Alumna Laura Roth of Jacksonville, Ill., is the founder and artistic director for the Dance on Film Project in St. Louis.
“I hope, through The Dance on Film Project, St. Louis, to create more interest in dance on film among the members of the St. Louis community, showcase and celebrate the artwork of local dance on film artists, and maintain the tradition of experiencing dance as a community,” Laura says.
She began to develop the project during her senior year at Southeast Missouri State University.
“Southeast’s dance program touched on the dance on film phenomenon in lecture classes but required no practical dance on film work to be done. Sensing an interest in dance on film among my fellow dance students, I sought to create an incentive for the students to put forth the tremendous amount of work required to try their hands at dance on film, and I came up with The Dance on Film Project. The project gave choreographers and filmmakers from the University the opportunity to collaborate on dance on film pieces. The project culminated with a film screening event at which all of the pieces were presented,” Laura says.
While she was still a student and beginning to develop the Dance on Film Project, she remembers giving a speaking presentation and being very nervous.
“I very vividly remember giving an introductory speech at the film screening at Southeast last spring. I have no recollection of what I said, but I remember looking at the crowd of about a hundred, and receiving a hundred looks of overwhelming support,” Laura says.
That encouraged her. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in dance from Southeast and then re-located management of the project to the St. Louis area.
“After moving to St. Louis, I was thrilled to learn a great deal of local artists have been experimenting with dance on film as well, and I was blown away by the exquisite work of theirs that I saw. It was immediately clear to me that St. Louis would be a good home for a dance on film festival, so I got to work organizing The Dance on Film Project, St. Louis. I reached out to artists in the area and received an overwhelmingly positive response,” Laura says.
She ran a fund-raising campaign to offset the cost of advertising, space rental and other project expenses. She researched theatre spaces which would meet the project’s technological needs. She says the next step is to collect film submissions from the artists and launch the project.
“I’m excited to see so many St. Louis artists showcased in one event. I hope this project will inspire future collaborations among local artists and that audience members will be exposed to both familiar artists and artists they have not seen before. I’m also excited to present a facet of the dance art form that doesn’t have a huge voice yet in St. Louis,” Laura says.
In addition, she is an Outreach Teaching Artist with Stages, a performing arts academy. At Stages, teaching artists can teach in residence or in outreach. Many do a mixture of both. Laura mostly focuses on outreach, teaching dance and musical theatre programs in schools, libraries and other venues around St. Louis.
“Teaching is a joy. I get to meet many, many children and give them a little bit of the art form that means so much to me,” Laura says.
A dancer, Laura decided to attend Southeast after visiting a friend.
“I liked it so much that I stuck around,” Laura says.
Laura loved performing on the stage in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at Southeast’s River Campus.
“I will always treasure the moments I got to spend dancing on the Bedell stage. Looking out into the audience in that gorgeous theatre was an experience I never took for granted. The other moments that stand out in my mind are the especially funny or especially moving rehearsals, as
well as the countless times spent making lasting friendships,” Laura says.
She also enjoyed studying and learning at the University. In addition to majoring in dance, she also minored in religious studies.
“The dance program at Southeast provided me with the training, encouragement and skills necessary to thrive in the dance world, and the religious studies program challenged me to think more deeply and to articulate my thoughts, questions and ideas,” Laura says.
After she graduated from the University, she joined the Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company as a member. She has performed in collaborations with the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) dance department and with The Disability Project, in Dance St. Louis’s Spring to Dance festival and in multiple shows at the St. Louis Art Museum. In addition, she volunteers with Magdalene St. Louis, a non-profit organization.
Magdalene is a two-year residential program for women who have been victims of human trafficking. The program provides trauma and addiction therapy, health coverage, housing and education at no cost to the women. The program is modeled after the very successful Magdalene Nashville program.
“I am ever increasingly impressed and humbled by this organization and encourage all to get involved,” Laura says.
To Southeast students, Laura offers some advice, “Create your own opportunities, and do what excites you.”