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Pomona College Professor's New Dance Piece to Premier at Two California Festivals

While some professors might go to a lab or a computer to conduct research, Laurie Cameron does her research in a dance studio. As an associate professor in the Theatre and Dance Department and coordinator of Pomona's dance program, she spends most of her time when she's not teaching in the studio choreographing modern dance and studying movement.

In November, Cameron will premiere a new dance piece at two dance festivals in southern California: the SOLA Dance Festival in Torrance, November 7-8, and the Dance Spectrum LA Festival in Hollywood, November 22-23. Her company will consist of three Pomona graduates, Dan Senning ’00, Jerrad Roberts ’01, and Marla McClure ’00 (pictured at right).

Cameron's new piece, titled “blackbird whistling, or just after,” started purely from movement, she says. She was in the studio working, just playing around when the idea struck. After coming up with the basic movements, she started working with dancers. “Once I put the movement on the dancers and then looked at it, I started to realize that the movement suggested some birdlike elements.”

So, she left the studio and headed for the library to do some mining.

Cameron explains that while dance is primarily about movement, as a choreographer she will spend ample time in the library "mining," or collecting material to help develop a kernel of an idea to a flowing and vibrant dance. This time around, she drew from several literary sources, including a Wallace Stevens poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and a Persian epic poem called “Conference of the Birds.”

Once back in the studio, Cameron found that her research began to feed the dance movement. Though the title of the piece evokes images of birds in flight, Cameron explains that modern dance is not always literal. "Just as these literary sources are not pieces about birds specifically, my piece is not about birds either. Even though it has imagery that draws from those sources, the piece really draws from elements of human behavior.”

To put it simply, she says, “At some point in our lives, we all want to fly.”

Cameron gives a great deal of credit to the three Pomona graduates in her company. “They are doing this because they are incredibly impassioned and it’s what they want to do,” she says. Typically, as a choreographer, she relies on her dancers to perform her ideas, but with this piece, she explains that the dancers have invested themselves in the idea as well.

“They are all of professional caliber,” says Cameron. Senning, a biology major, and Roberts, a chemistry major, were both awarded scholarships to the prestigious American Dance Festival at Duke University last summer, and McClure, a psychology major, has been continually performing in musical theatre since graduating from Pomona.

In addition to the dancers, Cameron is working with other members of the Pomona community to bring this piece to life. She is collaborating with Los Angeles-based jazz drummer, David Hocker, to create the score for the piece, and the dancers’ costumes were designed by Sherry Linnell, chair of the Theatre and Dance Department.