DeWitt Cooper lll is the co-founder and creative director of CooperMorgan Dance Theatre, Inc. With a passion for dance, quality, and enrichment he has helped to build onto Jacksonville's dance community through mentoring young dancers not only in their craft but in their educational pursuits. Cooper's long love for dance has grown to be stepping stones to success for others.
CooperMorgan has high expectations for their students and in exchange for being CM quality they provide professional training, guidance, and students leave their experience with CM fulfilled, experienced, and reaching their goals. CM seeks to not only be an example for their students but to the entire arts community through acknowledging leaders and nurturing future leaders.
If you ever meet Cooper you'll automatically notice his poise almost as if he is always in dance mode! It's easy to imagine that dance is always on his mind which makes for a valuable mentor. His love for the entire art community and his success in building a dance company is inspiring! His dedication to his craft and it's future in our local community leaves no room for failure. I can't wait to see what CooperMorgan Dance Theatre has in store for Jacksonville's dance community and to watch his young mentees lead locally and beyond!
How did the partnership with Savery Morgan grow into starting a dance theater together? What qualities do you each bring?
The partnership between Morgan and I began in 2005. Morgan and I were introduced to one another by the Director of Dance for the Lavilla department band, subsequently Michelle Ottley Fisher was a mentor to the two of us yet we had never met despite having conversations about each other via Fisher. The same day we met, we ended up team teaching a dance class and afterwards we ended up running into each other while out after class. By the end of the evening a brotherhood had formed and the partnership was inevitable so we decided that evening to begin Cooper and Morgan. Today, the organization is referred to as one name and that is CooperMorgan Dance Theatre, Inc.
When did you find your love for dance and what inspires you to continue and to mentor?
Many things made me fall in love with dance as a young child from dancing to VH1 and MTV music videos to an old 80’s dance movie called “Fast Forward “ produced by Sidney Poitier that I still own to this day. Today, what inspires me to continue mentoring young female and male dancers is their energy and spirit. I challenge my students to be their best and the most exciting thing for me to witness is them achieving their dreams despite their personal obstacles.
What has been your biggest challenge in this role and what have you learned?
The biggest challenge I have had in this role is realizing that not every child wants to be saved and as much as I would like for that to be different, it doesn’t always work the way I would like it to. Sometimes we have to loosen our grip and hope that the "mentees" will want and work for whatever they are after just as much as we want it for them.
Besides talent, what other qualities do you seek in "mentees" who are looking to be apart of Cooper & Morgan’s audition or invitation only program?
The CooperMorgan mentoring team CMsquared not only looks for strong talent but we also look at the promises and commitments the students have in other areas. Knowing their other commitments gives us an insight to their possible commitment or lack of commitment to our program. We look for honest desire and drive from our students. We take the time to interview the student and their parents which allows us to get to know not only the student but their immediate support.
As CM grows, do you all wish to add locations outside of Jacksonville? If so, where?
Currently our home base is in Jacksonville but we have already expanded to Tallahassee with our CooperMorgan Reach Program which is a two week summer dance intensive that takes place at Tallahassee Community College and is directed by Aurora Hansen. As CM mentoring grows we will eventually expand our vision to other cities.
How do you define success in what you do?
For me defining success is actively dreaming, putting in the work, and seeing it manifest. Success is constantly discovering aspects of your calling and not ignoring it no matter how difficult it gets. Success is being present!
What would you like to see happen in Jacksonville’s dance community?
I would love to see the dance community acknowledged just as much as our music community. Everything in the music community is acknowledged and has a large presence from singing to the symphony. Dance has a place in the city of Jacksonville! I would love to see dance organizations support one another. I'd also like to see that there's a professional dance company by us that has existed in Jacksonville for 14 years and does work of substance with sustainable value and that company is CooperMorgan Dance Theatre, Inc . We as a company not only nurture and teach young artists about the business but we are a company that honors unsung heroes in Jacksonville's arts community with our annual CooperMorgan Hall of Fame.
Photo by Michael Erdeyli
To learn more about CooperMorgan Dance Theatre and learn more about their events and programs please visit them at CooperMorganDance.com