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Omaha Magazine

Never Too Late/Never Too Soon

Dec 21, 2023 03:17PM ● By Christopher J. McLucas
Dancer Aaron Derell Gregory ac dance january february 2024

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Aaron Derell Gregory never thought he started dancing too soon. In fact, he wants people to know that it’s never too late to start moving. 

Whether young or old, Gregory, himself 34, brings his passion for dance to Omaha in multiple ways. He’s the founder of the Love to Groove Movement School, a community-based dance organization that provides classes and workshops in artistry, wellness, and fitness for all ages. He’s also the lead instructor at AP’s Legacy Dance Studio, which trains dancers to be both excellent performers and community leaders. Finally, as Omaha Performing Arts’ community engagement manager, Gregory works to broaden the organization’s community reach through diverse programming and partnerships.

Gregory, suffice to say, never sits still. He’s always dancing. He’s always moving. He’s always creating.

His love of the artistic medium began at age 16 when he discovered Hip Hop dance on TV and in film. “I did not know this was going to be the lane I was called to be in,” Gregory reflected. “Young men in dance need support. Boys dancing is an anomaly; there are ugly, archaic thoughts about it. I want to give space to boys dancing by creating an environment to foster their talent and create a brotherhood. We must dispel the lie that no one wants boys to dance.”

Gregory never lied to himself. “When I found dance, I realized I want to do that and teach for as long as I live,” he shared. Accordingly, he pursued technical training in ballet alongside both West African and modern dance at Spelman College via Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, and then earned his master's in dance education from NYU. He's taught Hip Hop dance internationally for the Alvin Ailey Arts in Education Program, 92nd Street Y, Global Dance Hub, the YMCA, Dance 411, and dozens of inner city schools. He’s also choreographed and performed nationally in the concert and commercial dance industries.

“After I got my masters, it opened my mind to performing and creating,” Gregory said. “At Morehouse, they tell us to strive to be tall enough to wear our crown of high expectations, and I’ve grown tall enough to wear it and shoulder the responsibility that comes with it.”

That responsibility means tireless work in the community.

“I’m a believer. I know God sent me home after a dark time in my life in 2019,” Gregory reflected, referring to his time away from Nebraska. “I’m thriving in my hometown and doing amazing work. I didn’t see this coming, I’m living out my dreams and uplifting Omaha’s Black community toward their dreams. I get to curate and connect to the community and show what is possible for the Black artists and professionals of Omaha.”

Gregory’s good friend, Raynessha Phillip, is thrilled with the focus he’s found. “He’s happy. I see it. He loves to do for others, he’s associated with so many organizations,” she said. “Prior to moving back home, he hesitated about what to do next in his journey, but seeing him transition to the lane he’s in right now, anyone can sense the happiness he’s in.” 

Phillip nonetheless does fret that Gregory takes on too much. “I do wish Aaron would take time for himself and give back to himself the way he gives back to others.” 

If Gregory won’t, the community will. He was named a fellow at the Union for Contemporary Art for 2023, a prestigious honor that allowed him to focus on his artistic expression. In November, Midlands Business Journal designated him as one of the “40 Under 40” in Omaha to watch.

Gregory is at times taken aback at where he’s landed. “When I moved back from New York, it was a dream that came true that I never would have expected,” he shared. “And I’m living it.”

Phillip isn’t surprised at the accolades Gregory has earned. “He’s a genuine person. It’s difficult to sum him up, he’s deserving of so much,” she said. “He’s like a candle—he could light 100 candles, and it wouldn’t diminish or take away anything from him.”

Illuminating others is what Gregory does, and he does so with his own inimitable, contagious joy.

“When I’m teaching classes, I get to shake my tail with my students. I’m always laughing from my gut,” Gregory shared. “It’s important to have joy in what you love, because passion is desire in overdrive, and if you don’t know how to sustain it, you’ll burn out. Don’t follow your heart, follow your spirit and keep peace at the forefront of what you do.” 

For more information about Aaron Derell Gregory, visit ltgmovementschool.com.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Omaha Magazine. To subscribe, click here. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

 

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