COCA alumnus and choreographer Mason Cummings will bring new work to COCA’s stage for our inaugural Choreographic Lab Showcase, November 5–6.
Mason is the first choreographer to participate in COCA’s Choreographic Lab, a new program launched in Fall 2021 by Co-Artistic Directors of Dance Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Kirven Douthit-Boyd. The Choreographic Lab supports the creative process of emerging choreographers.
Mason’s engagement with COCA is a six-week experience where he receives training and mentorship from our Co-Artistic Directors of Dance as well as professional mentors. He joined the COCA faculty to teach classes and is in the process of creating works for two of our Pre-Professional Division student dance companies—Ballet Eclectica and COCAdance.
We had the opportunity to learn more about his Choreographic Lab experience and new work. We are thrilled by the way new work can expand the minds of its creators and audiences—and it became clear in talking with Mason that he is excited by the growth and connection the Choreographic Lab has brought him!
What was your involvement with COCA as a student?
Mason: As a student at COCA, I was a part of the dance and vocal department. I took several dance classes a week and was a part of COCA Voice. Also, I performed in COCA’s Summer Musical: In the Heights in 2013.
Tell us about the works you’re creating for COCA’s student companies.
Mason: I am choreographing two works for COCA’s student companies:
For Ballet Eclectica, I am presenting a work where I’ll try my hand at combining ballet with nonclassical music. I wanted to push the dancers, myself, and the music to make this mix harmonious and inventive. Audiences can expect this work to be full of fun, rhythm, and life!
For COCAdance, I am presenting a work that plays with the perception of performers and audience members. Oftentimes, these groups are viewed as separate groups; however, they are more connected than we realize. Whether we know it or not, both parties are influenced, inspired, and informed by one another, creating this connection.
You’ve had mentoring from world-renowned dancers—Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Claudia Schreier, Gemma Bond, Jamar Roberts, Tommie-Waheed Evans—throughout your six-week lab experience. Tell us what these mentoring sessions have been like for you and how they have helped you during this experience.
Mason: The mentoring factor of this program is unbelievable. I am blessed to meet so many great artists who have informed me about myself, my process, and my unique voice in this field. The knowledge and wisdom are incomparable and push me to investigate, interrogate, and isolate different ideas in my choreographic process. These mentors have provided feedback, asked hard questions, mentioned life/dance hacks, and created confidence in my place in the dance world. The moments I have shared with the mentors will be with me far beyond my six weeks here at COCA.
I am blessed to meet so many great artists who have informed me about myself, my process, and my unique voice in this field.Mason Cummings
What have you gained from this experience?
Mason: With this experience, I have knowledge that can push me further in my career. Additionally, I have gained invaluable connections within the COCA community. Having these outcomes from this program has been great.
What has been the most memorable moment?
Mason: One of my most memorable moments here was when I had a mentor session with Claudia Schreier. In our conversation, she said many things that made sense to me and contributed to my confidence as a choreographer. Our session was very enriching and continues to play in my mind as I finish these works.
What has COCA meant to you?
Mason: COCA has been a support system over the years. If this program has not been a testament to that, the numerous programs COCA has to showcase, build, and help its artists can be. They have been a community that truly believes in the creativity of everyone and helps contribute to everyone’s success.
What’s next for you?
Mason: As of right now, I plan to go back to LA and live my best life possible. I am not sure where that will take me or what the future has for me but I am grateful for the opportunity to share my art with a place like COCA.
About Mason Cummings
Cummings is an interdisciplinary choreographer, dancer, and writer. He has studied at COCA, The Ailey School, and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. His choreography has been presented at the Jack Crystal Theater in New York City and Spoke the Hub’s Solo Fancy.