Laurel loves this quote because it encompasses her beliefs about the relationship of dance and life. “I believe life is a dance. Whether it is on stage or off, we should be dancing through each chapter of our lives. It is important to find balance, most importantly in our hearts and in our minds.”
“I dance to express myself and touch my inner and most high being. I dance to share my passions and to tell stories to others,” says Laurel. “When I dance, I try to connect with my fellow dancers as well as audience members. When I teach I am sharing what I have learned with others. In the future, I want the work that I create to make statements and be performed to benefit social causes.”
Please meet an extremely talented and creative artist and dancer:
Laurel is originally from Chicago and has been dancing for 20 years. She received a BA in Dance from Western Michigan University and has also trained at the Alvin Ailey School in New York City, Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago and Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, also in Chicago. Laurel prefers to supplement her dance training by working out at the gym and swimming whenever she can squeeze it in to her busy schedule.
Laurel is proficient in jazz, modern, ballet, contemporary ballet and lyrical dance. Her favorite dance style is Horton because this technique feels the most natural to her body. Laurel has had many people who have inspired her throughout her dance journey, but there are a few special people who stand out as mentors in her life who have had many years of personal accomplishments as well as inspiring influences on Laurel. These mentors, “Lisa Johnson-Willingham, Cleo Parker Robinson, and Milton Meyers have taught me countless lessons and encouraged me along my journey.”
Following her dance training at Western Michigan University, Laurel’s professional dance career began in Chicago. Soon after, she moved to Denver, Colorado to dance with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. There she found a home, and performed and toured with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble for 2 years.
Laurel Dancing with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble
Chicago, where Laurel still calls ‘home’, was the next stop on her professional dance voyage. In Chicago, Laurel has been a guest artist with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, the Chicago Sinfionetta and MPAACT Theatre Company. Laurel’s continued growth, drive and dedication in dance has now carried her to the stages in New York City. Laurel’s most recent performance was with Tableau Vivant of the Dellirium Constructions in New York. This was a performance art piece created by Sarah Small which was reviewed by the New York Times and submitted to Sundance Film Festival. Incredible accomplishments for the creator, Sarah Small, and all performers involved, including Laurel.
Laurel loves performing. Her favorite part about being a performer is getting to tell a story through her work and sharing her passion for dance with the audience. “In my best moments, the feelings of performing on stage can be euphoric,” Laurel says when asked about her passion for performing.
Laurel has already met many of her dance goals but still has more dreams to fulfill . She would love to join another professional dance company and tour again, dance in Broadway shows, continue to perform as a freelance dancer and teach dance to young and aspiring dancers. “I have achieved part of my dream already by dancing professionally and traveling all over to do so. I would love to someday soon perform on Broadway! It has always been my dream to share what I am passionate about with others and to make a living doing what I love to do. Broadway is another avenue where I feel I will be able to do so in a big way.”
Teaching dance is a great passion of Laurels. She has taught for the Alvin Ailey Dance Camp Chicago and as a guest teacher in residence with the Cleo Parker Dance Ensemble at several colleges such as Williams College and University of Utah. Her students have ranged from all ages and she has taught ballet, jazz and various modern techniques. Her choreography experience consists of creative movement and performance art pieces as well as entire works. Currently Laurel teaches for Fit for Life NYC. This teaching consists of dance instruction in public and charter schools throughout New York City. Teaching dance gives Laurel the wonderful opportunity to share her talent and passion for dance with others.
Even amidst all this love, commitment and passion for dance, the dancer’s life is not always what it seems. There are often many obstacles which can make the journey difficult and painful to pursue. Laurel talks about these obstacles and how she perseveres in order to help others who may be struggling in a similar situation.
“It is always a struggle to maintain yourself as a dancer, especially if you are not dancing full-time. I have struggled through rejections at auditions, to finding work, to moving to new cities and finding a support system. I have also had some injuries along the way and financial hardships. This is my first year living in New York, and it has not been easy. I have had to rely on faith and determination. It has been hard to stay encouraged, but as time goes on things get better and better. I try to always remember what I love about it. I sometimes have to take a break when I am overwhelmed. I look for inspiration outside of dance and apply my lessons to my thought process which ultimately gives me the strength to make it through and stay the course.”
Some of the Laurel’s inspiration outside of her dancing comes from her incredible talent in the visual arts. Laurel is a visual artist who loves to paint and sculpt. Her visual art impacts her dancing and vice versa. One highlight of Laurel’s visual art projects was producing a fundraiser for clean water systems in Sudan, Africa. Laurel exhibits her artwork and continues to generate projects that create social change.
When asked to give advice to dancers who seem to be following a similar path as hers in dance Laurel say, “Keep following your dreams and be determined. Know why you are doing what you are doing so that you can always stay true to your beliefs.”