Oscar winner Ariana DeBose got her start in ENC

Oscar winner Ariana DeBose got her start in ENC
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 8:22 PM EDT

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) -Ariana Debose, who won an Academy Award Sunday night, got her dancing career started in eastern Carolina when she took lessons in New Bern.

DeBose, a Raleigh native, became the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award when she took home the best supporting actress trophy for her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.

She took dance lessons by Dorrie Lyden Benners years ago in New Bern.

Benners says she has taught hundreds of students during her 45 years of teaching and says Debose was one of the brightest.

Benners says, “Under my instruction, it was ballet, jazz, and tap. As she became more advanced, which happened rather rapidly, she started studying under some of my other instructors.”

Little did Benners know that DeBose would go from the small stage here to be on the national stage.

Showing a picture of DeBose taking lessons, Benners says, “This is the Ariana I knew, she used to call me mommy.”

So how did Benners feel to know that she taught an Oscar winner how to dance? When DeBose was announced as the winner Sunday night, Benners says, “Oh the joy. We just jumped out of our chair. We were cheering. We were so excited for her. She’s been doing so well throughout the award season, but an Oscar. We’re just so proud of her.”

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