Santa Rosa High School would like to recognize two of its graduate panthers and former members of Artquest Dance Company for their successful careers in dance. Joe Gray and Bernadette Alverio-Gray recently opened the doors to their new Santa Rosa dance studio after life-long pursuits of their art, and marriage in 2009.

From the very beginning, it seemed that two were born to dance. Joe recalls a video of himself at 6 years old, attempting hip-hop dancing to a catchy funk song, and Bernie remembers “jammin in [her] diaper” even earlier than that. As they grew older, each made a conscious decision to actively pursue dance. Bernadette signed up for P.E. Dance in 9th grade, but was approached by Mrs. Evans- the Artquest Dance Company teacher- and asked to join the company in its very first year, which she joined and stayed in for the remainder of her time in high school. Joe, at age 11, took his first dance class at the Dance Center, in downtown Santa Rosa, and with the aid of a full scholarship, continued his education there with five different dance classes. He joined dance company in his Sophomore year at Santa Rosa, which he entered a few years after Bernie, and also remained there until graduation.

Both dancers recall they virtually lived in the dance room, spending most of their lunches there and, in Bernie’s case, even attending zero-period rehearsals at times. Her personal experience was in a company in its first stages of construction, producing what she says were more literal dances that lacked deeper meaning, and operating in an environment which yielded limited experimentation. She and a few other students began to push the boundaries of dance in the program, venturing into contact movement, partnering, and other various experimental concepts, beginning what she says was a shift in the focus of the company.

After High School, Joe and Bernadette each pursued their own dance dreams. Bernadette moved to New York to immerse herself in the wildly abundant dance culture and pursue a career in the field, but soon moved back after discovering her disinterest in the highly competitive nature of dance there. A few years later, Joe graduated and moved to San Diego in hopes of auditioning for SD Culture Shock, but found that the lifestyle required was too expensive, and he just “wasn’t feelin’ it.”

The two graduates eventually crossed paths once more- after meeting periodically in Dance Company when Bernadette returned as a guest choreographer- and were married on August 1st, 2009. The event was alive with dance, and featured some of the couple’s friends, along with Joe’s hip-hop company, “Shadow Optix.”

Their shared passion for the art of dance eventually found its outlet in the couple’s co-owned and co-operated dance studio, Studio Gray. While neither dancer envisioned teaching as a career direction, they have both found it to be the key in balancing the normally hectic life of an artist, and a chance to give their passion back to the community. Furthermore, it provides young people with the opportunity to discover their own love for dance, an ideal and goal for the studio which the couple champions above all else.

Their shared belief that every person, regardless of wealth or skill level, should be given the chance to make this amazing discovery is displayed in their comprehensive scholarship program, and Bernadette’s hip-hop class for the developmentally disabled. She says these wonderful people have every right to equal treatment and opportunity, which is why she loves to teach them, and makes them do push-ups when they are not working their hardest, just like everyone else.

The couple maintains that dancing is healthy for both mind and body, and, at their studio, they promote this kind of inner growth above any emphasis on being the best or winning a competition. At the same time, Joe says he gets the most pleasure out of performing for an audience. When doing so, he goes into an alternate state, completely losing himself in his dance. Bernadette, alternatively, says she never dances to be seen, but rather to feed her soul. This contrast is one of many valuable differences which they utilize to balance each other and the structure of their curriculum.

Both hope to see their studio grow and contribute an increasing amount of dance to the community, but they are always supportive of other studios, where they often recommend dancers go who seek a class which they do not offer themselves.

Bernadette is giving back to her roots this semester, returning to Santa Rosa High School as a guest choreographer for Dance Company, which she says allowed her to grown into the dancer she is today. Her piece will be featured in the upcoming Dance Company Winter Concert, December 3rd and 4th in the Auditorium.

 

For more information on Joe and Bernadette and Studio Gray, visit www.studiogray.org,