By day, Jackie Robinson Foundation/MLB Scholar Karissa Royster (seen above) is a student at New York University studying politics. But by night, the sophomore from San Antonio, Texas expresses her passions through the syncopated rhythms of tap dancing. "Dance is a nice escape from my academic studies," said Karissa. "It's great to have that balance of doing school-related things and having that artistic side."
Karissa began dancing when she was six years old but focused on tap when she was 12. "What attracted me to tap dance was the history and culture behind the art form," she explained. Royster studied under some of the greats in tap dance including the late Dr. Harold "Stumpy" Cromer who was one half of the popular duo, Stump and Stumpy. Dr. Cromer was famous not only for his teaching, which he did well into his 90's, but in a male dominated profession, Dr. Cromer was also an advocate for female tappers.
After studying with Dr. Cromer, Karissa turned her sites on performing. She got a role in the show, Rhythm is Our Business, produced by the American Tap Dance Foundation and choreographed by Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Sumbry-Edwards is now on Broadway in the musical revue "After Midnight" starring award-winning artist Fantasia. Through her work with Sumbry-Edwards, Karissa was invited to dance at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem.
Karissa only appears at the Cotton Club one night a week. On the other evenings, she manages to fit in a dance class or two and of course there are her college classes. Despite her busy schedule, Karissa maintained a 3.5 GPA in her freshmen year and she expects to do the same or better this semester. While dance will always be in her life, Karissa is interested in education reform. She credits JRF’s Mentoring and Leadership Development Program in helping her to broaden her horizons as well as organize her life to achieve her goals.
"Through the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF), I have met so many Scholars and alumni who are doing so many amazing things that it has motivated me and helped me to move forward," said Karissa.
At JRF, we hope to always be “in step” with Karissa and are tremendously proud of her and her incredible accomplishments!