Cameron Fikes, 16, is a first-year Dance Academy student at the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute.
Photo by Michael Higgins
This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.
When did you begin dancing?
When I was younger, I loved playing dancing games, like Michael Jackson Experience and JustDance. I’d have so much fun playing with my family and that’s when my mom said, “We need to put you in some dance classes!”
For about two years, I went to the Dance 411 studio in Atlanta, Georgia, where I’ve lived most of my life. I started dancing when I was around eight, and then at 10, I moved to California. Seeing all the incredible dancers in the area really overwhelmed me. So, I decided to take a break from dancing through the pandemic. But when you love something so much, it’ll always find you and pull you in. So, the dance classes and training resumed, and I was accepted into the Los Angeles High School for the Arts here in Los Angeles. It was here that I realized that there was so much to discover in dance. This was when I experienced the official spark!
What is it about dance that’s so appealing to you—how does dance fulfill you?
As I discovered more about dance, I realized that dancing is more than doing moves. Dancing is an emotional release, a full-body expression, a way to discover more. It’s a very spiritual and out-of-body experience that’s helped me through some challenging times.
How did you learn about the Colburn School?
Former directors, Ms. Alexa and Ms. Fiona, of the Los Angeles High School for the Arts introduced me to Colburn through a dance performance. Between the musician playing the flute and the student dancing—I was amazed!
I started my technical ballet journey a little bit later than usual so I wasn’t too into ballet. But seeing this dancer and hearing the live music showed me a whole different side of ballet movement. This is what drew me to the Colburn School!
Now that you’re over a month into the fall semester and have danced with live accompanists, have you found value in that experience?
Yes! I grew up on recordings: Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, you name it—my teachers used it. So, getting the honor to have a live accompanist is of huge value to me. You feel every note, every chord, every beat, and you feel real energy coming back at you. I’m very grateful that we have access to musicians.
Why have you made the decision to pursue and invest time in dancing?
A core memory I have is a teacher telling me that, “[I] have nothing to prove and everything to share.” I want to share, express, and help others to do the same. It’s something I’m very passionate about!
Would you talk about some of the classes you’re taking as a Dance Academy student?
One of the things I love about the Colburn Dance Academy is its comprehensive program. In the mornings we always start with a ballet technique class, which sets us up for the day ahead. Then, a ballet variations class that gives us a chance to strengthen our stamina, performance quality, and gives us a good challenge. In the second half of the day, we’ll usually have a rehearsal and/or a Modern, Contemporary, Conditioning, Tap class, or Artistic Inquiry where we discuss both contemporary and older artistic topics.
And as someone who’s extremely invested in human anatomy and body recovery, having physical therapy, floor barre, and conditioning offered to keep our bodies healthy is something that I love! Margaret [the dean of Trudl Zipper Dance Institute] pushes body care and that is something that I really value.
With the variety of dance styles, do you have a preferred one?
I find a mix of Hip Hop, Jazz, Ballet, Tap, and Modern all within Contemporary. To me, Contemporary can be anything which is why I love it so much!
Thinking of all your past dance experiences, do you find your learning experience at Colburn to be different in any way?
Yes! Since it’s a small group of us, we are able to get lots of individual and personalized feedback that’s instrumental for our growth. It motivates us and pushes us to become stronger.
What’s some advice you’d share with a prospective dance student?
Stay open and take risks. This applies to everything. Don’t do a whole bunch of stuff you’re comfortable with. Don’t do everything that’s easy. Push yourself. Accept the challenge and allow it to fuel you. You can’t expect to grow to new and higher places staying where you’re comfortable.
Is there a favorite ballet or choreography that you admire or that has influenced you in a deep way?
We are preparing for our Colburn Winter Dance Celebration, and we’re doing a ballet called Valse-Fantaisie by George Balanchine. We are going to be premiering an original work set by Janie Taylor, a choreographer from LA Dance Project and former Principal with New York City Ballet. She came to campus and created a piece specifically for us. As someone who’s greatly interested in creative direction and choreography, it was incredibly inspiring and influencing to be a part of this choreographic process and see Janie in action.
You mentioned an interest in choreography. Are you planning on participating in the Student Choreography Showcase in the spring?
Don’t even get me started… I’m SO excited! I’m already thinking about my cast, music, and moves. My mom has already heard SO much about it! I really love creating and seeing my work performed.
See the Music, Hear the Dance is coming up at the end of this month. There will be featured artists from The Joffrey Ballet performing with Conservatory students and faculty. Would you share what your role is for the event?
I will be co-hosting with Ms. Tracey and there will be a discussion with Leslie Carothers, [former principal at Joffrey,] who is also Dance Academy faculty, and Mr. Wheater [(Ashley Wheater)] the Artistic Director at The Joffrey Ballet.
Looking toward the future, do you envision dance being a part of it?
For sure! I have a really big vision; choreographing, dancing, acting, music, and creative direction are all components of it. Dancing is something that’ll forever stick with me.
With dance being a big component of your day-to-day, do you have time for other interests?
Yes, I make time—I believe in living life to the fullest and one of the ways I fulfill this idea is by pushing myself into new activities. This year, I introduced Aerial Silks, volunteering at an animal shelter, and I am continuing my growth in acting and music.
In addition to your Colburn events, what’s on your dance horizon?
I plan to continue with my technical training through high school and college. And take that with me as I explore the world and my path: creative directing, dancing, acting, learning, being, growing, sharing, and most of all living!
Access to excellence is the core tenant of the Colburn School. The School recognizes some students may require financial support to cover the cost of their studies. Thanks to the support from our donor community, we are able to offer generous scholarships at all levels of development. Special appreciation goes to Ann Moore, David Kobrin, and Michael S. Turner, and Colburn Society members, whose support of dance makes the excellence of the Colburn School accessible.
If you would like to learn more about supporting our work with students like Cameron Fikes, contact email@example.com.