Dance captain

Christine Jenkins, captain of the dance squad at Howard University and a graduate of Mt. Hebron High School, poses for a portrait with her parents, Herb and Edie. (Noah Scialom, Patuxent Publishing / November 16, 2012)

Christine Jenkins, whose family moved to Ellicott City from Woodlawn when she was in third grade, was a standout basketball player as a young girl, playing on several travel teams.

But she injured her knee during a game while in eighth grade, had surgery the following year and never played organized basketball again.

Instead, she focused on dancing.

And the world of student dance teams is forever thankful she did.

Jenkins was the only freshman to make the dance team at Mt. Hebron, a feat she repeated in the fall of 2009 at Howard University, in the nation's capital.

Now a senior at Howard, the 5-foot-6 Jenkins is the captain of the "Ooh La La" dance line, part of the "Showtime" marching band and president of the school's band sorority.

She was recently named the "most technically trained HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) captain by http://www.bandhead.org, a website that follows marching bands at historically black colleges, and this month was featured in the Baltimore edition of the Afro-American News.

John Newson, the director of band at Howard University, said Jenkins is committed to her craft.

"She works hard and she is a perfectionist. That is the main thing," said Newson, the director for 26 years. "Her goal is to be the best. That not only reflects in her but the whole dance line. She made the team as a freshman and has excelled ever since. I can see how she got that honor" from http://www.bandhead.org.

"We never had the publicity we deserved," Jenkins said. "Now we are getting all of this publicity. We are the best in the MEAC (the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, of which Howard is a member)."

The Howard dance team performs at every home football game, as well as most road games and other events, such as home basketball games. The atmosphere at halftime of Bison home football games at Greene Stadium, just off Georgia Avenue, is electric on fall Saturday afternoons, and Jenkins and the dance team are among the reasons.

The marching band is a big deal at many college and universities and that is certainly the case at Howard, which competes against other HBCU schools in the MEAC. "It is so intense. We have humongous rivalries," said Jenkins.

When the Bison hosted rival Hampton on Nov. 3, the band from each school had several minutes to dazzle the crowd on a chilly, windy day.

"I could not feel my feet," Jenkins said of that game. Howard ended its football regular-season at home Nov. 17 against Delaware State on Senior Day.

The visiting band also gets to perform, and each unit tries to out-do the other. Sometimes the best performance at Howard football games comes at halftime when the bands battle each other, though this year, the Bison had a winning season on the gridiron as well.

"I have to choose the songs we have to do and arrange them how we want to do them. That is what I do. I have to delegate who is doing what and choreograph the formations," Jenkins said. "I am nothing without my team. I make sure I communication with the band director and drum major."

An early start

Jenkins got an early start with dance.

"I started dancing when I was (young) and I just never stopped," Jenkins said.

Her father, Herbert, said she was 4 when she began taking lessons at the Flair Studio of Dance in Catonsville and Baltimore. The elder Jenkins had sisters who were involved in dance.