‘Who I AM: Journey to Freedom’

Charlotte Johnson

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Charlotte Johnson was not sure what her uncle Edward was thinking when he introduced her to the world of dance as a little girl, but she is glad he did.

At the tender age of seven, young Charlotte had no idea what the future held for her. She didn’t know how much dedication, determination, and perseverance she would need to realize her dream of becoming a dancer. She had no clue the criticism, negativity or days spent crying that would come along with training for the big stage and professional journey.

“Here I am today a woman that has encountered so many obstacles just to be able to embrace the stage,” said Johnson. “No matter the choreographer, choreography or character that I portray while on stage, I share who I am every time the curtain opens, and the stage lights come up.”

For Johnson, dance has become an outlet, a voice in which to share herself, to share her story, to share her life with the entire world.

“My journey in life as an African American, statuesque, mother and spiritual woman of God informs and influences my work as a dance artist today,” explained Johnson. “I knew very early on that I stood out from every other dancer around me and without realizing it, I embraced my differences and used them to enhance who I am as a performer.”

Johnson, a native of St. Pete, began her dance training attending The Academy of Ballet Arts. She went on to attend the rigorous Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, graduating in 2002. She continued her training at The Juilliard School, a private performing arts conservatory in New York City, graduating in 2006.

She appeared in productions by such renowned artists as Paul Taylor, José Limón, Ronald Brown, Ohad Naharin and more. Johnson also apprenticed with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company from 2007-08.

Johnson was featured in both the 2008 Puma commercial and print campaigns and worked as a freelance dancer for Ballet Noir and Trainor Dance in New York City. She returned to Florida in 2011 to teach full time at John Hopkins Middle School Center for The Arts and to start a family.

Dancing is a calling for Johnson. She has never been one to perform for entertainment purposes but to draw the audience in.  Her calling drives her to take the audience on a journey.

“I now believe that God’s purpose for giving me this gift of dance was to help move people. Not just for them to feel moved but to literally cause a movement, an actual shift in their own lives,” said averred. “This is my intention behind every creative process and performance opportunity.”

Johnson is clear that her purpose is to perform, teach and give back to her hometown and community with outreach, classes, workshops, conversations, collaborations, productions and performances.  This is where it all began.

In the summer of 2014, Johnson returned to the stage performing a duet in “Journey to Greatness” choreographed by Sir Brock Warren held at Studio@620. In 2016, she was featured in “Our Town” a walking dance tour in downtown St. Pete in a work called “Face the Jury.”

She was also featured in “Within the Bounding Line” (The Motherhood Project), which is a dance film both choreographed and produced by Helen Hansen-French.

Johnson’s professional choreographic and directorial debut will happen this Friday with “Who I AM: Journey to Freedom” at First Unity Spiritual Campus, 460 46th Ave. N, St. Petersburg. You can catch a second performance on Saturday; both shows start at 7:30 p.m.

To reach Dexter McCree, email dmccree@theweeklychallenger.com

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