The dance theater in Academic Building III was packed Friday, Sept. 25, as dancers came to hear from one of the south’s best choreographers. Cornelius Carter is a choreographer and professor of dance at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and came to SHSU at the invitation of the Student Activities. Among his award of “Professor of the Year” in 2001 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Carter has taught at Alvin Ailey School, American Ballet Theater, Harvard Summer Dance Program, and in Russia, Korea, and Iceland.
The event began with a documentary on Carter. The short film covered a brief history of Carter’s career as a professor at the University of Alabama, and the progress that he has seen while working there. As a black, southern choreographer, Carter has dealt with the difficulty of racism all of his life. Yet through each movement and piece that he has designed, he has seen walls of separation come down as students of all races learn to join in the grace of his choreography together.
After the documentary, the room was opened for discussion. The curious students asked questions such as, “I’ve only been dancing since my freshmen year of college, what can I do to get better?” They were all ears as Carter gave advice as to how to get into the top dance programs in the United States, and how to take advantage of the time spent at the university. Carter was very friendly and approachable with his wit and humor. He answered all questions presented to him and told personal stories of his career, giving the students much to think about.
“Don’t let money be an excuse to keep you from getting to where you want to be. I’ve seen too many people say they are just going to raise a little money before they set out to fulfill their dream. They get so focused on the fall-back plan that they no longer pursue their dream,” Carter said. He advised the students to work during school so that they will still have the funds to support themselves and keep seeking after their dreams.
“You’re going to have to pay rent wherever you are, so you might as well live in the most ideal location as possible,” Carter said. He encouraged the dancers to move away after graduation to a place where they can be involved in the auditions and performances of nearby dance companies.
Carter’s visit proved to be a huge success as he left the students feeling refreshed and encouraged. His main area of advice to the dancers was for them to simply keep moving in the direction of their dreams. He kept reiterating the fact that, if the students worked hard, they could get into absolutely any company they desire after graduation.