An interview with Dawn Davis Loring, MFA, dance teacher, writer, and choreographer
Dawn Davis Loring’s interest in teaching dance and choreography started early when she taught her friends dance whenever they came over to play. Now as a dance teacher, choreographer, and author of Dance Appreciation, Dawn influences Gen Z students and others to explore the word of dance.
How did your interest in dance begin, and what kept you interested?
I grew up watching the movie The Red Shoes (1948) around the holidays and first aspired to be a ballerina around the age of five. As my training progressed, I created dances in my living room and taught them to my friends when they came over to play at my house. My relationship with dance grew and changed for me as I grew up—there was always another technique to learn, inspiration for choreography to follow, and history to ponder. I was fortunate to have great teachers who instilled in me an unquenchable curiosity about the field of dance, so now I keep following my interests and researching.
You hold several degrees, have taught in a variety of academic settings, have been published in several prominent outlets, and have directed the dance and theatre group Mosaic Dance Body. What (or who) influenced you to pursue these opportunities and follow your passion for dance?
My writing career: Although I wrote many, many papers in graduate school, I never considered being a writer. When I returned to Austin, a theatre colleague from undergrad contacted me out of the blue, explaining that she was managing a local dance company, and she wanted a dancer to write reviews about local dance concerts. She connected me with Robert Faires, the amazingly patient arts editor at The Austin Chronicle, and he gave me my first break. I always thought of that as my glamour job—go see shows for free and get paid to write about them. I realized that I loved writing about dance, and I decided that when I stopped performing, I would write.
My choreography career: From the beginning of my training, I always wanted to be a choreographer. It felt like the next logical step to go to graduate school and study choreography and performance, and I adored my time in the supportive dance program at the University of Colorado. In fact, my cohort of six created our own reunion, and we gather in Boulder every five years. When I graduated and was unable to find a full-time position immediately, I returned to Austin and performed with another company before founding my own, Mosaic Dance Body. One of my proudest accomplishments as an artist was re-forming the company from scratch after a move to Boston, and then re-forming it again in Texas in 2012. We still perform from time to time and are planning a project for 2022.
As you work with Gen Z dancers and students, what are you discovering or learning as a dance teacher? What needs need to be addressed when working with this current generation of dancers?
We wrote our book with Gen Z dancers firmly in mind. Their world includes social media, instantly available video clips, on-demand streaming video services, and online classes, and they are often extremely savvy regarding technology. Interactivity is a given when sharing a learning experience with them, and a teacher can deliver knowledge and content both inside and outside of a classroom setting. It is for this reason that I created a Facebook page for my students in 2013 so I could share images, video clips of dancers, and links to interesting articles that reinforced lecture material. Fast-forward to today: I recently launched a free service on my website that delivers a mini dance history lesson based on the birthday of famous dancers and other dancers of interest. It is important to connect students personally with dance, and finding a dancer with the same birthday is one way to hook them on dance history so that they see themselves represented in the larger world of dance.
What’s a question you often get asked by students or others as it relates to choosing a dance career, and how do you answer it?
I never dissuade anyone from pursuing a career in dance, because how can I tell someone’s future like that? They need to go for it while they are young and full of energy. When asked how to pursue a dance career after school, I usually suggest that they spend time learning everything they can about dance production and marketing, because these skills are necessary within the field and they are also directly transferrable to other fields. I also suggest that they learn how to do something that will give them an income stream in case they are unable to make enough money through dance.
Dawn is the lead author of Dance Appreciation. Besides performing, writing, and lecturing about dance, Dawn founded her own dance company, Mosaic Dance Body, and they are working on a new project for 2022. To stay refreshed as an artist, she is cooking her way through her favorite Instant Pot Indian food recipe book, tends her succulent garden, and plays with her beagles Becky and Belle.