Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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Student Athlete of the Week: Assata Gaines
By Amanda Scurlock Sports Writer
Published July 1, 2021

Assata Gaines attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Courtesy Photo)

Assata Gaines, a graduating senior from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), earned a full scholarship to attend NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Gaines not only looks forward to studying dance at the university but is ready to take advantage of the many other disciplines that the Tisch School offers. She aspires to minor in producing and take acting classes.

“NYU gives you the opportunity to explore every aspect of the arts,” Gaines said. “Being able to have that experience will help me out in the future.”

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While at LACHSA, she took ballet, modern dance, jazz, and contemporary dance classes. During her senior year, Gaines began choreographing which helped her find a new side of herself. A proud moment was when Gaines completed her senior project. The assignment required her to work in several different avenues of the performing arts along with choreographing a routine.

“We were the creatives behind it completely,” Gaines said. “I made costumes and I recorded it and edited it and set up lighting and all that.”

She selected the classmates who would participate in her dance routine. One thing Gaines learned from her favorite teachers is how to create a space where she did not feel less than but was instructed in a proper way. She mentioned how she strived to be honest and transparent when trying to get her point across.

“I choreographed a piece and really made something that was authentically me 100 percent,” Gaines said. “I chose people who would make the environment happy and fun, but also really hardworking and focused.”

Gaines danced for the Debbie Allen Dance Academy for two years and works as a volunteer there (Courtesy photo)

Gaines, an Indiana native, had a love for dancing all her life and danced for the Dance Excel Studio in her youth. With them, she had her first performance and performed her first dance solo. A major production she did with Dance Excel was called “Spirit of the Baobab Tree.”

“It taught me a lot about dance itself, how I could be an artist and what it also meant to be a Black artist in dance … which was so powerful,” Gaines said. “It was my first time really understanding what a production was.”

Another life-changing event for Gaines was when she participated in Debbie Allen Dance Academy’s Summer Intensives. She learned almost every style of dance and participated in musical theatre. Her experience taught her that dance is a foundation art and she took that lesson with her as her dance career progressed.

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After watching “Fame High,” a documentary about LACHSA, Gaines dreamed of attending the high school. At the age of 10, her family moved to Los Angeles to help her pursue her dreams.

“When I needed someone’s opinion on what I was doing in dance, I can turn to my parents and they were honest and they gave constructive criticism,” Gaines said. “They push me to work hard when things are hard, and I didn’t want to go to class or practice.”

Auditioning for colleges was a challenge for Gaines and her classmates as virtual auditions were a new frontier. Gaines spent two weeks recording her own audition and editing her footage.

“Our class had to navigate auditioning for college in a completely different way with very little help,” she said. “It was a lot to take in, but we pulled through.”

Categories: High School | Sports
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