GALA JUDGES

 

DeWitt Cooper III

DeWitt Cooper III holds an MFA in modern dance from Case Western Reserve University. DeWitt also studied musical theatre extensively at Florida State University where he was the first African American Male to be admitted to the program. During his time at Case Western Reserve University, he was nominated for the Wittke Undergraduate teaching award. In 2006, he was awarded the Okie Award by the La Villa School of the Arts for most inspiring Choreography. In 2007, his choreography was recognized at the Nuvo Dance Competition and in 2008 his choreography was awarded Platinum Awards at the Applause Talent Competition.

Mr. Cooper also set choreography for the production of Julius X for playwright, Al Letson at Players by the Sea. He has also set choreography for Dreamgirls and the FAMU Connection Tour at the Essential Theatre. DeWitt Cooper has also worked with Garth Fagan at the Summer Movement Institute where he trained intensively as a teacher and student under Garth Fagan and Natalie Cropper and set choreography for the Garth Fagan Summer Movement Institute final showcase. His professional dance experience includes Phlava Dance Company, Great Lakes Festival Ballet, and Verlezza Dance.

Mr. Cooper also continues his professional career in musical theatre. He has played the role of “Simon” in the Alhambra’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Other professional credits include: West Side Story, Anything Goes, She Loves Me, Ain’t Mis’ Behavin’, Once on this Island, and Black Nativity are just to name a few. He has sung for the Ann Reinking Doctoral Ceremony. His choreography continues to be recognized around the country.

Mr. Cooper is a faculty member of The Bolles School where he teaches theatre. He is also a former faculty member at La Villa and Douglas Anderson Schools of the Arts. Mr. Cooper was a full time employee for the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom where he was a cast member of Finding Nemo the Musical. He enjoys teaching and choreographing at the Jacksonville Centre of the Arts, where he serves as Artistic Director alongside executive director, Kezia Rolle.

Mr. Cooper recently was the recipient of the Players by the Sea 2018 Pelican Award for Outstanding Choreography in the production of “In the Heights”.

Candy Hodgkins

Candy Hodgkins, AKA Dr. H at Gateway where she is CEO, has another passion called Ballroom Dance.

She first stepped out on a ballroom floor for her first lesson in 2008. The lessons were a gift and while she tried not to accept, the instructor talked her into coming in to redeem her certificate. She was hooked after the second lesson and has not looked back since! Candy first competed in December 2008 after 2 months of lessons with her instructor and has competed every year since then as a Pro Am and AM AM all over the United States.  She has competed in all 4 styles of ballroom and is currently focusing on International Standard with her instructor and American Smooth with her amateur partner.

She has had the privilege of coaching with many different Ballroom champions throughout these 11 years and enjoys the process of drilling down to the basics of technique to enhance her dancing skills. Besides the thrill of learning, competing and performing in ballroom dance Candy most enjoys the wonderful friendships that have been born out of her passion for dance.

Norianne Wright

Norianne grew up in Jacksonville and began dancing at age ten.  Her training began at Mark Spivak’s Dance Institute where she studied ballet, jazz, modern, and character and performed with the school’s dance troupe the Character Dance Ensemble.  While attending Vanderbilt University, she joined the Nashville based modern dance company Nashville Dance Project and performed with the Vanderbilt Dance Group.  Although she loved Nashville, she missed her friends and family in Florida.  Upon her return home in 2000, she developed a love for ballroom and latin and began teaching, performing, and competing.  Returning to the studio where her love of dance began, Mark Spivak’s Dance Institute, she currently teaches all styles to all ages and choreographs award winning routines in both dance and fitness. She is thrilled to be judging the First Coast Dancing with the Stars event and to be able to support Beaches Fine Arts Series.