Ava Fields: Uplifting the community through dance for 50 years

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Ava Denise Fields recalled the life-changing day that she went to the Howard Park Recreation Center in Baltimore.My sister was being given dance lessons,” recalled Fields. “I just loved to watch.

Then one day, while I was at the Howard Park Recreation Center, a lady asked me to help with the dancers. At the time, I didn’t realize I had choreography in me – it just came naturally.” Since that day in 1967, Fields has never stopped teaching others to dance. Fields is the founder and director of the Ava Fields Dance Company/Ministry, which she started in 1970. “I have always loved working with children,” said Fields.

“I have worked with hundreds of kids over the years. Some have gone on to perform with professional dance companies, have danced on Broadway, and to teach dance.”

Over the years, Fields who is affectionately called “Aunt Ava” by her students has taught dance through the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, churches, and numerous after-school programs.

“By teaching at so many different places, I drew a lot of kids,” said Fields. “They always wanted additional training, so my dance ministry grew and grew. I teach all types of dance styles, including Tap, Ballet, Modern, Jazz, African, Liturgical, Lyrical, and Hip Hop.”

Fields, 63, is a native of Baltimore, and attended Garrison Jr. High School, Forest Park High School, and Morgan State University. She received her training at the Peabody Institute of Maryland, American Dance Theater of New York, and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in New York.

Fields also served in the military for 17 years and retired as a Sgt. First Class.

“I went into the military at the age of 28 to take a break from dancing,” said Fields. “But I could never get away from dancing, because wherever I went, I found a dance class, or a class would find me. I thought I was going to do something else, but the Lord had other plans.”

She added, “Once I retired, I came right back teach to dance here in Baltimore. I brought back the physical training I learned in the military to my students.”

Fields currently teaches at Gwynn Oak United Methodist Church in Gwynn Oak on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at Mt. Olive United Methodist Church in Randallstown on Fridays.

“My job is to train my students and move them on to higher places,” said Fields. “It’s been very fulfilling. I get emotional sometimes when I watch my students perform. My former students still stay in contact, share their stories, and attend each other’s shows. We are a group of beautiful Christians that dance only to the glory of God.”

Dorothy Hunter’s three daughters Andrea, 26, Alyha, 20, and Arriane, 13, either have been taught, or are being taught by Fields.

“Andrea saw a performance and wanted to join, and she loved it,” said Hunter. “She went on to attend the Baltimore School for the Arts for dance through the TWIGS Program. Alyha started with the program when she was only three-years-old, and being in the program broke Arriane out of her shyness.”

Fields gives her students nicknames. Sarah, 12, whom Fields calls “Sarah Vaughn,” talked about the dance program.

“It’s been great,” said Sarah. “I used to be really shy. Now I’m not afraid to get up and perform.”

Joanna Owens, oversees the Dance Ministry at Mt. Olive United Methodist, and spearheaded bringing the Ava Fields Dance Company/Ministry to the church.

“It has been awesome,” said Owens. “It’s a wonderful experience. Ava has helped the dance group to grow. It’s easy because she is humble. She knows her stuff and she goes right to it. She can teach them a dance in two minutes. I am grateful that God brought us together.”

The fee to attend Fields’ dance class is $50 per month, and is open to anyone. For more information, call Sandra Hardy at 410-350-9411.