Jacksonville Native Laura Roth Participates in Hedwig Dances Intensive in Chicago
Department of Theatre and Dance
Southeast Missouri State University dance student Laura Roth of Jacksonville, Ill., recently participated in a five-day intensive with Hedwig Dances, a professional modern dance company based in Chicago. There, Roth spent five and a half hours each day taking modern, floor work, repertory/improvisation and Afro-Cuban dance classes.
“During that time, I was able to really dive into Hedwig's style of dance and push past what I previously thought were the limits of my movement ability,” she says. “I learned things physically and mentally that I will use as I continue my training and as I take on the professional world.”
Roth says she also benefited from living in Chicago during the week she participated in the intensive.
“Chicago is one of the cities in the United States with a thriving dance community, and there is no better way to evaluate whether you would enjoy living there than to immerse yourself. In that week, I got a taste of the life of the city and of the dance community in the city, both of which will be valuable in my post-graduation planning,” she says.
Roth also recently gained experience by taking ballet classes with Springfield Ballet Company, a pre-professional company based in Springfield, Ill., near her hometown.
“Even though I live in a small town that does not have a lot of opportunities in the way of dance classes for adults, I knew that it was imperative for me to take classes over the summer in order to keep my mind and body conditioned. For this reason, I sought out the Springfield Dance Company. The short drive to Springfield was well worth the benefit of maintaining my training,” she says.
Roth has also taken classes with the professional companies, aTrek Dance Collective and Ashleyliane Dance Company, in St. Louis, including attending weekly contemporary classes taught by Ashley Tate, founder, artistic director and head choreographer of Ashleyliane Dance Company. She also has taken a contemporary master class with the owner, artistic director and choreographer of the Chicago dance company, Beyond Words Dance Company, Kate Jablonski.
“In addition to these classes being great learning experiences, I have gained network connections from them. Making yourself known to artistic directors and choreographers is a great way to get your foot in the door for future dance jobs,” she says.
Roth landed her first professional dance job at the end of her sophomore year with PH eXchange Dance Theatre, a dance company directed by Philip Edgecombe and Hilary Peterson, instructors of theatre and dance at Southeast, when they performed at the Emerson Spring to Dance Festival in St. Louis. Edgecombe was one of many choreographers from the Midwest and beyond to submit a piece of work for consideration to perform at the festival and one of the few whose work was accepted. Roth and eight other dancers stayed in Cape Girardeau for two weeks after the spring semester to rehearse the piece before performing it in the festival.
“It was inspiring and eye-opening to dance in a festival with such incredibly talented professional companies, and I will remember that day for the rest of my life,” she says.
Also during her sophomore year, Roth was cast in a guest artist piece for the University’s annual “Spring into Dance” concert. The guest artist was Susan Quinn Williams, associate professor at the University of Arizona and a former company member of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. Quinn Williams led Roth and the rest of the cast through an intense week of four-hour or longer rehearsals during which they learned an eight-minute piece of her choreography, called “Sabor A Mi.”
“It was an honor to get to work with such a prestigious choreographer, and through that experience, I learned a lot about what being in a professional company would be like,” she says.
Roth says one of her favorite moments from Southeast was the first time her choreography was accepted into a main stage concert.
“Putting choreography out there for everyone to see is a daunting thing to do, and I was so proud to have my choreography selected,” she says.
Roth says another of her favorite experiences was being a resident assistant at Southeast, and while working in that position, she made many close friends.
“The night before my birthday, after I had gone to bed, my residents decorated the floor and barricaded my door with newspaper that had a happy birthday message on it. What a great surprise!” she remembers.
Roth currently works at the River Campus Box Office, where she sells tickets for events at the River Campus and Show Me Center. She also ushers and works as house manager at various River Campus events.
“This is great preparation for after graduation. As a dancer, I will need to have a second job, especially for the first few years immediately following graduation. Having a box office job could potentially connect me to dance jobs and would, therefore, be beneficial to my career,” she says. “Working in the box office at Southeast gives me the training and experience I need to secure a similar job after graduation; it's also just a great work environment!”
During her final semester as an undergraduate, Roth says she will audition for modern, contemporary and jazz companies primarily in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago areas. Unless another opportunity arises, after graduation she says she plans to move to St. Louis and start regularly taking classes with the companies in the area in hopes of working her way into one of them. In the meantime, Roth also plans to do some freelance dance work in the city.
“I am excited to continue to grow in my artistry and to communicate with fellow dancers and audience members through movement. Dance has enriched my life immensely, and I hope to pass that along through my work in the dance field,” she says.
Roth says she has grown tremendously as a dancer during her time at Southeast.
“The training I have gotten here has made it possible for me to go out into the dance world confident that I have what it takes to get a job. The training of which I'm speaking goes beyond technical dance training: In Southeast's dance program, the professors also teach the dancers about the history of dance, how to find dance auditions and good networking avenues, how to seek funding for future dance projects, and more. Southeast taught me how to dance as well as how to be a dancer,” she says.
Roth adds that she is growing as a person as well; she credits this mainly to her choice of minor, religious studies.
“When I was considering different majors and minors, my dad always told me that, no matter what career I wanted to pursue, his goal for my college career was for me to ‘learn how to think.’ As juvenile as that sounds on the surface, I now see the profound value in it,” she says. “My religion and philosophy classes have forced me to look at the world from different perspectives and to think through the situations of life critically. Because Southeast helped me to ‘learn how to think,’ I now consider myself a more compassionate, intellectual and helpful member of society.”
Roth gives back to her community in part by staying involved with a church in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
“My sophomore year, I found Westminster Presbyterian Church, and I have been blessed by the congregation there ever since. They are my family away from home. I attend their services on Sundays, and I participate in as many church activities as I can fit into my schedule,” she says.
Roth spent the fall semester of her junior year studying in the United Kingdom. While abroad, she visited Oxford, London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Derby, England, and the southern coast of Wales as well as Paris, France, and Bremen, Hamburg and Uelzen, Germany.
“There is so much to see and experience in all of those places, and I count myself very lucky to have gotten that opportunity,” she says.
In the future, she says she would particularly love to visit Italy, Greece and Disney World.
“However, I've definitely been bitten by the travel bug, so, really, I'm happy to travel anywhere,” she says.
When she is not traveling, studying, pursuing her career or donating her time, Roth says she enjoys looking through all of the antique shops in the downtown area, especially Annie Laurie's Antiques. Another favorite of hers is relaxing with friends by the river when the weather is nice. Also, she often travels with friends to Sikeston, Mo., to eat at Lambert's Café: The Only Home of Throwed Rolls.
“I'm a bread lover through and through, so Lambert's is definitely one of my favorite restaurants,” she says.
“Learn to think!” Roth advises future Southeast students. “Also, find a field in which you enjoy working hard. That is what you should be doing for the rest of your life. And, go see ‘Fall for Dance,’ ‘Spring into Dance’ and ‘Last Chance to Dance’ every year! The dancers work really hard on those shows, and they are too good to miss!”