Michael Cherry, also known as Mikey is 24 years old. When he was a freshman in college, he was asked to dance with a group of dancers for the opener of a conference. It was his first time learning choreography or dancing on a stage. When it was all said it done, he had fallen in love with dance. After that, he joined his college hip hop team, Fusion. During his time on Fusion, he became one of the choreographers for the team, and his last year on the team he served as director. His last year in school, he started a program called More Than Dance. It’s a program aimed towards using our passions to serve people. He graduated from NC State in 2011 with a degree in Textile Engineering and minors in Graphic Communications and Non-profits. He works in South Carolina as an engineer, but he still dedicates a majority of time to dance. More Than Dance is now in its second year, along with a clothing line that supports MTD called cherryDOTdork. He started a dance team, the DOTdorks, that includes a lot of the More Than Dance staff and many other talented dancers. Recently, he had the amazing opportunity to teach and work with amazing talent at Upstate Strut in South Carolina. Through dance, he has been blessed to meet so many people and experience many new things, and all of this has only made him more excited to see what’s next. DanceMogulMagazine is honored to present Michael Cherry, a prime example that the youth can look up to as a source of encouragement. From his love for the arts, discipline for education and service to the community. These are the qualities that Dance Mogul Magazine will continue to instill in future generations to come.
Dance Mogul: Who were some of your early inspirations in dance?
Michael Cherry: Some of my early inspirations in dance were Michael Jackson, James Brown, old school R and B groups like New Edition, Usher, and my grandfather. My grandfather wasn’t a “dancer,” but he always had a nice groove.
Dance Mogul: Were your parents supportive of you?
Michael Cherry: My parents have always been supportive of me. I would say they’ve been more supportive in other areas of my life other than dance, but they’ve always known I danced. At first, it was frustrating that they only saw dance for me as a hobby and that they wanted me to focus on other things such as school and a corporate career, but now I realize that they just want the best for me. It was important to realize in order for them to be fully supportive of what I’m doing, I needed to succeed in schooling, a career, along with dance. It’s a lot of work, but I’m beginning to gain their full support, and that means the world to me.
Dance Mogul: How did you balance dance while pursuing higher education?
Michael Cherry: Balancing dance and pursuing higher education wasn’t that difficult. Although I’d rather be in a studio, in practice, or on somebodies stage performing, I realized that I was in school for an education, so school came first. There were times where I’d have to miss practice weeks at a time because I was studying so much. I always told myself that; one, my parents sent me to school to further my education so I’m not going to waste their money, and two, I found a dance environment because I’m at school so in order to stay in this environment I have to stay in school.
Dance Mogul: Being an engineer requires a love for math and science; do you feel your passion for engineering helps you with your passion for dance in any way?
Michael Cherry: I do feel like being an engineer helps with my passion for dance. I wouldn’t say dance as in making choreography or taking class, but understanding dance outside of dance. Being an engineer, you have to view one situation from many different angles. So I like looking at dance from different angles and seeing how I can operate More Than Dance in different ways; what else can I apply it to, constantly thinking about how to make our operations run smoother. And when it does come to dance itself, being an engineer helps me study dance and other dancers; how they choreograph, how they hit moves, how they stage their dances, how a story is developed through dance. Overall, being an engineer really helps me to broaden my view of dance as a whole.
Dance Mogul: Tell us how and why you started More than Dance?
Michael Cherry: In 2009, when I was a junior at NC State, I went on an Alternative Spring Break to a boy’s orphanage in the Dominican Republic. When I first saw the kids at the orphanage, I said, “What’s up,” and they looked at me really weird. I forgot that they didn’t speak English. So with these kids, there were two barriers; they didn’t want to open up to these American strangers, and they didn’t speak English. The only thing I thought was, “This is going to be a long week.” We weren’t supposed to dance on the compound we were staying in, but I have a habit of dancing and not realizing it. But the more I danced, the more the kids copied what I did, the more they followed me, and the more they opened up. By the end of the week, even though we spoke two different languages, we were having full-length conversations. Dance broke down these barriers that I mentioned earlier and allowed me to have a lasting impact on these kids. Fast forward a year later, I went to a speaking engagement led by TOMs shoe creator, Blake Mycoskie. Basically what he said was, find out what your passion is and turn it into a service. I knew I loved to dance, the only thing after that was to figure out how to serve people with it, a few months later, More Than Dance was started.
Dance Mogul: Tell us about your clothing line and why do you feel that having all these different outlets and education is key for becoming a successful dancer?
Michael Cherry: cherryDOTdork is a clothing line that I started along with More Than Dance. I knew that I wanted to give away a majority of the money raised from MTD, but I also knew that in order to successfully operate MTD we would need some type of monetary support. I’ve always been fascinated with the behind the scenes operations of lines such as the Hundreds, Benny Gold, and a locally operated line FYSH. So I just decided to combine that fascination, with my constant designing, and knowing that eventually we would need financial backing for MTD and created cherryDOTdork. I feel that having all of these different outlets along with education is important to becoming a successful dancer because dancing is so much more than actually dancing. Although dance is my favorite thing in the world, I want to explore all aspects of dance outside of the actual aspect of dance. Getting my degree meant much more to me than getting a piece of paper in my hand. It literally showed me that I can do anything, so now I just want to see what all I can do with dance (from serving others, creating businesses, making choreography, to learning from other people).
Dance Mogul: Tell us about some of your favorite experiences that dance has brought you.
Michael Cherry: Dance has brought me countless favorite experiences, but some of my favorites are when I get to experience something new. Recently, I went to Utah with a few of my friends to teach and learn to dance. Of course, I had an amazing time teaching, learning, and pushing myself as a dancer. But one of the highlights from that trip was going to the canyons with old and new friends that I met through dance. The only thing I could think was, “wow, I’m on these beautiful snowcapped mountains all the way across the country with these amazing people because of dance.” Recently, my family lost my grandmother, and it was really difficult to get through. I was pretty upset, but I was supposed to teach the same night I found out she passed away. Instead of canceling my class, I knew that the only thing that would make me happy was dancing. It was an amazing experience just knowing that dance, even just seeing the hardwood floor in the studio, helped me to cope with such a difficult time.
Dance Mogul: Do you have any inspiring words for young up and coming dancers?
Michael Cherry: Make sure that you’re dancing for the right reasons. Always surround yourself with not only good people but encouraging, like-minded people. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you’re scared, but always tell yourself that you can do it. And forget how to give up.
Dance Mogul: Do you feel outlets like Dance Mogul Magazine are needed so that the dancer’s voices can be heard and also show that they are more than dancers, that they are educated and intellectual?
Michael Cherry: What Dance Mogul is doing is incredible. So often we see people where they are, but we don’t know how they got there. We don’t see the hard work and the hours that they put into making something work. But you all are giving dancers a chance to share that side of our story, and I really appreciate what you all are doing.
Dance Mogul: Is there anyone you want to thank for helping you on your journey?
Michael Cherry: God, for always being there no matter what. My More Than Dance staff for being so dedicated to making MTD work. My dance fam, my sisters Adrienne and Allayah, and my parents for their love and support.