Waverly Fredericks was on the verge of quitting dance when Chanel DaSilva invited the LaGuardia Performing Arts High School freshman to audition for the inaugural cohort of Young Professionals. Standing 6-foot-2, he'd been told that he looked too awkward and was "too big" to be a dancer. "I didn't like having long limbs that stretched from here to there," Fredericks says. "So I stood in the back, too scared to dance full-out."
Nigel Campbell and Chanel DaSilva can't remember a time when they didn't have each other's backs. Ever since age 10, when DaSilva stood up to dance-studio bullies in Campbell's defense, their friendship has been one of mutual support, honest feedback and unending inspiration. Together, they thrived at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts, became Presidential Scholars in the Arts (even writing their winning essays about each other), graduated from The Juilliard School and went on to vibrant performing careers—DaSilva with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and Trey McIntyre Project, Campbell with Gibney Company and in Europe.
One fateful day in 2013, "ChaNigel" (as the pair has been known since LaGuardia) had an epiphany. DaSilva recalls: "We were talking about our lives in the dance field and asked ourselves, 'How did we get here?'" The answer, they agreed, was the army of mentors—including each other—who'd encouraged and advised them all the way. Then, Campbell says, "we realized we'd each been the only black person, or one of the only black people, in the room for most of our careers. Where was everybody else?!"
Photo by Rachel Papo