When CJay Philip took the stage at the Tonys on June 16 to accept the excellence in theatre education award, she recalled her own learning path through the industry. In her speech, the Baltimore community arts coordinator and Broadway veteran thanked her peers for “the light that you’re shining on those who see the light in a young person and celebrate it.”

Proving that she is a theater educator through and through, she asked the hundreds of audience members on the national platform to follow her lead. “Now class, repeat after me: Let the light within you shine.” They listened.

In an interview Tuesday, Philip called the night “a full-circle moment.”

“New York was my teacher. Those mentors, those directors and choreographers were my teachers and my mentors, and I took that education really, really seriously,” Philip said.

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Philip is the founder and artistic director of Dance & Bmore, an ensemble and community organization with a mission to “create meaningful human connections through movement, music, and theater in communities with people of every age and stage of life for their social and emotional well being,” according to its website. The organization, which has its offices at Motor House in Station North, has programs ranging from dance to musical theater to spoken word poetry.

Lauren Erazo, who works with Philip as the director of operations for Dance & Bmore, said in an email that the founder is “constantly thinking of how we can meet the needs of others, whether it is on stage, on Zoom, in a class or just an email.”

For Philip, the excellence in education award further highlights her work as a teacher and a community member and reaffirms her sense of self as an artist.

“I think for me, it means a lot because I am an arts educator, and I am still a performer. I’m still a writer, I’m still a director and a choreographer,” she said. “I’m writing new shows now, but I also write new shows with education in mind.”

Before leaning into arts education as a way to make an impact, Philip climbed the ladder to being a Broadway performer, cultivating the skills that the Tonys recently recognized her for.

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Originally from Albany, New York, Philip found her passion for performing as a toddler, taking a liking to the dance class intended for her older sister. She eventually moved to New York City with dreams of becoming a dancer, but when she was later introduced to musical theater, she realized how prepared she was to thrive as a performing artist.

“When I started auditioning, it went pretty well for me. I didn’t get things I think for the first two or three months. But then after about three months, I started landing things and then after a few months after that I was like‚ ranking. Like I’d get called back 90 to 95% of the time,” Philip said.

Philip was a part of several Broadway productions, including dancing in “Big: The Musical,” assistant stage managing for “Street Corner Symphony” and working a five-year position as the dance captain for “Hairspray.” Despite her success, Philip wanted to do something that made her feel more connected to people.

“There came a point where I felt like I outgrew it. I was like, I’ve done a bunch of Broadway shows and I’m pretty sure I could do a bunch more. But it feels like just rinse, repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse, repeat. And do I want that to be the sum of my life, is that I did a bunch of Broadway shows? Especially when you start teaching and start seeing the impact that you can make on another human being that’s not just 2 1/2 hours of their life,” Philip said.

Philip’s Tony Award currently resides in her Baltimore office. (Ronica Edwards/The Baltimore Banner)

Philip found her passion for teaching as an artist coordinator doing Saturday programs with over 200 students and their families at an art school for kids in Manhattan’s Washington Heights.

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“I actually took a year off of performing to help to run that school. I had 40 volunteer teachers. And that’s when I learned that I had a knack for not only teaching myself, but also advising and instructing other teachers things that would connect to their students and engage their students,” she said.

During her transition from performer to teacher, Philip was on tour with “Legally Blonde” when she arrived in Baltimore in 2009. She launched the first Dance & Bmore program, the FazaFam Family Jams, to address the disconnect she noticed between young people and elders in the city and around the country. She settled in Baltimore, though, because she saw something in the city’s youth and arts culture.

The FazaFam, which pulls together families with children 5 to 12 years old for a “family strengthening program building bonds and memories through music, movement, and games,” remains one of several programs Dance & Bmore offers. The organization also has an elder arts and wellness program, which offers classes for folks 65 and older, or Bmore Broadway Live, for people 18 and older, which puts on “Broadway caliber” shows showcasing Baltimore talent.

“Working with her has expanded my vision for the communities we work with in Baltimore,” Erazo said. “She shines and shares her light with all those around her.”

Philip admires and connects to Baltimore’s openness to creative collaboration. The willingness to share ideas and networking is something she says New York is getting better at, but it’s not quite the same.

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“You can drown in New York. You can lose your shirt, your apartment, right? Because it’s just so expensive to play. It is pay to play in bigger cities. Whereas in Baltimore, you’re like, I got a nickel, you got a nickel, we can get a couple more nickels and make a quarter and put on a show,” Philip said.

She hopes to further educate the community, expanding the reach and impact of her programs and molding them to fit the needs of the people they serve.

“I could do that if I’m somewhere else,” Philip said. “But I feel like it’s just — it’s going real well and I love doing it here and this feels like home to me.”