United in Dance
"I had no idea what I was in for. There were so many amazing performances and classes to observe."
-Patrick Moore, Lundstrum performing arts faculty
Theater and dance are art forms best experienced in community. This January, Lundstrum Performing Arts faculty and choreographer Patrick Moore attended the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) Conference in Los Angeles. He gathered with leading performers, choreographers and advocates of black dance.
Patrick, a dancer of 35+ years, teaches and choreographs Lundstrum’s hip hop classes. He also teaches adult tap and Boys Performing Arts workshop, as well as special projects. His own career as a dancer and choreographer started with youth outreach; that's what brought him to the conference this year.
His childhood instructor, Theodore Jamison, was honored at this year’s IABD conference. Jamison is the former program director for Southern Illinois University’s Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Katherine Dunham Center for the Performing Arts). Patrick said, “I attended the conference to see Theodore. I had no idea what I was in for. There were so many amazing performances and classes to observe.”
Patrick recalls, “[Jamison] found me when I was 14 years old in an after school program. He came in to direct a show called The Wiz. There were about 50 of us at the audition. I learned afterward that every child there was given a full scholarship to study dance at a performing arts school by the name of… The Katherine Dunham Center for the Performing Arts.”
Patrick was thrilled to witness one of his mentors being honored. “Theo is one of the main reasons I stayed on track. He showed me how to be a real artist,” Patrick said.
The conference, now in its 30th year, is an opportunity for dancers in all stages of their artistic journey to gather in community. “The purpose of the conference is to collaborate,” Patrick explained, “All these different companies come together and join as one to showcase and take various classes––jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern. It was amazing.” The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, Philadanco Dance Company, Dallas Black Dance, Deeply Rooted, and Lula Washington were just a few of the prestigious companies that participated, as well as artistic leaders from Minnesota’s own Tu Dance.
" Patrick is an incredible artist, and this type of experience really infuses new energy and ideas into Lundstrum classes."
-amy casserly ellis, executive director
As an international event, the IABD conference is open to all people. Patrick was excited to see people from all over the world celebrating dance. “Seeing so many nationalities participating,” he explained was a particular highlight, “It was international. It was being held and sponsored by African Americans, but all are welcome to come.”
The conference brings together top-tier talents. Modern dancer and choreographer Donald McKayle was the conference’s featured honoree this year, recognizing a long career of socially conscious work that spans stage, film and television and highlights the black experience in America. Patrick met Debbie Allen, “Queen of Swing,” Norma G. Miller and tap dancer Chester Whitmore, a protege of the Nicholas Brothers.
He even uncovered a personal connection with Lundstrum Performing Arts. After chatting with a woman who had been a dancer in New York, Patrick discovered she had danced with Lundstrum Executive Director, Amy Casserly Ellis. Patrick immediately called Amy and the two were able to catch up for the first time in over a decade.
There was no shortage of personal connections for Patrick at the conference. Besides Theodore Jamison, he also caught up with another former teacher from the Dunham Center, Andrea Smythe, who has attended the conference for the last eight years, as well as performed.
In a phone interview, Smythe spoke about her favorite parts of the conference. “I always enjoy the youth concerts. I enjoy the lectures,” she said, “This is the first time they’ve offered the Dunham lecture. It was a pleasure to do that.”
The conference, which changes host cities every year, is a multi-generational event and gave Patrick the chance to see some of his former students. In addition to Minneapolis, Patrick has also taught in St. Louis, and many of his students now live in Los Angeles. “Facebook is wonderful. A lot of the students I trained back in the day, noticed I was in California for the conference,” Patrick said, “and they contacted me. Some of them I hadn’t seen in years.”
The chance to speak with so many legends of dance, while connecting with his own students was a touching experience for Patrick, who promised himself to never miss another year. Ellis agrees, "It's so wonderful for a member of our accomplished faculty, to have an experience like this to re-energize their creativity and to connect with peers at the highest level. Patrick is an incredible artist, and this type of experience really infuses new energy and ideas into Lundstrum classes."