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Athlete’s feat: Maurice Mouzon transitions from sports to ballet
Charlotte Ballet dancer shows athleticism on stage
Published Wednesday, April 25, 2018 11:51 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Ballet and football have more in common than you think.

Charlotte Ballet dancer Maurice Mouzon grew up in Baltimore dancing at a local recreational center with friends for fun, but primarily focused on sports, playing defensive end and running back in football, as well as third base and pitcher in baseball.

Charlotte Ballet dancer Maurice Mouzon grew up with dreams of becoming a big-time athlete in his native Baltimore. He discovered a talent for dancing by emulating Michael Jackson and Usher, then repeating their moves in front of a television.

“I was mainly into sports,” Mouzon said.  “It was like, ‘oh my gosh, I am in a totally different world,’ because I build a lot of muscle easily. Especially playing football, it took me a very long time to lengthen out my muscles and just relax. I had to stretch a lot, and get a lot of work done on my calf muscles, because they were ridiculously tight, hence the foam roller” next to him in Charlotte Ballet’s lounge.

Mouzon, who has a solo in Charlotte Ballet's production of Spring Works April 26-28 at Knight Theater, is an accomplished dancer despite a motorcycle accident around age 10 that left him in a body cast for a month.

“I didn’t think I was going to walk, let alone dance,” Mouzon said. “I broke my femur. I didn’t understand the full body cast at first, but they said they needed everything to align perfectly, and they didn’t want me to be lopsided. My left side is still a bit longer than my right side. Sports and dance kept me going. In my head I was like, ‘I need to do this.’”  

Watching Michael Jackson and Usher as a kid, Mouzon danced in front of the television with a childlike animation aspiring to mimic their moves.

“I would think, ‘Ah-ha, I want to do this one day,’” he said. “I would hear ‘Baltimore Club Mix,’ and just start dancing and grooving to it.”

At the behest of his eighth grade social studies teacher, Mouzon entered into the world of dance.

“She found out that I was a dancer, and was like ‘can I see a few moves?’” he said. “I was shy too. I said, ‘no, I don’t want to perform in front of my peers,’ but they egged me on, so I just went for it.”

The teacher recommended Mouzon apply to Baltimore School for the Arts.

“At the time I was like, I’ve never heard of this school, and I don’t think I’m good enough for this,” he said. “She actually took the liberty to print me out and application, was like ‘fill it out and go.’”

Mouzon’s was completely out of his element at the audition in his white t-shirt and basketball shorts.

“When I got there, I realized I was completely out of my league,” he said. “I had braids too, and they were just hanging out everywhere. We went in, and they said, ‘stand at first position at the barre,’ and I was like, ‘what is first position? I don’t know what this is.’”

Two weeks later, Mouzon received his acceptance letter and spent four years training and studying the techniques of Vaganova, Horton and Limón. After graduating, Mouzon asked his teachers why they accepted him all those years ago.

“I had no training whatsoever, and they said ‘you had natural turnout, and you had great enthusiasm, and that was all we needed,’” Mouzon recalled. “From there, I took it and ran with it.”

Mouzon took extra classes through TWIGS, a free afterschool program for students in grades 2-8.

“I fell in love with ballet,” Mouzon said. “I did summer programs at Miami City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Alvin Ailey program.”

After a year at SUNY Purchase, Charlotte Ballet II offered Mouzon a contract.

“That was a big ‘wow’ moment for me, because I haven’t been dancing and, or training classically that long,” Mouzon said. “For me to get a second company contract from a ballet company, my freshman year of college, I was just like, ‘wow!’”

Those initial feelings of apprehension were met with promotion to the first company a month and a half into his time with Charlotte Ballet.

“I was hesitant at first,” Mouzon said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I think I need more training before I go here with these beautiful dancers.’ I would doubt myself, and feel like I wasn’t good enough at times. I got in my head a lot. I was like ‘I don’t belong here.’”

However, Mouzon’s audition for Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16,” convinced him “maybe I’m here for a reason.”

“Once I did my first performance with ‘Minus 16,’ while I was still with the second company, a month later, I was promoted to the first company,” he said. “I’m still in awe. I feel like I’ve improved miraculously over my last two years here.”   

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