Expose' exposed by local center
By By James Crawford
Keeping kids interested in something can sometimes be a challenge, but not for LaShonda Marshall. Her Expose' dance group is comprised of dedicated young women who show up on time, work hard at their dance steps and don't slack off. If you're part of her program it's expected. Marshall won't have it any other way.
A native of Atmore, Marshall graduated from Escambia County High School in 1990 and Stillman University in Tuscaloosa in 1994. She currently works as bookkeeper at ECHS during the day and teaches step dancing at night at the Atmore Family Life Center.
According to Marshall, step dancing, the art of slapping or hitting parts of your body to make sound, began during the days of slavery, when formal music groups were limited.
"Step originally started during the slave days. They would do it during meetings and gatherings and it developed into a form of music," said Marshall.
Even though she took a desk job at the high school, her love of dance and music couldn't be contained. She began to help the cheerleading squads after school where she met Tonya Grissett and her mother Yvonne. The elder Grissett saw the value of putting together a talented dance instructor with a group of girls who have nothing but time on their hands and together they set out to start a dance group.
Marshall had originally wanted to partner with the school to start the club but the offer from Grissett came to put a dance program in the Atmore Family Life Center. Grissett wrote the program and the first group of girls was launched began in September of 2000 with 14 very willing students. Her current group is comprised of 34 members, primarily from ECHS.
The name Expose' came from a trip to New Orleans. "I went to a music festival in New Orleans and all these people were showcasing their music and I thought of it as an expose' of music and that's where the name came from," said Marshall.
With the name intact, Marshall set out to combine her three favorite passions, dance, choreography, and helping kids into a winning program.
"I love all kinds of music as long as it's clean and all kinds of choreography. We don't stick to just one thing," said Marshall. "The girls learn to act as one here. You have to have etiquette to work as a team. All of them take ownership of everything they do. It has to be positive or you have to go. I won't tolerate it, they have to have a positive attitude."
The first Expose' group was so well received that Marshall branched out to younger girls and started a step program just for them. Little Expose' began under a partnership grant between Marshall, Atmore Family Life Center and the Escambia County Board of Education.
The group is now comprised of about 20 elementary and middle school aged children from Rachel Patterson, A.C. Moore, and Escambia County Middle School.
"I create everything: the music, the steps, and the choreography. Everything comes from me. We don't use anyone 's material," said Marshall.
A majority of Marshall's students are honor students and are heavily involved in church. They each have a routine that Marshall makes them adhere to daily. "I make sure they walk first. Then dance some and then step. You can't just jump up and start; you have to know how to breathe. It's 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration."
The group practices Monday-Friday, from 4-6 p.m. at the Atmore Family Life Center in the old middle school on Martin Luther King Boulevard and occasionally at the ECHS.