Baltimost: Donna Jacobs, founder and director of Morton Street Dance Center, Inc. 

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Image courtesy of Donna Jacobs.

Baltimost is a Baltimore Fishbowl feature series that asks locals what they love about their city. The idea is to celebrate Baltimore and the people who make it so unique.

So what makes Baltimore the Baltimost to you? It could be a favorite place, a great meal, a memorable interaction or something else entirely. Email suggestions to Karen at [email protected]

Donna Jacobs, 62, founder and director of Morton Street Dance Center, Inc. 

In her words: “I’ve been dancing since I was 2 and a half. I grew up in Queens, N.Y., and went to the Bernice Johnson Dance Studio and the New York School for the Performing Arts. I started teaching when I was in high school and I’ve been doing it ever since. 

The year I graduated high school a number black musicals–“The Wiz,” “Bubbling Brown Sugar” and more–were preparing to open on Broadway. Suddenly there were a lot of dance opportunities, but I decided to pursue my education. 

I went on to Wesleyan University and then to Georgetown University Law School. In 1981, I moved to Baltimore to join a major law firm; I practiced law for 15 years. I’m now senior vice president for Government, Regulatory Affairs and Community Health at the University of Maryland Medical System. But dance was always a part of me.

I opened the Morton Street Dance Center, Inc. in 1992. I was taking classes downtown when I realized that a ballet company had moved out and three studios were sitting empty. That was a Friday night. On Monday I went to see the landlord and signed a lease shortly thereafter. 

We started slowly. At first, classes were only on Saturdays, from 9 to 1. Now, they’re every day but Sunday. We train dancers ages three to 18 to prepare them to be professional, if that’s what they want.

I also manage our Full Circle Dance Company, which I founded in 2000 because there weren’t many opportunities for dancers who were highly trained. We have 17 dancers, some from as far away as Carroll County and Washington, D.C. 

Every year we do at least one major, full-length performance with six to eight new pieces.  It takes the better part of a year to put it together. We have to create each piece, note by note, and step by step. 

This year, the theme is “Refuge: Needing, Seeking, Finding.” It includes perspectives on immigration, refuge from strife, social isolation and more. The performances will be Nov. 16 and 17 at the Baltimore Theatre Project.  

Full Circle is about more than the aesthetic beauty of the dance. We create conversations that can be difficult, but are sometimes easier to accept when they are experienced through art. 

One thing I love about Baltimore is driving through different neighborhoods and admiring the beauty and the architecture. The side streets off Charles Street, near Loyola University and Notre Dame of Maryland University, are especially pleasing.”

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