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,
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
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,"
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
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.