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Joshua Dias sees himself, one day, as a well-known choreographer who is sought out in the dance world for his skillset and vision.
It is a career path on which he took his first steps at just four years old, when he began practicing several dance genres. The path is continuing for Dias as a freshman at George Mason University, where he is majoring in dance.
But as eclectic as he is when it comes to his dance choices, Dias is the same when it comes to academics, as he also plans to graduate with a computer science certificate before eventually getting a degree in that as well.
“Mason is the right fit for me because the dance program is incredible and as professional as it gets,” said Dias, who is from Woodbridge, Virginia. “I have lots of friends that currently go to Mason who have been helping me along with the application and registration process, as well as giving me private tours around campus.”
Long before he applied to the university, Dias was already familiar with the Mason community, as two of his mentors, Kim Richi and Jamie Howes, are alumni from Mason’s School of Dance. Dias studied with Howes for four years and has taken a lot of her professional guidance and life lessons to heart.
“Ms. Howes has 100% prepared me for what lies ahead. Without her instruction, I would've been lost when it comes to modern dance,” Dias said.
Howes is currently the director of dance at Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School for Fine and Performing Arts in Prince William County. The dance program, which is going into its seventh year, is dedicated to preparing students for collegiate dance programs. It is also where she and Dias first met.
“I modeled it after the program that I experienced at Mason, but I’ve made it at a high school level as preparation for when they enter their college years,” Howes said. “My teaching philosophy has been to teach students what I wish I knew before going to college and I feel like Joshua already has a taste of Mason training through me. I’m so excited to watch him evolve.”
Howes, who graduated from Mason’s School of Dance in 2011, has danced professionally and utilizes her real-world experience in her teaching. “I performed in New York and booked an agent. I toured nationally and internationally,” she said. “I felt that, as a teacher, I needed to know how to do that part too.”
Howes is still heavily connected to Mason. She partners with the School of Dance as much as she can by bringing in current Mason students as guest choreographers to her classes. “I direct and develop the curriculum where we focus on ballet, modern, and jazz technique, as well as the dance history aspect,” Howes said.
Dias said that Howes also taught him “to never be in your comfort zone. Dance is weird, so if you feel like you look odd or are going too big, you're probably doing it right.”