and to be more expressive.

“I took Lula’s notes as a lesson.” The performances in North Carolina went well for Krystal. The show was filled with high energy and was rich in history with pieces like “Little Rock Nine.”

krystal hicks (action)

After North Carolina, Krystal did many small interactive shows at suburban elementary schools. “The kids love it. We pull a few of them on stage and have them follow our steps.” The most recent show was up north in San Jose, at the Mexican Heritage Theater. There, the Company did a public concert and a show for students. Krystal is still excited about that show to this day.

“San Jose was the bomb,” she exclaimed with a huge smile. She opened each show with a solo “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and she was in numerous dances. She went on and on about the overall show, how each performer brought high energy and the positive feedback from the audience. “Me experiencing San Jose was the greatest because I felt [there] I wasn’t the new one, the rookie, a target. I’m here. I’m on top of it,” Krystal said just before she broke out into doing two eight-counts from “Harambe Suite” a dance created by Lula Washington. It has been awhile since she has had that intense feeling of joy and happiness about a show, and San Jose was just what she needed.

Currently Krystal is working in office, and taking dance classes in the evenings at Lula Washington Dance Theatre and waiting to get back into rehearsals for the next big show.

Viola C. Malone is a freelance writer born, raised, and based in South Los Angeles. To read more of her work visit her online at Feel free to contact her at [email protected]

viola c malone

Viola C. Malone