A Professional Dancer Returns to His Home Stage—MSSD’s Theatre Malz
Mervin Primeaux, a graduate of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) Class of 1995, returned to the MSSD stage for the 29th Annual Winter Dance Concert, Dance Through Time, held February 3-5. He both performed and assisted with choreography for the MSSD dance numbers. Primeaux inspired the MSSD dancers with his career success and his willingness to come and share his time and talent with the MSSD community. The MSSD dancers included: Jackelin Choque, Serena Dorch, Marquita Drayton, Anton Fletcher, Diane Hillard, Merissa Nelson, Amanda Roberts, Adrian Saylor, Jeremy Smith, Pakia Taylor, Kaori Vazquez, Shaneque Walker, Caitlin Williams, and Yianney Yamb. In addition to the MSSD dancers, the concert featured guest performances from five guest companies and three guest artists.
Primeaux, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, began his training at the Moving South School of Performing Arts in Louisiana. As a student at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD), he trained and worked with MSSD dance instructors Yola Rozynek and Marsha Freeman, and Suzanne Farrell from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Primeaux went on to graduate from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with an associate of arts degree in dance performance and choreography. He has trained with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and performed with Quest, the Philadelphia Dance Company, the Pentimento Deaf Dance Company, The Wild Zappers, and the African American Deaf Dance Company. Currently he is a member of the Edgeworks Dance Theater in Washington, D.C.
Q&A with MSSD Alumnus Mervin Primeaux, Class of 1995
Q: Mervin, as a student you danced on the stage in MSSD's Theatre Malz. How does it feel to come back and perform as a professional dancer? When you were a student, did you dream of coming back to dance at MSSD?
A: It's been a long time since I've been back to MSSD. Being on stage brought back many memories. Part of me will be forever married to that stage. It's where I got my start. I want today's MSSD dancers to see that, like me, they can make the leap and achieve their future goals.
Q: For MSSD's winter dance concert, you danced to a song by Mahalia Jackson. What is the name of the song and why did you choose it?
A: The song I danced to was a gospel song called "What Could I Do." I chose it because the words really inspired me. They spoke to my beliefs in the Lord.
Q: For your dance, "Sweet," you perform inside a tube of stretchy white fabric. What was the meaning of your costume, and how did it fit in with the theme of your dance?
A: When I saw this stretchy fabric in the MSSD costume collection, I instantly knew that I wanted to use it for my dance. It reminded me of the kind of fabric Martha Graham might have used for modern dance. I wanted to show through the movements of my dance the mental and physical struggle we all have within ourselves. I called my dance "Sweet" because we are all sweet in the eyes of the Lord and His eyes are on us. I had danced to many kinds of music-rhythm and blues, classic, jazz-but I had never used gospel and I wanted to try.
Q: What do you enjoy about choreographing your own work?
A: I want to develop many areas of skill related to dance. Choreography allows me to step out of the role of performer and see the dance from another angle. It was great working with the MSSD students. I could see myself in them. It really meant something to me when [MSSD student dancer] Adrian Saylor said, "I can't believe it's really you! I've been looking up to you for so long!"
Q: You are currently dancing with the Edgeworks Dance Theater. What is your role in the company? Are there any other deaf dancers in the company?
A: I have been with Edgeworks, in Washington, D.C., for two years. I am the only deaf performer in the company. We are currently doing a show called Trigger that focuses on an African man and the history of slavery.
Q: What future goals do you have for your performing career?
A: Being part of MSSD's winter dance concert opened my eyes to a new possibility. One of the MSSD dancers, Jeremy Smith, performed in a wheelchair. I worked with Jeremy on choreography, on how to use his arms and facial movements more expressively. It was a new and powerful experience for me. I never thought I'd see a dancer in a wheelchair on the MSSD stage. My future goal is to open a dance studio for people of all abilities.