Student Spotlight: Deshawn Garner

BY Ashley Mott, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The crowds are roaring in the stadium, screaming for a victory and being entertained by the Cavaliers Scream Team — Deshawn Garner takes his moves out onto center court for all to see. Standing side by side with his teammates, the beat drops, and he comes alive in an explosion of movement, as if he was born to perform.

Usually, this is the moment in a dream where people would wake up, wishing for a moment that it was true. However, this isn’t a dream anymore, but is a reality for the 25-year-old dance student at Cleveland State University. After years of dancing and auditioning, times of rejection and many practices, Garner has made the Scream Team, and he is living proof that goals can be achieved.

However, if you had told the high school junior that he once was, that he would be performing at Cavs games, he might have laughed. Never having danced before, Garner took to the stage and learned to dance in high school when he realized that he needed something good for his body. Improving became his goal, even if it was just baby steps of improvement. Eventually, he was featured during a pep rally as a dancer, and from then on, he never looked back.

Looking at where he started to where he is now, he as made leaps and bounds as a dancer and as a student. Garner’s background is in hip-hop where he can move with the best of them; however, that didn’t limit him at all. Jumping feet first into a whole new pool of flavor, he tried out some of the spicy Latin dances that a Spanish hip-hop crew on the west side of Cleveland were putting down. Garner learned everything from the salsa to the bachata and merengue, but he always kept his hip-hop background in the back of his mind.

As a Cleveland State Dance student, he has extended his knowledge of dance even further to include styles like modern, tap and jazz. He uses all of them in his performances with the Cleveland State Dance Company, the Scream Team and in his job entertaining kids.

His accomplishments are known widely on campus, as he was the face of the Cleveland State Dance Company poster last year for their performances. Although he is so widely known for being a great performer, he knows that he still has growing to do and happily takes on new challenges and mistakes.

“You might embarrass yourself, but if you laugh at yourself [then] it’s okay, because it makes everything more enjoyable,” Garner said with a smile.

For him, dance is about expression and about making people happy. In the dance department, there are two tracks, one of which he has chosen — “Dance in Community.” It is evident that he is on the right track with this choice because his end goal is to open a studio and give back to the community that he came from, after traveling and expanding his dance knowledge as much as he can, in order to give back the most that he can.

It is clear to see that Garner is proud of his community and wants to better it anyway possible. In fact he picked Cleveland State because it felt like home to him. With his mom on staff here at the university, and having so many memories attached to the city itself, he has made Cleveland his home and has made his intentions to give back known.

It is in this city where he learned that confidence comes with time, learning takes struggling and all good things come to those who work for it.  While his successes now are bountiful, there was once a time where he was discouraged and took a semester break from classes to find and re-evaluate what he wanted out of life.

Garner was not always a dance major. He originally entered Cleveland State as a graphic design major, but switched to dance when it was added as a major just a few years ago. Until then, he had been minoring in dance and had realized during his re-focusing period that it was the semesters where he went without any dance that his grades suffered the most. With that realization came the switch in majors when the opportunity presented itself. Now, he is on his last semester as a dance major at Cleveland State and is ready to graduate.

Garner expresses his gratitude toward all the professors here at the university for pushing him to succeed and do better each day, even when he was discouraged.

“It’s a process, and you are going to improve,” Garner said looking back on all that he has come through to get to this point. “Live in the moment. It’s okay to be awkward and feel like you’re not good enough, but you always are. Always stay strong and motivated, and you’ll be okay.”

With his goals stretched out before him, Garner knows that the person who inspires him to work as hard as he does, is his future self. This may be confusing for many, but not for him. The philosophy that if you strive for who you want to become, then you are almost certain to become that person, is one that he lives by whole-heartedly.

Succeeding in his field, making strides as a dancer and accomplishing big goals are only part of the reason Garner loves what he is doing. However, his biggest reason is because dance brings joy to those around him.

“Being able to look to your right and to your left and see a smile, that’s the best part about being a dancer,” Garner said with a twinkle of excitement in his eye.

It’s those moments with fellow artists that make all the extra practices worth it for him. The long days are a given in his chosen field. Sore muscles and tired bodies become a daily occurrence, but at the end of  each tiring day, a smile is what is left.

A smile for all the people who Garner was able to make happy, even if it was just for a moment. A smile because any pain that the days before had is now gone, replaced with a feel-good moment that is tangible everywhere.

“I love dancing because it lets me express myself without words,” Garner said with a look of excitement on his face. “It takes away your pain. It takes away your stress. You just feel good in that moment, and you don’t have to worry about anything else.”

After talking with Garner, it is clear to see that he is in the right field. Striving for his future self, he will continue to make strides after graduation and looks forward to every step of his journey.

Originally Published on The Cauldron.

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