Jazz Alumnus James (Washington) Manning Appointed Chair of Dance at Pittsburgh CAPA Alumni Profile
Meet James (Washington) Manning
- Job Title & Employer
- Dance Department Chair, Pittsburgh CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts)
- Dance (jazz)
- College Activities
- Dance Club
- Ontario, N.Y.
- High School
- James A. Beneway High School
- Now Living In
- Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Hobbies & Interests
- Time with family, podcasts, the beach
"Mr. Manning is an extraordinary addition to the CAPA community. As the chair of our Dance Department, he has worked to reimagine our curriculum to provide dancers with high-quality arts instruction rooted in a superior seven-year course of study that blends performance with purpose. His teaching philosophy is rooted in putting students at the core of all that he does, and this is evident inside and outside the classroom. The positive relationships he builds with our dancers and their families is invaluable. During these challenging times, he has supported students to rethink how dance and space can be sources of inspiration. Students are encouraged to self-advocate and incorporate their personal experiences into their work. This approach has allowed our dancers to showcase dance in the virtual setting with immense passion and pride."
"The Conservatory of Performing Arts schedule and rigor allowed me to feel prepared to enter the professional field; the versatility and class offerings played a huge part in that. As a student, you are treated and training like a professional dancer ... Point Park continues to produce exceptional talent in a city that has a vibrant arts community — including concert dance, musical theatre, film and television and plenty of teaching opportunities."
How did your Point Park University experience prepare you for professional success?
Point Park University allowed me to create the foundation for my career. The training, connections and relationships built have helped with every step along the way. The friendships and connections I established in Pittsburgh have been extremely helpful within my career.
Briefly highlight your career path.
- Founding member: August Wilson Dance Ensemble (Named Dance Magazine's "Top 25 to Watch")
- Guest artist/dancer: The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Owen/Cox Dance Group, Ballet INC
- Musical theatre/performance credits: West Side Story (Tony Award-winning, Paper Mill Playhouse), In The Heights and Newsies (Pittsburgh CLO), In The Heights (Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center), Dance Lab New York
- Choreography credits: Lifetime, Netflix, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (graduate students), MET too Youth Company, Cleveland School of the Arts, Slippery Rock University, as well as dance studios and pre-professional programs across the country
- Former faculty: Revel Dance Convention, dance department lead, Westinghouse Arts Academy
- Union member: Actors' Equity Association
- Dancer/educator/choreographer: MSA Agency (signed talent)
- Created: Next Level, virtual mentorship program
- Outstanding achievement in dance: Brazzy Award-winner
You recently accepted the position as chair of dance at Pittsburgh CAPA. Tell us about your responsibilities.
As the dance department chair, I oversee grades 6-12 alongside a fabulous team of four other educators (including Point Park alums Denise Azzari, Tanya Garcia and Kaylin Horgan). My goal as chair is to help students develop their craft and gather the tools necessary for a career in the performing arts.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Entering during an all-virtual setting has had its challenges, but during this time I have learned that anything is possible. With dance, I created a streamlined schedule where students are still receiving all of their technique classes, introduced two dance academic courses, hold accountability check-ins with faculty as well as launched our virtual masterclass series. Allowing students to learn and grow, and be exposed to working artists and professionals is very important. I enjoy seeing the growth, development and passion from students.
What do you believe sets Point Park’s Conservatory of Performing Arts apart from other universities?
The schedule and rigor allowed me to feel prepared to enter the professional field; the versatility and class offerings played a huge part in that. As a student, you are treated and training like a professional dancer. I continue to say that the connections and relationships built in Pittsburgh have had a major impact on each step of my career. Point Park continues to produce exceptional talent in a city that has a vibrant arts community — including concert dance, musical theatre, film, television and plenty of teaching opportunities. I am thankful for each professor and mentor I had a Point Park, who all seemed to become more like family. As the program continues to grow, I am proud to see the progress and the remarkable opportunities being offered to the current students.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I chose Point Park after attending International Summer Dance. I broke my foot during my senior year of high school, and luckily my audition at Point Park was three weeks prior to my injury. Seemed to all be fate!