CORNELIUS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Cornelius, North Carolina, is 618 miles from New York City.
Broadway might seem light years away, but Tenitra Oates of Precision Dance Center, also known as Miss T, prepares performers for the long haul.
“Alright, guys, let’s get to work!” she said, walking into a dance class full of youthful potential.
“I think some of them are actually ready, honestly,” Oates said.
Among those budding stars is teenager Mia Jeter, who wants to go far.
“I think everything is about dreaming big and being the best you can be,” said Jeter.
One of her role models is one of Miss T’s former students, TyNia Brandon, who lives the dream on Broadway.
“With the three “Ds” that [Miss T] taught me: dedication, determination, and discipline, I said, ‘Okay, I’m just going to go for it,’” Brandon told Queen City News.
She stars in the Tony Award-winning Some Like It Hot, which premiered last year on Broadway. Her previous credits include The Lion King and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Along with performing on stage, Brandon is part of the team of Associate Producers for Truth: A Bio-Fictional Choreopoem.
“Performing is the one place where I feel safest, it is the one place where I feel seen, and it is the one place where I can story tell,” said Brandon.
“It doesn’t matter what she’s doing, she’s excited,” Oates said. “That energy is coming out of her pores.”
She grew up in the Charlotte area. At Butler High School in Matthews, her talent wowed audiences in productions like Damn Yankees.
Later, Brandon won the title of Miss Queen City in 2013 and was a musical theater major at Catawba College.
“If I wanted to do this, I wanted to do it big,” she said. “I wanted to do it at the highest level that I could, and Broadway was that.”
We reunited TyNia with her biggest mentors via Zoom, Barbara Mager and Tenitra Oates.
“So I owe all of my dance training and performance pizazz to Miss T,” she said on the conference call.
Mager was Brandon’s theater teacher at Butler.
“She was a fearless teacher that led with some tough love, and I owe my theater career to her,” said Brandon. “She was the first person to tell me that theater was something I could do.”
“I wanted her to see the big picture of what else she could do,” Mager recalled. “And she has not proven me wrong.”
“And so I just thank you for letting me be part of your village, and you know I love you,” Oates said.
“I love you!” Brandon replied.
“And I’ll see you next week!” said Oates.
“Okay, ha-ha! Miss T’s coming to the show next week,” TyNia explained.
“Oh, you’ll be amazed. You’ll be so proud,” Mager told Oates.
As predicted, Miss T was beyond proud when she saw Some Like It Hot this summer, just as Mager beamed at a previous performance when she was in the crowd.
Brandon’s success gives students back home a blueprint for success.
“And I talk to her about what she’s been doing, and she’s encouraged me to continue my path,” said Jeter, the teen who shows a lot of promise.
TyNia’s encouragement makes Broadway feel more within reach than ever.
“Just go for it,” she said, sending a message to other aspiring kids. “I don’t believe there’s any such thing as failure, every misstep is just a lesson. And you just pick yourself up, and you just keep moving forward.”
TyNia Brandon’s story is a reminder that behind everyone living their dream on Broadway, an ensemble cast of supporters helped along the way.
That guidance is essential to the roadmap from Charlotte to New York City.