Former Tulsan In 'The Color Purple'

Friday, January 23rd 2009, 9:52 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa's Performing Arts Center is awash in "The Color Purple" this week while the musical adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is in town.

The sold-out show is featuring some homegrown talent. Before Dameka Hayes shimmied her way into a spot in the dance ensemble, she learned to point and pirouette at Tulsa's June Runyon School of Ballet.

Debi Myers, a former student of June Runyon, runs the studio now. She said Dameka wasn't a typical ballerina.

"She was 19 when she started dancing," Debi Myers said. "And 4-foot-11, you know. A lot of people would have said the odds were against her, but I could see the talent."

"I think it was the one thing I had been encouraged in," Dameka Hayes said. "You know Miss Debi really encouraged me. And she said you know if you want this, you can do it. And I ran with it."

Ran, leapt and spun her way into a professional dancing career in only four years.

Dameka is in her second year of touring with "The Color Purple," singing and dancing in most of the major numbers, and acting as understudy to the character Squeak.

While in town, she stopped in at her old stomping grounds to celebrate a new beginning. The Runyon School is bringing its rich 75-year tradition to Cherry Street.

"I just really wanted to move back to midtown," Debi Myers said. "'Cause when I was studying, June Runyon had her studio at 16th and Madison not far from here, so it's like coming home."

Dameka's homecoming is punctuated with a lot of laughter and thoughts of those little girls in little tutus with big dreams and the teacher who helped her achieve hers.

"Anybody can do the same moves, but once you see someone's spirit come through -- that's what you're moved by, and this woman taught me that," Dameka Hayes said.

The June Runyon School of Ballet has turned out dozens of professional dancers who are performing all over the world.

On Saturday, the school is having a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Cherry Street location.