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Released November 23, 2004

By Christopher Mapp

HATTIESBURG - Conventional wisdom says people are either right brained (creative, artistic, emotional) or left brained (logical, analytical, calculated).

Then there's Trebien Pollard, who's anything but conventional.

A math major in college, Pollard moved to New York City after graduation to chase his dream of dancing professionally, despite his family's protestations.

But after making it in the Big Apple for the last 10 years--which, Sinatra said, enables you to make it anywhere--Pollard is testing the song's truism on a smaller stage, taking a yearlong teaching gig at The University of Southern Mississippi. So far, his eclectic personality, unique moves and professional credentials have made him a bona fide hit with his students.

"Trebien is one of a kind," said Lori Savell, a sophomore dance major from Jackson. "His movement is so different from all my other instructors'. He has this way of moving that brings out the individuality of all his dancers."

Born in Georgia the son of a soldier, Pollard moved many times growing up. One constant wherever he went, however, was the arts - singing, dancing and painting. But when the time came to pick a suitable skill that would put bread on the table, Pollard took the safe route, majoring in mathematics at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

Continuing to dance part time in college as "a stress release," Pollard realized his profession may be in the hard sciences, but his passion was always going to be in the arts. So, after getting his diploma, he decided to give it a go as a dancer, much to the chagrin of his parents. "My father is a military man, and my parents are kind of strict and very religious, so they weren't thrilled at first," Pollard said. "But I'm the kind of person who believes you have to go for what you want in life and set goals, and if that means shaking up your life, then fine."

Pollard understood the odds against making it as a professional dancer in the Big Apple. After all, he's got a degree in math. But unlike so many other dancers who nurse Broadway dreams while toiling menial jobs on the side, Pollard struck gold quickly. Within three months, he landed his first paying gig, and soon he was working with some of the most influential and reputable dance companies in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and the Martha Graham Ensemble.

Between touring and traveling, Pollard started teaching about eight years ago "just to make extra money."

"In New York, so many people have to take extra jobs to make ends meet. I've been lucky that all of my side jobs have been in dance," he said.

As a choreographer, he tends to bring his scientific background to his dance, creating flowing, stylized pieces imbued with the principles of mathematics - especially geometry. "When I'm working out a piece," he said, "I usually look at them as problems, in the same way I would try to figure out a proof or formula."

Pollard's dances often included spiritual themes, including his highly personal and creative choreographies "'Til Death Do Us Part," "Cries of the Prophets," "A Fistful of Daughters," and "Scriptures and Nails," which were performed throughout the United States, England and Japan.

Collaborating with Onye Ozuzu on "Skeleton Dance Project," Pollard premiered two new works, "Resurrection of the Soul" and "The Gospel of a Swan," in 2000 at Joyce SoHo Theater in New York City. In July 2002, he returned to Joyce SoHo to premier an evening-length work called "Stories Told." He has also choreographed William Electric Black's "The Hamlet Project," "The Damned: A Rock Musical," and "Frankenstein: The Rock Musical." He is currently writing his own musical, titled "Swanstories."

While in graduate school at New York University, Pollard determined that he wanted to teach full time. "Going back to school expanded my horizon, made me listen and observe. I realized I really want to be here and learn what dance is truly all about," he said.

Also trained at Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Florida State University, Florida A&M and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Pollard is versed in most forms of dance, including jazz, tap, and ballet. But modern dance inspires him most, and it shows in his students.

Rebecca Sleger, a senior dance major from Ocean Springs, is taking Pollard's Advanced Modern Technique class this semester. She says Pollard "brings in a whole new kind of style that is challenging on many different levels."

Sleger is also impressed that Pollard made good on his dreams in New York, where he spent 14 years working professionally and earning his master's degree from the prestigious Tisch School of Performing Arts at NYU.

"It's very encouraging because we always hear how hard it is to make a living as a dancer, but he's living proof that it can be done. And he's teaching us everything he did to make it happen: to work hard, follow our dreams and always be ourselves and be our best," Sleger said.

With his professional dancing days on hold, Pollard is putting all his energy into teaching this year at Southern Miss, where he is creating a new work for the Southern Miss Repertory Dance Company. He is also teaching three levels of modern dance technique and a partnering workshop this semester.

"We hired him because he offers a range of experiences to our dance majors," said assistant professor of dance Stacy Reischman. "He has worked with known and respected choreographers, each of whom informs his teaching and choreography. Working with a working professional is an invaluable experience for our majors."

Reischman said Pollard's choreographic vision and aesthetic are broad. "His dance is imagistic, inventive and poignant. His dance challenges our dancers technically as the movement is grounded, motivated and detailed.

"Personally," she said, "adding Trebien to our faculty has infused our entire department with new life and fresh energy."

Pollard said teaching rewards him in ways he could have never dreamed.

"When you give a student information and that student takes it beyond where you expected it to go, that's an incredible feeling. It's great to see a student go way beyond what you gave them in the first place," Pollard said.


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December 9, 2004 12:43 PM