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Cecilia Dohm – The Expression of Dance

Cecilia Dohm

What is your background?

I trained in Classical Ballet in local academies in Northern VA beginning at the age of 12. I participated in various pre-professional ballet summer intensives with American Ballet Theatre. I attended the College of William and Mary and began exploring modern dance and choreography. I graduated with a Bachelor of the Arts in Global Studies and Dance.

I briefly attended Tisch School of the Arts for Choreography, and presented various works in New York City, worked in Dance Programming at The Kennedy Center, and eventually began a teaching career in Fauquier County, while choreographing for school theatre productions on the side. Currently, I am a Movement Specialist for Fauquier County Public Schools new program called FRESH (Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health). We integrate movement into the general education classroom and create SOL review activities that are both mentally and physically engaging for both students and teachers.

Who has been a major influence in your career and why?

I am very thankful to the ladies of the Dance Programming Department at the Kennedy Center. My supervisors were (and still are) elite arts managers in the entire country, and they did not mess around! They are professional, organized women with incredible management skills. In the beginning I would quake in my boots, let me tell you! I was thrown into the water, I modelled and learned their practices until it was second nature.

The confidence in their choices and actions was inspiring. It was rigorous and hectic working in that teeny tiny office, with no windows, mind you, but their impact was larger than The Center itself. Their exploration, commitment, and passion gave them an exquisite dedication to efficiently organizing the best performances for their audiences. They also taught me the value of my arts training, that while I did not become a performer, that time and training is in one’s soul and is what one can bring to the table in any situation. They taught me to not put that aside but to keep it in the forefront of my career, as it greatly assists you as a professional. That trio of ladies influenced me a great deal and I carry their quality and rigor in my work everywhere I go.

How long have you been working for Allegro CSA, and how long have you been involved with dance?

I waltzed into Allegro with the intent to take voice lessons in February of 2017, and mentioned I had a dance background, and here I am. I began formal dance training pretty late actually, when I was 12 years old.

What is your favorite thing about working in this industry and here at Allegro?

The language and art of expression through movement is infinitely beautiful, because each human interprets their pains, joys, excitements in a multitude of ways. That is what fascinates me about the art of dance. And that is precisely why I love working with every human being that steps before me, especially here at Allegro. My students are a canvas, each human soul holds a potential for unique expression.

What are your top 3 favorite things to instill in your students (no matter the age)?

What is your top priority to your students?

Explore the power and ability your of your body, without comparison to others. Your mind and body have no bounds. Explore your range, explore what you are comfortable with, explore your choices, and explore your intentions. Do this from your heart, not the wants and needs of others.

Commit to your artistic decisions, to your own movement, to your emotion, and to every choice. This could be as small as a raise of the eyebrow, a flick of the wrist, a leap across the floor, a smile, a nod to something as large as entering a summer intensive program to further your career. You must commit to each decision. Even if you make a mistake, commit to it, allow it to become you, learn from it, and explore each decisions’ endless path.

Passion, otherwise defined as intense enthusiasm. If you have lost your passion, you must go back and check your exploration and commitment. Passion is not obsession and in the performing arts world there is a very, very, thin line. Many cross this line and once they cross it, it is too late to return, and the art becomes a selfish pursuit. I have seen so many professionals walk their lives in this manner and it consumes them. They are unpleasant to watch, to be around, and to work with. If we have a pure and humble sense of our exploration and commitment, our passion remains pure, and one can perform and explore their art in peace. That is true stage presence, when there is pure passion exuding through every pore of a person’s being.

At all times, I encourage the development of these three prongs for all my students. Even if one does not pursue a career in the performing arts, once these principles are developed, it assists you in all walks of life.

What do you feel is important for students and parents (if applicable) to know about you and about Allegro?

Allegro’s community of instructors and the directors themselves, have purity that is lost in many schools today. Each student is given time, direction, and love, that is so personalized, it is amazing to see! There is true happiness in each student!

What is your favorite dance?

