Friends and family of Jeanica Julce released clusters of white balloons into the darkening sky outside her former dance studio in Mattapan Thursday evening, following a tribute performance by her self-identified “dance family” five days after the 27-year-old’s death in a boat crash in Boston Harbor.
Julce, a Somerville resident, had been a member of dance group EnMotion Inc., which practices at UnKnown Hype Dance Studio, where the vigil was held, according to Cornelious Hood, the director of EnMotion and a friend of Julce’s.
“We’re going to miss her, so we want to show love to her dancers and her family,” Hood said. “This studio was her second home.”
Julce’s relatives are planning a second vigil at Castle Island from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Hood said a close friend and dance mentor to Julce had died in the years leading up to her death. Devastated by the loss, Julce had hoped to open her own dance studio in her friend’s memory — a dream cut short by the horrific crash.
Now, another of Julce’s friends and dance partners, Leon Shaw, said he wants to build on that dream and open a studio dedicated to Julce.
“In the future, I’m going to live on that dream that both her and I had. I’m going to open a dance studio and I’m probably going to name it after her,” Shaw said. “Sometimes you figure out what your purpose in life is in a certain moment, and it can take a situation like this to understand what your purpose is.”
Julce was aboard a private boat called “Make It Go Away” when it slammed into a navigational marker off Castle Island around 3:09 a.m. Saturday, throwing eight people into the water. She was the only fatality, officials said.
The crash remains under investigation by Boston police homicide detectives and Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office. No charges have been filed in the case, Boston police said Thursday evening.
Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Thursday, dancers performed to uptempo hip-hop songs at the studio for an audience of Julce’s friends and family.
After they finished dancing, friends and family filtered onto the sidewalk on Morton Street outside. They each held a white balloon in hand and chanted together, “Five, six, seven, eight — we love you!” before letting them drift away with the wind.
Many of Julce’s friends smiled and cheered watching the balloons drift away; others shed tears. They all clung to each other tightly.
Tyrone Perry, a friend Julce danced with, said her loss cuts deep.
“It feels very surreal being back here,” Perry said at the dance studio. “She’s basically the first person I met at the studio. When it comes to like, being in there, and she’s not going to be next to me, and she’s actually gone because she’s not here, there really aren’t any words to describe that.”
Shaw said Julce always brought people together.
“When we would hang out, she’d be like, ‘Let’s call this person, let’s call Tyrone, we’re hanging out tonight, let’s make some dance routines,’ ” Shaw said. “She always brought everyone together with her joyfulness, her happiness. She was never angry.”
Hood said he hopes people will remember Julce most for her “beautiful energy.”
“I’m going to miss her energy. Her spirit was amazing, just everything, she was such an amazing person,” Hood said. “I’m going to miss everything about her.”
Friends also continued to grapple with the mysterious circumstances surrounding Julce’s death.
“There are so many impossible thoughts to think,” Shaw said. “I just want to know why my friend didn’t come back, because we all had plans this summer, to go back to the studio, to finish what we started.
“From this point on, I can only continue what we started,” he said.