Before she founded a dance school in Randallstown, Adrienne Watson Carver was herself a student at Hampton University, one of the United States’ best-known historically Black institutions. In 1990, she became the captain of Ebony Fire, the official dance team of the school’s marching band, The Force. Her immersion in HBCU band and dance culture informs the way she works with the elementary-to-high-school-aged children, about 95 percent of whom she says are black, who take classes at her Studio “A” Modeling, Etiquette & Dance Academy.
“We are pushing students to consider enrolling in HBCUs,” she said. “Not only because of the academic experience, where you are encouraged to strive for excellence and be a leader, but also because of the bands, sororities, fraternities, organizations and leadership programs that focus specifically on African Americans.”
The Baltimore area native shares this love of HBCUs and dance with music superstar Beyoncé, who featured Carver’s teenage daughter Aarin and the studio’s hip hop competition team’s #beforeiletgochallenge video on her Instagram story May 14. This marks at least the second time that the artist featured a Baltimore-area group’s submission, after sharing a clip from the Vibe Dance Team at Towson University on May 9.
Beyoncé invites fans to submit videos of themselves dancing to her rendition of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go,” with a chance to be featured on her Instagram.
“About two weeks prior to us getting posted, my daughter says, ‘tonight, we’re choreographing this dance, mommy,’” Carver said. “I helped fine-tune it, but my daughter really choreographed the dance.”
The pair taught the routine to the aforementioned team, which competes at dance contests around the area, in one rehearsal before recording it by the Randallstown facility (Studio “A” also operates a second space on Orchard Tree Lane) and posting it to Instagram on May 9. Beyoncé shared the video soon afterward.
For Carver, who launched Studio “A” in 2000, the Queen’s endorsement offered some new attention on her school. She said that 800 to 900 of the more than 3,000 Instagram views came the same day of the posting. Offline, parents were calling and coming to the studio asking, “Is it true? Is it true? Did Beyoncé repost [you] on Instagram?”
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She added that about 70 girls tried out for one of her dance competition teams last weekend, including roughly 20 new faces that she believed came after seeing the video. Studio “A” isn’t hurting for the spotlight — Carver coached Deshauna Barber there before she won the 2016 Miss USA pageant — but Beyoncé’s post did give the academy some “major buzz” that encouraged the students even more, Carver said.
Beyoncé’s cover of “Before I Let Go” appears on the album accompanying “Homecoming,” her recent Netflix documentary that captures her headlining performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2018. Her set commemorated the pageantry of historically black schools like Hampton, where Carver took her daughter to the school’s homecoming last year. She and her husband have also awarded nearly $450,000 in scholarships through the studio’s namesake foundation and Cotillion/Beautillion program. She encourages those recipients to consider HBCUs for both scholastic and social offerings that they won’t otherwise find.
“[HBCU programs] make sure they know that they were born to be leaders, that it is in them, that they are capable and that they have a whole legacy of African Americans that came before them, that set the foundation and made it [possible] to stand on their shoulders,” she said.
Much of Beyoncé’s creative acclaim revolves around her exploration of black womanhood, which Carver said is a huge reason why she incorporates the artist into her academy’s programs.
“It is my goal to make sure not only my daughter, but every young person that walks through Studio ‘A’s’ doors, [knows] that there are a lot of African-American women changing the world on a daily basis, making a difference in their communities, bringing music, entertainment, intellect and social change — everything that you could dream of that you’d like to see a significant person do, Black women are doing it,” she said.
See her dancers’ full #beforeiletgochallenge on YouTube and learn more about Studio “A” when it hosts its 19th annual dance recital on Sunday, June 9 at the Murphy Fine Arts Center — on the campus of another storied HBCU, Morgan State University.