Carolina Vibe dancer reminisces during “bittersweet” final show

By Jamey Cross

This was it.

Twelve years of practice. Twelve years of sweat and tears. Twelve years of passion.

Abby Britt’s 12 years of competition dance was coming to a close. She walked on stage and felt ready to dance with some of her closest friends for the last time. Trying to stop her emotions from overshadowing her performance, she took a calming breath.

Breathe in. Out. Dance.

Carolina Vibe, a contemporary dance group of about 30 young women at UNC-Chapel Hill, put on their spring showcase Saturday, March 30. The group worked on the number all year, perfecting and choreographing. It all came to life in Memorial Hall for hundreds of audience members.

Whispers filled the auditorium in the minutes before the lights lowered, signaling the recital was about to start.

Adorned in springtime dresses and collared shirts, friends, family members and dance fans came together for the performance. Store-bought flowers were sprinkled throughout the audience, ready to congratulate the dancers.

The support of friends

UNC-CH student Alexandra Smith rested a bundle of daisies in her lap. She was in the audience to support her friend and co-worker Hannah Snow.

Snow introduced Smith to Carolina Vibe, but Smith knew little about the group before meeting Snow at work. They work at the Target Starbucks on Franklin Street.

This was Smith’s first time attending one of the group’s showcases, and she was excited to see Snow dance. Snow is passionate about dance and uses it to work through her emotions and channel her creative energy, Smith said.

“She’s got such a bubbly, fun personality, so I’m really excited to see how that personality shows in her performance,” Smith said.

The curtain raised

Four silhouettes sat on stage. Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” blared through the auditorium. The stage was dark, but their figures were backlit. They began to dance. 

The team took the stage for a sultry routine, wearing white button-down dress shirts and black undergarments.

Song after song, more dancers joined the performance. Applause and shouts separated each routine — jazz, ballet, hip-hop.

Kelly Davis, a Carolina Vibe alumna, served as the master of ceremonies. Carolina Vibe is an organization that brings students together through dance, she said. The group hosts monthly social events for members to connect.

“These young women are truly very exceptional, and the bond they share through dance is powerful,” Davis said. “But also the friendships and support along the way make this group just really outstanding.”

Brandon Britt, Abby Britt’s father, sat with his wife and daughter, ready for the show to begin.

“I’m always excited to see her dance,” he said.

The last performance

But this performance is different, and he had thought about that simple fact on the hour-long drive from their hometown, Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. This would be Abby Britt’s last performance with the group she’d grown close with over her undergraduate career at UNC-CH.

“This showcase is a little more special since she’s a senior and this is kind of our last opportunity to see her dancing in a group,” Brandon Britt said.

Since she was 5 years old, Abby Britt danced competitively. She began dancing at a studio in her hometown. Through elementary and middle school, she took lessons, participating in recitals and some competition dances.

In high school, Abby Britt began taking dance seriously. She joined her high school dance team and found a larger studio. She danced competitively with both teams. When she came to UNC-CH in 2015, she knew she wanted to dance on campus so she could continue to grow as a dancer.

Carolina Vibe holds hour-long practices twice a week during the year. But as they get closer to a performance date, they add an hour to each practice. In four practices, the dancers learn an entire routine and move on to another. The group performed 21 routines at Saturday’s showcase.

After auditioning for a spot on the Carolina Vibe team four years ago, Abby Britt said there was one way to describe her final showcase: “It’s bittersweet.”

For the final group dance, the six graduating seniors took the stage one last time.

Dancers express their different styles

Abby Britt said the group’s president, Hailey Blair, had the idea to have each of the seniors perform a solo in the group dance. Each of the seniors performed her solo while her five teammates watched from the stage, arms intertwined.

“We all come from different dance backgrounds,” Abby Britt said. “And we wanted to show that and highlight that. We’re individuals, but we have all come together in this collective group.”

Abby Britt said the seniors had been on the Carolina Vibe team for at least three years, so they spent lots of time together. Getting to dance with them one final time was special to Abby Britt.

“We’re all just really proud of each other,” Abby Britt said

Abby Britt walked off the stage with her fellow dancers with nothing but pride in her heart. While her dance career was coming to an end, her connection with these women wouldn’t go anywhere.

“Dancers just have a unique bond that I can’t describe,” Abby Britt said. “We all just get each other, and that’s what’s kept me going.”

For four years, she’s grown as a dancer and woman with the support of her Carolina Vibe team. Abby Britt said that being able to share her passion for dance with others has been a blessing.

“As much as we are a team, we’re a family, too,” she said. “I’m very lucky to have been able to be a part of that.”

Edited by Victoria Young and Erica Johnson