From the football field to the dance studio: Kendell Mays

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Posted: May 13, 2015 | Written by Edith Noriega
FOOTBALL: Kendell Mays running onto the Wheelock Field along side the Tigers mascot and fellow teammates. Mays wore No. 84 in recognition for his role model and favorite player Randy Moss.

A normal day for a football player at Riverside City College typically begins by going to practice from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a break in between for classes.

They would then watch football film to study other teams, plays and concepts followed by a later practice in the evening.

A day in a dancer’s life at RCC would usually start by attending class early in the morning. Followed by working on homework, mixing music throughout the day, removing profanity from music and layering songs together. Finally going to rehearsal at 9 p.m. until very late into the night.

That is not just any typical day for a student athlete. This happened to be exactly what Kendell Mays, a 23-year-old student at RCC days consisted of.

Transitioning from football the world he once knew to dance.

Mays, born in Torrance Calif. began playing football at the age of five.

He moved to Riverside in 2006 and continued to play at John W. North High School as a wide receiver and defensive back.

After graduating in 2010 the idea of where to go to college really started to sink in.

After many thoughts Mays decided to attend RCC.

“My family is really close so staying home was the choice that I made instead of going off to a four year university across the country,” Mays said. “Staying local, getting my education and following my dream to be a football player from there was something that I choose to do.”

Mays attended RCC solely playing as a wide receiver for the Tigers football team.

With the help of a new head coach Tom Craft the team went from a losing team to a winning team almost overnight.

The Tigers swept the entire league in their 2010 and 2011 seasons and went on to defeat Saddleback 31-14 in the Golden State Bowl in 2011.

“We fought until the end,” Mays explained. “We were so into the euphoria we had no idea we would get rings. Football is very team oriented so the things I had to do for this ring it wasn’t just me. I credit everybody on the team the coaching staff, the equipment managers, to the players themselves.”

“I’m very proud of it I wear it all the time, it reminds me that I am still that football player at heart,” Mays added.

It wasn’t until Mays second year at RCC after football had ended for him collegiately did he begin to really think what he was going to do now.

HIP-HOP: Riverside City College student Kendell Mays strutting his best hip-hop moves to the sound of Beyoncé in professor Wynesha Garner Dance-31 class.

“I chose dance because of a best friend of mine,” Mays said. “One day he needed a ride to an audition to one of the first Celebrate Dance at RCC. He had told me that a friend of mine was auditioning as well so he kind of talked me into not only giving him a ride but auditioning as well.”

Prior to this audition he never had any dancing lessons. He did however find dance as another outlet he can use to express himself.

In the end he was chosen to be a part of two pieces.

“That was the jumping point from there and it has just escalated since,” Mays said.

From then on the transition from football to dance commenced with a dance appreciation class.

When he was learning about all the different types of genres and cultures in the dance class he decided he needed to take action.

“At first it was hard because they couldn’t believe that one of their football guys was just literally leaving the football field to go into the studio,” Mays said.

This is when he noticed who his true friends were and because of the path he decided to take he did lose a couple of so-called “friends.”

On the other hand his parents were more confused but later accepting.

Coming from a family who played football their entire life they were kind of taken back by it at first.

“It was a weird transition for everybody,” Mays expressed. “There was a point where I wanted to give up because I wasn’t getting their support that I felt that I needed. It was a very quick turn around because they saw it was something that I loved to do and very quickly they were on board with it.”

Mays, however still participates on a Sunday flag football league called Game Time Football as a wide receiver, defensive player and cornerback.

The teams consist of five players each from ages 17 to early 40’s.

Instead of playing the length of the field they play sideline to sideline.

“It’s a fun sport because I still keep that competitive edge that I grew up with so it keeps me on my toes,” Mays said.

After Mays was well into the transition process the actual physical work began.

“I found the battement were the hardest,” Mays stated. “In football we do a lot of squats and we learn how to tighten up our muscles and run really fast. In Ballet you have to learn how to be flexible where people can kick up their leg over their shoulder. I would barely go past a 45 degree angle.”

Battement, French for “beating” in Ballet, is an extension of the leg to the front, side or back, either repeatedly or as a single movement.

“The grand jeté came a lot easier because I had the jumping skills that were needed,” he said. “As far as flexibility, I had none. So that was the hardest thing I had to endure was become flexible enough to do the moves but once I did I felt myself getting a lot better at it.”

A grand jeté French for “thrown step” is a broad high leap with one leg stretched forward and the other stretched back.

One thing he did take with him that he learned in football to dance was a competitive mindset.

“I had no idea going into dance how it would be,” Mays said. “So bringing that same attitude and being able to think on my feet, keeping that same competitive attitude to want to get better to want to grow that really helped take me to the place that I am now with dance.”

Mays is also part of Elev8 Hip-Hop Crew a competitive dance group from Rancho Cucamonga started in 2012 by RCC dance instructor Wynesha Garner.

In the near future Mays hopes to teach dance internationally, choreographing for crews across the nation and dancing with people that he has dreamed of dancing with.

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