“I had to make a choice in the fifth grade to not dance or dance, ” recalled Osceola Heard ’18. “And I couldn’t not dance.”
For Heard, dance has always been a constant. At three years old, he was already dancing West African and jazz, and started training professionally at age eleven.
In addition to training in dance, Heard began choreographing as a young child, making up dances in front of a mirror in his living room as his parents were preparing dinner. “Dinner and a show, that’s like our thing,” Heard described.
At Deerfield, he has been a member of the Advanced Dance Ensemble since 9th grade and has been featured in showcases as both a performer and a choreographer.
“He’s as strong a choreographer as he is a dancer and that’s remarkable,” described Dance Program Director Jennifer Whitcomb. She recalled touring him as a prospective student, They were walking through the Greer, past the senior boys table, when Heard — fourteen and 6’2” — executed a saut de chat leap. “He’s brave,” summed up Ms. Whitcomb.
Heard’s choreography finds its beginnings in the music itself. “I pick a song that speaks to me, that I can see going somewhere, and I kind of just dance around until I find something I like,” said Heard. He usually tries to come up with motifs and themes that express the storyline he is working towards. “Choreography has the power to impact someone emotionally… They can see what’s going on, they can feel it too… I figure that if I can create those movements, get someone there, then why wouldn’t I use that.”
Although Heard doesn’t classify himself as a hip hop dancer, he choreographed a piece in the style for the 2018 Student Choreography Showcase. Heard enjoys challenging himself. In that same showcase he also worked with two other dancers, Amelia Evans ’18 and Emmerson Stephens ’18, on a piece that, in the process, was completely scrapped three times before it was put onstage.
Communication, Heard understands, is key. “It’s important to be honest during rehearsals because if you don’t like it, the audience is going to sense that you don’t like it.”
According to Evans, “Working with [Heard] is easy and effective. He really listens to what other people have to say while still contributing what his thoughts are. He really does everything he can to push himself, and everybody around him, to be the best that they can be.”
Stephens, who has also danced in many of Heard’s pieces, agreed. “It’s challenging but rewarding,” she said, adding that Heard is his own artist and has a unique way of doing things, which allows his dancers to learn new movements and expand their own repertoire. Despite his playful personality, Stephens explained, Heard knows when to be serious, and has a knack for getting right down to business during rehearsals.
“There’s so much you could say to describe him, but at the same time it doesn’t do justice. … You know you’re just never going to find someone that’s like him.” Stephens expressed. “He’s Ossie.”
Heard cannot imagine his life without dance. In college, he will pursue a minor in dance, as a major in dance is too restrictive for the choreographic freedom Heard enjoys. Although he wants to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, he will definitely also be working in the studio, dancing and choreographing as a creative outlet.