Muses: Katherine Dunham, Eleanor Gwynn, and Lauren Bellinger-Jolly
Danyelle Lassiter Saunders, a native of Lumberton, North Carolina, is the oldest daughter of Emmanuel Hugh and Alice Lassiter. She is an Engineering Manager at Newport News Shipbuilding and an advocate for early education and awareness of STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art and math) through her #WhyEngineering interactive road show. One of her favorite passions, since early childhood, continues to be the art of movement through dance. Danyelle was determined to make sure this passion would remain constant in her life, no matter what profession or personal direction her life took. In 2006, she and her sister established Faith in Motion Ministries, Inc., a liturgical dance studio and fine arts outreach organization servicing the Hampton Roads Community and beyond. At the age of three, Danyelle began formal dance training a ballet, tap and acrobatics. By the age of ten, she added jazz in pointe to her skillset. She continued enhancing her skills by performing in various production roles with the North Carolina Ballet and following others in the industry. There are three women who are the source of Danyelle‘s inspiration in the art of dance. They are Lauren Bellinger-Jolly, Dr. Eleanor Gwynn and Katherine Dunham. As a team, Danyelle continued her training under Lauren Bellinger-Jolly at The School of Ballet. It was Lauren who recognized an ability yet to be uncovered and gave her the opportunity to teach. She instructed toddlers in ballet and tap as well as assisted in beginning pointe classes. Under Lauren’s instruction the seed was planted to develop a desire to dance to inspirational music that could make a difference and transform lives. This would be instrumental in bringing “praise/sacred dance” to the Woman’s Baptist Home & Foreign Missionary Convention of North Carolina in the late 1980’s. There Danyelle was the first to present an interpretive lyrical dance on pointe. After graduating from high school, Danyelle's dance education continued Spelman College (1994-1995) and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State Universty (1995-1998). Under the instruction of Dr. Eleanor Gwynn she auditioned and became a member of the infamous E. Gwynn Dance Company and the spectrum of dance for her was brought in more than she could’ve ever imagine. Danyelle was offered the opportunity to study abroad with the Zapata Family in Puerto Rico. She gain great exposure to ethnic forms such as West African, Puerto Rican, African – Caribbean, lyrical in the Dunham Technique. The Dunham Technique originating from Katherine Dunham known as the “matriarch and queen mother of black dance”, would later become the foundation of Faith In Motion‘s floor and core exercise techniques. How awesome it is to be able to incorporate the great teachings of one who’s movement was at one time only known through the theater and books. Danyelle's formal dance training served a divine purpose in God's plan for her life which became clear after she moved to Virginia in 1998. She would move from mere performance to dance ministry and these three women trailblazers enabled the cultivation of her passion to move, inspire and instruct others in the art form call dance!