There are so many dances I enjoy, but I love Alvin Ailey’s work. And of course all of the classical ballet pieces. I have a particular obsession with avant garde choreography and out of the box movement (compared with classical ballet). I love, love, love the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel; they have a form of movement created by their artistic director, Ohad Naharin, called Gaga (nothing to do with Lady GaGa, he invented this before she even existed), and my goodness, it is my SOUL, just watching it makes me slither with silkiness inside, I love it!

What is your favorite instrument?

I may be biased, but dancers are the instruments from above. No really, every single instrument is amazing. I have always loved piano, it has been a dream of mine to play, I took lessons as an adult; my short stubby fingers were struggling, forget Chopin it was more like chopping.

Do you enjoy theatre? If so do you have a favorite performance?

Yes, yes, and yes! Dance is part of the theatre of course, but I love Phantom of the Opera, I have seen it more than six times on Broadway. The chandelier-it gets me everytime.

What is your specialty?

I trained in classical ballet (Vaganova and Cecchetti) and modern dance (Horton, Graham, Cunningham, Limón, etc.) However, my specialty truly is choreography (modern and ballet) and movement exploration.

What is your favorite memory of an event that you have worked on?

So many, it has all been a dream, I am so grateful. While working in Dance Programming at the Kennedy Center, The Paris Opera Ballet, came to DC after a 17 year absence. Let me tell you every balletomane, art historian, theatre buff, within a 200 mile radius of The Center emerged from the cracks and crevices. The history of that company, the reverence, the honor, ugh, it was just mind blowing. They performed Giselle, which is essentially their signature ballet, it was first performed by the Ballet du Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique (The Paris Opera Ballet) at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris, France in 1841. The Paris Opera Ballet has maintained (for the most part) the original staging and choreography. To think it was first performed by ballerina Carlotta Grisi, and that same choreography has been danced by so many of the greats. It is just pure elation. If I can’t ever see a production of Giselle ever again, it would be a travesty; those performances I saw over and over again are part of my arteries. I have a loyalty to the memory of its magnificence.

What is the most memorable teaching experience you have had at Allegro?

I have not been here long, but the beautiful connections and understanding one makes with those you work with is thrilling. I particularly love when someone who has stamped themselves as a “non-dancer,” melts away their preconceived notions of dance and realizes they (just like everyone) has the capability for expression through bodily movement! Again, exploration, commitment, and passion. Dance is really just movement, moving how your body commits to move and exploring your body’s commitment, and having the passion to express that movement, the way you want to.

What is so important about the arts that you feel is important for all to know and understand?

Humanity would not exist without the arts. Pure thought is an art. Art is the manipulation of something (concrete or abstract). It can be made for a purpose, to please yourself or others, or simply to put something into order or disorder. That is what art is. So many people disregard art, but it is in everyone! Scientists are artists, teachers, doctors, mathematicians, moms, dads, children, construction workers, and managers can be artists. People who dedicate themselves to what the general population has labelled as “the arts,” are more adept and willing to hone the manipulation of whatever the skills and craft they have chosen (violin, ballet, theatre, painting, opera, etc.).

What are you working on with students for the upcoming months and may be of interest to the public and students?

Allegro is developing a movement exploration portion to their Theatre program for the fall of 2018. This is going to be so amazing. Some of it will be technical due to the nature of the Theatre industry. A lot of it will be dedicated to becoming comfortable with our own body’s way of moving. This will change a lot of children’s lives in terms of performing but also in their daily interactions with others.

What tips do you have for someone looking for a career in this industry?

Do what you love. Listen to your heart, because if you do that, with kindness and love, you will end up in the place you need to be. Yes, along that journey there might be heartbreak, and yes you might have to learn humility. Re-adjust expectations you created for yourself. Humbly allow your wants to mesh with the opportunities placed before you. You will always go far, it is just a matter of how far you will let yourself go.

What do you do for fun? What are you hobbies/interests?

Besides choreograph and dance, I love to run, do yoga, hike with my hubster, try out recipes, drink coffee, drink tea, and try cheeses. I love cheese. My dream is to be a cheese connoisseur. 

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