LAUREN BC’S INTERVIEW WITH P:B DANCER CORA CLIBURN
Tell me about how you came to work with Post:Ballet.
Before attending Stanford I deferred a year to train with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The program was intense (9 hours a day, 5 days a week) and allowed me to explore dance technique and composition, and to work with many amazing choreographers. Following our Fall 2014 Showcase one of my teachers recommended me to Robert, saying I would be interested in his movement. I went to one of his classes (very nervous!) but Robert was, of course, so kind and so wonderful to work with! The work was challenging and exciting, and I felt that it was a great opportunity to learn. I think the first thing Robert taught me was some of Yours is Mine—a quartet that I performed last summer in Post’s Home Season. I officially started dancing with Post in February, 2015.
I’ve heard that you are in college?
I’m a student at Stanford, pursuing an interdisciplinary Major involving Earth Systems and Anthropology, with a Dance Minor (Stanford doesn’t have a BFA dance program). I spent this last year having freshman experience, taking academic classes, but still continuing to study dance with resident Bay Area choreographers at Stanford, and wonderfully, to work with Robert on some smaller projects!
It was a big transition, but I now understand that you don’t need to be dancing 24/7 to be engaged and learning to actively contribute to your understanding of movement, decision-making, voice as an artist. This is something I’ve been grappling this past year, because of course I want to be dancing all the time! Having a different experience at a university has taught me that you can’t just be a dancer—you have to be an advocate for the art form and have opinions about why dance matters. That’s something special that Robert is doing through Post – he’s thoughtful, he does his research, and he’s trying to make a statement beyond the pure aesthetic.What has been your favorite dance experience?
Working on Robert’s Yours is Mine was very exciting. It was a physical, high-energy quartet, where I had the chance to partner with three men—a rare opportunity! We performed YiM at Post’s home season in July 2015 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and also took it on tour to Jacob’s Pillow International Dance Festival in Becket, MA. I’ll never forget performing on the Inside/Out stage—a beautiful outdoor stage surrounded by the Berkshires. During our performance there, we all lost ourselves flying between the trees. There was so much trust and connection—it was an incredible gift.
You must be the youngest person in the company. What’s that like?
Hmm…I’ve never been too aware of it! Everyone has so much respect for each other at Post and there’s an acknowledgment of the unique self each dancer brings to the company life. Robert brings in such a diverse group of artists for every project—all with different training and experiences—and he always helps to foster an open environment where everyone shares and contributes. I have definitely learned a lot from the older company members in their decision-making, creative spirits, and desire to continue to learn.
Not only are you a dancing artist, I’ve read that you’re drawn to photography. When did you develop an interest for visual arts?
I grew up with the gorgeous landscapes of New Mexico, where I would spend time hiking, collecting rocks, observing patterns in nature. I have a deep love of nature and I’m fascinated by fractal patterns, succulents, clouds. Since I was little I’ve used both the camera and a paintbrush as was a way to explore and appreciate this very mathematical beauty.
What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
I have congenital nystagmus—an eye condition caused by an unknown nerve quirk that causes rapid involuntary horizontal eye movements. Imagine the feeling of quickly shaking your head back and forth—that is what my field of vision looks like most of the time…which can be pretty disorienting!
Instability was something Robert and I investigated during a solo piece, On Falling, which we worked for the P:B Jam Fundraiser in April. We discussed uncertainty, chaos, our changing relationship with the natural environment, and being okay with not having a clear direction. How we deal with change and uncertainty is very important to me, so I really connected with that piece.
When you dance, what do you want to say to your audience?
Dance can be a beautiful respite from daily troubles, but also an important environment for processing those emotions and ideas, both for the performer and audience. While the content of my intention changes depending on the work and choreography, I believe that I am always wanting to be as present and energetically connected as possible with everyone and everything in the space. I want the audience to be able to see beyond what my arms and legs are doing, and to feel. I want to be a part of helping shape a shared experience and a new perspective.What’s your favorite place to hang out in the Bay Area?
I’m living in Berkeley this summer, which has been quite a gift. Recently I found a trail east of the campus on Grizzly Peak that has a spectacular vantage point with a view spanning the South Bay, SF and the Golden Gate Bridge, all the way up to Richmond. In the evenings I love to go there to watch the fog roll in over the curve of the horizon.
What advice do you have for young dancers, especially about balancing dance with other interests?
I’m still struggling with the balance myself, as I imagine I will be for many years… I have learned that just because you’re not engaging with the art form constantly, it doesn’t mean that you’re losing anything. Spend time exploring other parts of yourself. It sounds counterintuitive – we’re often told that if you want to master a craft, you can only succeed by dedicating a majority of time to that field—but learning how to work with people and investigating what you want to say and how that influences you as an artist takes other experiences, outside of the dance studio, and is equally as important.
This is a lesson I grapple with daily at Stanford, as I spend most of the day in academic classes and only have a short time in the evening for dance. While I have (many) moments of wishing I could be moving, rather than watching a lecture, I always find that I have far more to bring to my creative practice in the evening, whether that’s new energy from a conversation with a professor, or an idea from a research project. I am always reminding myself that a non-linear path can be the most interesting.
*Photos of Cora Cliburn (top to bottom) by:
- Natalia Perez (Cora in Do Be)
- Natalia Perez (Cora with Ricardo Zayas in Reason does not know)
- Natalia Perez (Cora and company in Yours is Mine)
- Natalia Perez (Cora with Jeremy Bannon-Neches in Yours is Mine)