By Sam McDonald

Learning choreography requires skill, discipline, effort and time.

And if you hope to create quality choreography, you’re going to need all that and more: imagination, inspiration, and ambition.

At a spring concert, Old Dominion University dancers will perform pieces created by professionals as well as some conceived by student choreographers.

University Dance Theatre’s Spring Dance Concert, running April 10-13, will feature a variety of styles: hip-hop, modern, jazz, and contemporary ballet.

Choreographers for the performance include visiting artist Mike Esperanza, ODU Dance faculty James Morrow, Shane O'Hara and Megan Thompson, as well as students Kameron Clark and Ma'Kyia Frazier.

Here’s what this talented pair of student choreographers had to say about their developing craft and their hopes for a rewarding future.

Kameron Clark

Growing up in the small town of Halifax in south central Virginia, Kameron Clark would mimic the dance moves he saw on television. “I used to dance around the house all the time. I would go outside and do flips. Mom was like, ‘OK, we’re signing you up for dance class,’” he recalled.

At a studio called Essence of Movement in his hometown, the youngster was introduced to hip-hop steps and tumbling. Continuing to study there for years, he refined his skills and expanded his range. As a teen, he won a scholarship that allowed him to travel to Los Angeles to contribute to a music video and attend workshops.

“My experience here at ODU changed me as a dancer,” said Kameron Clark. “My instructors have taught me to move with grace, move with intension, but make it your own as well.”

He came to ODU to study business, but by his sophomore year, he’d opted to major in dance and minor in theatre.

“There’s a sense of community here with the dance department,” Clark said, now a senior. “I just wanted to show my passion for dance and continue to develop my craft.”

Improvisation is one of his specialties. He exercised improv muscles last fall as part of the ODU Department of Art’s “Fright Night” Halloween event.

“I really loved that,” he said. “It was just so interesting to see people’s reactions. My classes are more structured, but when I have free time, I’m always improvising or freestyling. In my world, it takes away stress and heals me. It also helps in coming up with different moves you can put into a dance.”

For the spring concert, he created a piece called “The Journey,” which traces his life experiences in four chapters. It includes a robust mix of styles, including African influences.

“I’ve always wanted to do dance that was different from any particular genre,” Clark said. “I want to blend every single style together and make it look seamless and flowing.”

Looking ahead to graduation in May, he’d like to land a gig as an entertainer for one of the major cruise lines. He also hopes to audition for dance companies in New York, Florida and Chicago.

“My experience here at ODU changed me as a dancer,” Clark said. “My instructors have taught me to move with grace, move with intension, but make it your own as well.”

Ma’Kyia Frazier

Virginia Beach native Ma’Kyia Frazier, a junior Dance Education major, has been learning dance since age 3 when her mom enrolled her in a toddler jazz class at a local studio.

“My mom realized all the other sports she put me in were great, but dancing might be meant for me,” Frazier wrote. She successfully auditioned for the Old Donation School Gifted Dance Education Program around age 9 and studied there until 2017. From there, she won a spot in the Visual and Performing Arts Academy for Dance at Salem High School. She accepted her diploma from Salem in 2021.

Next stop, ODU. 

“I am inspired every time I step on campus,” said Ma’Kyia Frazier. “There is something here for everyone."

Ma’Kyia Frazier stands alone on stage, facing the audience with her arms open.

Ma’Kyia Frazier is a junior ODU Dance Education major from Virginia Beach. Photo courtesy of Dray’s Digifoto Services.

“I knew that this dance department is open to all levels and open to all styles,” Frazier wrote. “Also, it’s close to home. I just knew I wanted to dance for my entire life so why not make a career out of it? I also learned I like teaching, giving, supporting and inspiring people.

“I decided I wanted to be a dance teacher.”

The piece she choreographed for the spring concert is called, “Fallen Flame.”

“I went through —and still am going through — a rough mental health journey. I was in a dark place and got out of it through the support from my family, my belief in God, and expressing my pain through dance,” she wrote. “This piece is about a mental battle.”

Her dance starts in a chaotic mode, then shifts into something more contemplative and spiritual. “At the end you still are going through chaos but it’s starting to slowly fizzle out and become doable,” Frazier wrote.

She intends for the pieces to create feelings of empathy and empowerment among audience members. “I hope to maybe even motivate them to keep going when things get hard.”

Frazier said she can always rely on adjunct instructor Lauren Sinclair for guidance and encouragement. “She pushes her students to give not only the audience something, but yourself as well,” Frazier wrote. “Lauren has seen me at my lowest many times throughout my three years at ODU and she always is willing to talk, give advice, give you a shoulder to cry on, and even offer words of affirmation.”

Frazier said ODU faculty and staff create a positive, supportive learning atmosphere.

“I am inspired every time I step on campus,” she wrote. “There is something here for everyone. There is always something new and exciting going on.

“This campus keeps you active, motivated, and creative.”

Want to go?

What: University Dance Theatre Spring 2024 Dance Concert

When: April 10-12, 7:30 p.m., April 13, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Where: University Theatre, 4608 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk