A member of the Hope Stone dance company, JoDee Engle hopes for three things when she's onstage. "I hope, number one, that I don't fall, " she laughs. "And I hope that people see me as being honest onstage. I think that's the biggest thing. I really strive to be honest when I'm dancing.
"And I hope that the audience leaves with some positive impression of Hope Stone, that they leave excited and anxious for the next show. I hope that people can't wait to see what we do next."
A native Houstonian, Engle started in dance classes when she was four years old. "I got the bug right away," she says. She attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, then went on to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she got a degree in dance. "I got a little burned out after college and decided to come home and take a break. I got a job with Sandra Organ and got a job teaching at HSPVA, and things just kinda fell into place."
Engle met her husband, Gregg, when they were both performing in a Houston Grand Opera production. The couple has two young daughters, a three-year-old and a six-year-old. Engle joined Hope Stone in 2006.
What She Does: "When somebody asks me what I do, my first answer is always that I dance. Then, if they have more time, I go into all the other things. Along with dancing for [Hope Stone], I'm also company manager, which means I'm sort of a liaison between company and [Artistic Director] Jane [Weiner], and I'm rehearsal director as well.
"I'm also a mom. I have two daughters, and when I'm not dancing, that's my other full-full-full-time job. They've grown up at Hope Stone. I was pregnant with my youngest back in 2009 when we were in rehearsals for Village of Waltz. I was still in rehearsals for that up to a week before she was born. Somehow I managed to get back up onstage eight weeks later when we performed that."
Why She Likes It: "I heard a quote a long time ago, and it stuck with me because it's so true. Dancing is one of the only jobs where you can use your body, your mind and your soul all at the same time. It's so cathartic. I turn into such a grumpy person if I don't get to do it for a while. When Hope Stone's on break, my husband will ask me, 'When is Hope Stone going back to rehearsals?' He's a former dancer, so he understands that need."
Engle performs modern dance, most of which is abstract with no linear narrative. "I like it because I can put my own spin on it, my own interpretation. When you get to be a little more linear, there's not so much room for putting your own interpretation into a piece. It's given to you a certain way and it's meant to be done that way. With this, you can put your own personality into it.
"Onstage, it's a time to play. I'm thinking, 'How can I play with the movement? How can I make the movement a little more rich? How can I take this step a little bit farther?' You have to keep the movement there, but it's a time to play and I really enjoy that."
What Inspires Her: "I like to people-watch. That inspires me. I like to watch how people interact with each other, to watch their body language. I don't get to do it as much anymore, but I love to sit in a mall and people-watch."
What does she do to pull herself out of the dumps? "I go to my kids and my husband. I need hugs. I wrap myself in my family."
If Not This, Then What: "It's hard to say; I wonder that myself sometimes, but I try not to think about it too much," she laughs. "It's hard to imagine my life without dance.
"But I've always wanted to go and take a culinary course. I love to cook. One thing I know, if I wasn't dancing, I'd be at home with my children a lot more."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I'd probably be in California. My husband's from there and his family is still there. I know he misses it a lot -- especially the weather!"
What's Next: Engle will be performing in Lemonade Stand -- WRECK-WE-UMMM. Set to Mozart's Requiem, the show kicks off Hope Stone's new season and includes performances by members of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company; Mercury's Ana Trevino-Godfrey and Jonathon Godfrey; actors Justin Doran, Troy Schultz, Susan Blair and Bonnie Collins; puppeteer Kevin Taylor; and Houston Ballet dancers Melody Mennite, Connor Walsh, Kelly Myernick, Melissa Hough, Harper Watters, Samantha Lynch and Charles-louis Yoshiyama.
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See WRECK-WE-UMMM at 8 p.m. through August 11 at the Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston. For information, visit the company's website or call 713-526-1907. $20.
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