A Hypnotic Dancer Spreading Happiness
Stacy Letrice just radiates happiness, passion, and charisma, and that’s obvious upon first encountering her. Exuding pure unaltered joy, Letrice is a professional performer who is not merely dedicated to her craft. In fact, her craft is her life. This esteemed and magnetic dancer, choreographer and dance/movement therapist has traveled the world hypnotizing those around her with her creatively unique style of dance. Her talent has been recognized by many celebrated artists. She has performed with the likes of Mc Lyte, Les Twins, Twista, Elephant Man, and Tiwa Savage. As a performer, Letrice is truly doing what she loves. But she goes beyond just dancing. She forms a sense of community through teaching children and adults from beginning levels of dance to advanced.
Seeing African Dance Group Unearths Her Passion
Letrice has known she wanted to become a dancer since she was eight-years-old. Her father took her to a Dance Africa performance in Chicago. As a little girl, Letrice remembers being mesmerized by the beats and body movements of the dancers.
“This African group came on from South Africa,” she reminisced. “And I looked at my dad and said ‘I don’t know what this is but I want to do that.’ I just felt so alive. It was the first time I felt super excited and passionate about anything.” Her father looked at her and asked ‘Are you sure?’ But from the look in her eyes and the feeling in Letrice’s heart, they both knew that she’d discovered her passion.
“There was nothing else I wanted to do,” she asserted. “My heart was just so overjoyed when I saw that.”
Letrice’s International Road to Becoming a Dancer
While Letrice’s father attended school at Kennedy-King College in Chicago there was a renown African Dance Company in residence. The young aspiring dancer began attending Muntu Dance Theater Company there and later Sundance Productions. She became skilled in a multitude of genres including ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, Caribbean and West African. Now 21-years later, Letrice specializes in West African, Dancehall, and Afrobeat dancing styles.
Letrice’s opportunity to travel the world for dance came while she was in college. As a student at Kenyon College, she received the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. While delving into the world of dance on another continent, Letrice was also developing a new passion. She attended the University of Cape Town. Following family advice, in addition to studying dance, she also studied social work.
“Plan B” Uncovers Another Passion
“My family told me ‘you need a plan B,”’ she laughed. “But I always knew that my dance career would take off.” Although Letrice knew she had to have a plan B in her pocket, she didn’t think she would become so immersed in social work.
“I didn’t think I would fall in love with sociology,” she said. “But during that time in undergrad, I took a couple of courses and I thought to myself, ‘this makes sense to me too.’ I love helping people and I also love to dance. In my mind, it started to become clear that these two fields could work together.”
After graduating from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Dance and Sociology, she went on to receive her masters from Columbia College Chicago. From there she began working at St. Benedict the African as a school therapist that supports children and families.
She Brings Dance and “Plan B” Together
“I’m always dancing but I love doing social work because I’m also about community,” she said. “It’s very challenging work. It used to deplete me when I first started.” According to the dancer, lack of resources, parents working multiple jobs and the breakdown of family structures makes her work difficult, yet rewarding.
In addition to counseling at St Benedict the African, Letrice teaches dance at the school as well.
Teaching dance began for Letrice while working at the Chicago Park District as a teen. From coordinating daily activities to organizing end of summer programs, Letrice was completely immersed in teaching.
Children Make You a Better Teacher
One thing she learned through training youth was that children make you a better teacher. This lesson has carried over into all her classes.
“Children… require me to break things down into its simplest forms,” she said. “When I work with preschoolers and kindergartners, I have to move at a slow pace and use a lot of repetition. These are all very helpful when you’re teaching people without any dance experience.”
Being able to balance her two passions, dance and social work, makes for a contented life for the dancer. But, nothing puts a smile on her face like dancing.
A Dancer Who Makes People Happy
Letrice says “People tell me ‘you just make me so happy when you dance.’ And that makes a lot of sense to me because that’s when I’m at my happiest. When I’m dancing I have the biggest smile on my face.”
Letrice feels that dancing is liberating. “I just feel so free and it’s the time that I feel most connected with myself and also to God,” she said. Letrice gives credit to God for allowing her to have a gift that makes her feel valuable.
“My favorite quote is, ‘I know there is a God because I feel Him when I dance,’” she said passionately. “There’s nothing else that makes me feel more alive and connected with others.”
Letrice’s Dance Creations Are Inspired by Music
“I may be out partying and I hear a song and I’m like, I gotta make a dance to that,” she said. “Some songs I immediately see choreography. Some nights I’m asleep and I’m actually dreaming about it. I have to get up to get this movement out of my body.”
Letrice is also inspired by other dancers. Popular artists who she hopes to work with include Sean Paul, Beanie Man, Wiz Kid and Tanisha Scott.
Although the dancer’s professions fulfill her, she still faces challenges just like everyone else. The biggest one she faces is from the city she loves—Chicago.
“In Chicago, people may not recognize you until you’ve made it somewhere else,” she said. “…I’m like, ‘this is my city, this is my home city and I’m gonna make it here.’ But I’ve also been bombarded with the reality that I may have to move to receive more opportunities.”
A Regular International Performer
So far, Letrice has traveled to South Africa, Barbados, London, Brazil, Paris, Jamaica and her favorite destination, Australia.
I love Australia because “they have some of the nicest people I ever met in my life,” she said happily. “In Chicago, we are a little bit more standoffish. [There] It was a sense of family and community. I feel extremely loved and appreciated. I also know that I’ve made some life long friends.”
Her career continues to skyrocket with her Afro-Dancehall Fusion classes and performances on mega festival stages including: One Africa Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and Afropunk. Most recently, Stacy works closely with Chicago’s own Pastor Charles Jenkins (StellarAward Winner and Grammy Nominee) as his dancer and choreographer.
She also performs regularly with rising Chicago artist, Sir the Baptist (BET Award Nominee). In February of 2017, Letrice will be traveling back to Australia to teach and perform. She has just concluded a teaching and performing tour in London and will also be visiting Jamaica to teach and study.
Two Pieces of Advice to Dancers
Two pieces of advice Letrice wants other dancers to have are, be clear about what’s for you and be business savvy. “We often look at what others may have and wonder why those things may not be happening for us. The truth is there are things in life that are divinely made for you and they won’t pass you by. You can also be very talented and have all these gifts,” she concluded. “But if you don’t have the business aspect, then you won’t go anywhere.”