Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Relearning to Dance

  • Lawrence and Vail

Tori Lawrence came to F&M from Atlanta, expecting to pursue pre-med studies and put her ballet, tap and jazz shoes from high school away as she made the transition from artist to scientist.

But after Lawrence took a dance class with Assistant Professor Pamela Vail, her love for the art was rekindled, leading to a switch in majors (Dance and Special Studies) and a major push to make dancing her life’s work. The research she conducted under Vail's tutelage culminated in a massive, site-specific dance project that she choreographed, while also handling set design, lighting and music.

Lawrence scouted the location, Lancaster’s Eastern Market—a 127-year-old building with high ceilings, cement floors and brick walls—and coordinated the installation of the program, titled Source, which featured four dancers immersed in large bins of water for one part of the program while the audience was free to move around during the performance. A Nissley grant provided funding, and Vail provided the guidance.

“Movement is like a different language, and it has allowed me to find my own distinctive voice,” Lawrence says. That sense of discovery is what drives Vail to collaborate with her students.

“The sky’s the limit,” she says. “Tori’s project was an enormous undertaking. She was absolutely courageous.”