Darrell Daney (‘16) started taking dance lessons when he was only four years old. It wasn’t exactly love at first step.
“I really didn’t like it at first because I was the only boy in a lot of my classes,” he remembers. “My mom enrolled me and my sister in the classes because she actually needed some type of care for us in the evenings because of her job. So that was the initial reason why she enrolled us in dance because it kept us active and we weren’t, you know, sitting at home.”
There were times when Darrell wanted to give it up completely. “Every time I told my mom I wanted to quit, she would always say, ‘give it two weeks and we’ll talk about it at the end,’” Darrell says. “And then, by the time the two weeks passed, my first set of instructors, especially Robyn, she brought the joy back into it for me.”
Dancing keeps bringing the joy back again and again for Darrell. Originally from Manning, South Carolina, and currently living in Washington, D.C., Darrell has gone from taking classes as a bright four year old at the Freed School of Performing Arts in Sumter to working with two dance companies in the nation’s capital–Dakshina Dance Company, where he performs, and the Robyn Lindsey Dance Company, where he teaches.
“I never thought I would be interested in teaching dance...I just wanted to perform, perform, perform. But now that I’ve gone to Coker and I’ve experienced it there, it really showed me that I’m really interested in almost every aspect of dance there is."
In between his childhood and young adulthood, Darrell has focused intensively on dance. He started training in ballet and modern technique at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, South Carolina. After graduating from high school, he continued dancing with the Freed School of Performing Arts until 2012, when he decided to go to college.
“I really wanted a smaller environment where I could really get that one-on-one, hands-on attention that I was looking for,” says Darrell. “I feel like Coker offered that...They also offered the type of path that I was interested in as far as dance performance and choreography.”
After working for four years after high school, Darrell decided to go back to college to learn more about dance. “I wanted to get as much information about dance as possible” he says. “I felt like going to school and getting the degree and studying dance intensively in that aspect would give me the knowledge I was looking for because all I knew was just the performance side and I really didn’t realize how much more about the technique there was to learn like until I went to Coker. That’s what made me decide to go and get the degree.”
Starting as a college freshman at age 21 with 17 years of dance training and experience, Darrell was surprised to find out he still had a lot to learn. He says, “In reality, I had so much more to learn in so many different ways. And I felt like I’ve grown as far as the academic side of dance, you know dance history, dance science and dance conditioning. There was so much more about dance that I learned there. And especially the physical side of dance like my strengths and weaknesses.”
Darrell was also surprised to discover during his time at Coker that he had a genuine appreciation and love for dance instruction. He says, “I never thought I would be interested in teaching dance...I just wanted to perform, perform, perform. But now that I’ve gone to Coker and I’ve experienced it there, it really showed me that I’m really interested in almost every aspect of dance there is. I love performing, but I have the same passion for teaching now also, in an education aspect. I feel that really showed me how broad my horizon can be with dance.”
“I just want to learn, learn, learn.”
During his four years at Coker, Darrell found ways to incorporate dance into life outside of school. “I was teaching dance at Move Dance Academy, right up the street from the school,” he says. “After my junior year in 2015, I went to the American Dance Festival at Duke University.” Darrell graduated from Coker in 2016 with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance and Choreography.
The summer after graduation, Darrell traveled abroad for the first time to train with the Staibdance company in Italy. After returning home, he knew it was time to find a job. “I kind of took a risk and I went online and I just started emailing every artistic director I could find that had a dance company all over the United States just to see what I could come up with or who would reach back out to me,” he says. “And I got a response from a guy in D.C. His name is Daniel Phoenix Singh. He offered me to come and audition for his company...Dakshina. And I came to audition and he offered me a job that night. He asked me could I relocate to D.C. So, of course, I said ‘yes.’ At the time, I didn’t have a place to stay. I didn’t have a plan at all. I just knew I wanted to work and I knew I wanted dance to be my job.”
Darrell keeps busy with two jobs. On a typical summer day, he’s up before 7am and teaching classes from 8:30am to approximately 3:30pm. Then he’s headed home for a break. Around 6:30pm he heads out to rehearsals with the Dakshina Dance Company, which usually last until around 10:30pm. He heads home, gets a little sleep, wakes up and does it all over again.
Both of Darrell’s jobs provide incredibly rewarding experiences. Through teaching private lessons with the Robyn Lindsey Dance Company, a recent student of Darrell’s, Robert Wallop, took his choreographed routine to the World Special Olympics where he won the gold medal in dance. With the Dakshina Dance Company, Darrell has traveled the world, seeing much of France, Belgium, Germany and India.
Darrell’s spirit of adventure has been awakened through opportunity. He says, “I enjoy seeing different places. I enjoy meeting different people...That would never had happened had I not gone on tour. I would never have met these wonderful people...It’s such a great experience. I would encourage anybody, if they ever have the opportunity to travel, please take it.”
Darrell isn’t likely to stop at a bachelor’s degree. “Now that I have my bachelor’s, I want my master’s,” says Darrell. “I just want to learn, learn, learn.”
“Really make sure that this is what they want to do because, honestly, this, like any other job, it’s going to be a test."
For all the aspiring dancers out there, Darrell has some sage advice, “Really make sure that this is what they want to do because, honestly, this, like any other job, it’s going to be a test. It’s going to be trials every now and then, like it’s not always going to be easy, easy, easy...So I would definitely say do your research as far as deciding what college you want to go for it and even as far as the job when you leave...It’s so important to know every detail so research, research, research.”
Darrell is a great example of tenacity, and someone who can balance two successful careers in the arts as both a teacher and a performer.