Person of the Week: Anjanee Bell

DURHAM Anjanee Bell's love of dance is something she shares with her students at Hillside High School in Durham where she works as a dance teacher.

She says it's all about opening students' eyes to the arts and showing them that they can succeed not only at dance but at life.

Bell doesn't remember life without dance.

"It's funny cause I always say I think was dancing in the womb and when we were growing up, I would always end up having fashion shows and dance performances in the bottom basement of our house," Bell said. "I mean it was a weekly thing for us."

Now, she and her students dance in a studio at Hillside where emotions become movement.

"Dance and art -- it's just that outlet," Bell explained. "It's the outlet that allows you to be free and especially in a time where you're expected to be a certain way and fit into this nice perfect box. It allows you to get out. It allows you to find that piece of yourself that nobody can take away."

In 2006, Bell started the Bellan Contemporary Dance Theater in Durham.

It's a place where her students, like Heather Lee, can keep dancing even after they graduate. Lee describes dance as therapy -- the way she expresses what she can't put into words.

She credit Bell with putting her on the right path.

"She was the first modern teacher I've had," Lee said. "Up until then, I kind of knew some stuff, but not really. Just what I've seen on TV and I could copy and then she came and it kind of opened up this new world of expression that I didn't really know. I was already very expressive, but then she came and it brought a whole new level to me."

Bellan is a community based dance company important at a time when many arts programs are being cut from local schools.

Bell believes dance has saved some students. "For a lot of them, I think it's the light," she explained. "It's a moment they may never have again, [but] I think that if it were not for dance they could easily be involved in activities that may not be productive and may not get them out of high school and for some of these kids... their goal is to get out of high school."

Bell uses dance to help students see much greater possibilities.

"If you can see it, you can do it," she said. "If you believe it you can do it and that you just have to keep pushing. You're going to fall. It's gonna hurt and you just have to get back up and keep trying."

If you would like to see the Bellan Contemporary Dance Theater, there is a performance at Durham's Carolina Theater at 8 p.m. Saturday, November 14.

For ticket information, click here.

To nominate someone for Eyewitness News Person of the Week, click here.

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