Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Alumna J’Nae Howard returns to Southeast with professional dance career

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
SEMO alumna J’Nae Howard teaches choreography to SEMO dance students during a contemporary jazz master class on Feb. 1. Students were given feedback on their dance techniques by both Howard and other dance company members.
Photo by Zoie Matthews

SEMO Alumna J’Nae Howard, a professional dancer with South Chicago Dance Theatre, visited River Campus to teach a foundation of contemporary jazz master class to current dance majors on Thursday, Feb. 1.

During the masterclass, dancers were challenged by the newfound movement style Howard has discovered in her professional career.

“Professional life is very different than dancing at SEMO,” said Howard. “The workload is at a much higher caliber and a much faster pace than what I was used to.”

Students who attended the class expressed how great it was to see an artist thrive outside of the University setting. Senior Dance Major Olivia Barnard really enjoyed the new perspective her past classmate had to offer.

“It is crazy to see how much J’Nae has improved since she graduated,” said Barnard. “The instruction and energy she brought to class is something we should all try to bring to a classroom setting after graduation.”

Over thirty Musical Theatre and Dance Majors attended the Alumna’s class. Among these attendees, Senior Dance major Alexis Applegate noted J’Nae’s overall improvement.

“She really brought a whole new energy to teaching,” said Applegate. “You can really tell the improvement in J’Nae, not only in dance but in life in general.”

Throughout the class Howard, and her fellow company members emphasized getting the dancers to express themselves while going across the floor. They provided valuable feedback and comfort to the University dancers.

“I didn’t expect company life to be so family oriented,” said Howard. “Much like SEMO, the community is very supportive and devoted to the artistry of dance.”

Howard was nervous to come back to her old alma mater at first, but once she was back, she knew it was just as she left it.

“I thought it was going to be weird to come back at first,” Howard said. “But I still feel a part of the Dance Department, and I am happy to reconnect with my old classmates.” Howard will likely return to support her old peers in upcoming dance concerts.