Mathew James '12
Dance Teacher / Artistic Director
"LMU Dance produces bright, talented, and skillful dancers while offering life-changing opportunities to grow, learn, and connect to other artists, educators, and professionals."
After graduating from LMU with a double major in Dance and Theology – Jewish Studies, Mathew went on to pursue his MFA from New York University - Tisch School of The Arts. He is using his degree to pursue a career as a teaching artist, choreographer, and arts administrator. As a faculty member at Peridance Capezio Center, one of New York City's most prominent dance centers, he teaches contemporary technique in addition to leading a professional performance seminar program that requires him to create original contemporary work every three months.
He is also the Artistic Director of a NYC-based dance theater company, U R B A N / T R I B E. U R B A N / T R I B E has been invited to teach at institutions such as Sacramento State University and has been commissioned for works by the JCC: Manhattan and Steffi Nossen Dance Foundation.
Why did you want to be a lion?
"Funny thing, I decided to make it a goal to attend the LMU Dance Program when I saw a piece performed by LMU dancers and choreographed by then-faculty member, Mike Esperanza. The skill, craft, and artistry was captivating. The work ignited an intensity that made me year to be like those dancers. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be an LMU alum, and I definitely made the right choice."
What was it like being a part of LMU dance?
"LMU's Dance Program progressed my skills as a dancer, educator, and choreographer. The program helped me develop into a powerful and versatile dancer, fully prepared for the professional industry. I was lucky to have the tremendous support and mentorship of faculty members Teresa Heiland (associate professor of dance) and Judy Scalin (associate dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts), which allowed me to better navigate through LMU and bridge myself into post-grad life. Teresa guided me through the process of choosing and applying for grad school, which was pivotal in reaching my current successes. The attention and care I received from both Teresa and Judy gave me the confidence to reach for goals that otherwise seemed impossible.
There were certainly amazing opportunities to meet artists and professionals in the dance industry throughout my whole academic career at LMU. The yearly PLUNGE intensive that was held a week prior to the fall semester beginning was a major opportunity to meet so many working professionals and dance with/for them.
The most inspiring connection I made while at LMU was when I was given the opportunity to work with choreographer Barak Marshall. I must give thanks to faculty member and co-artistic director of BODYTRAFFIC, Lillian Barbeito and chair of the LMU Dance Department, Damon Rago, for inviting Barak Marshall to set his work, Monger, on a select group of students. This artistic process with Barak was a defining moment of growth and artistic development for me that ultimately guided me in the type of work I would pursue post-graduation."
Jess Harper '02
Lecturer of Dance, LMU, Chapman University, LBCC
"LMU Dance is like the perfect deep tissue massage, a warm blanket, a hard-core ropes course, a roller coaster of emotions, and a yummy dessert that is good for you, preparing you to be a better you. You just can't get enough! At least I can't. I keep coming back for more."
Currently Jess teaches and works at LMU, Chapman University, LBCC, School of Dance and Music, and the Yoga Loft. She also directs her company JESS HARPER & Dancers and still dances professionally, performing mostly with KAIROS Dance Co, under the direction of Hazel Clarke. Jess has shared her work not only throughout Los Angeles, but also in Santa Barbara, Monterey, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and aims to continue to share her creativity and her love through dance and film.
In March of 2017 JESS HARPER & Dancers put on a full-length work, DDD: An Evening of Dance, Desire & Delirium at Highways Performance Space. Due to the considerable success of this project, Jess plans to produce and direct another full-length work in the near future.
Why did you want to be a lion?
I chose LMU's Dance Program because of the awesome cohesive vibe within the department, the diverse faculty, and curriculum offered. I felt at home, welcomed, and cared for immediately, especially by Judy Scalin, who was department chair at the time. All faculty members were on board to support growth and opportunity. The department still has that unified family-feel today, thanks to the leadership of department chair Damon Rago, the versatile faculty, and the makeup of the students. That is why the Dance Program is so appealing. The variety of curriculum offered, from specific pedagogy within techniques and genres, to faculty and student shows, creates an attraction not only for dance majors and minors, but for non-majors as well. It is very diverse and welcoming to all.
What was it like being a part of LMU Dance?
LMU exposed me to TONGUE, a professional modern dance company under the direction of Stephanie Gilliand, where I worked as an apprentice while an undergrad, and then danced professionally for three years after graduating. While dancing in TONGUE, we won a Lester Horton Award for Best Performance in a Company (2004). Later, four of us from TONGUE would found METHOD, a contemporary modern dance company under the direction of Bradley Michaud. METHOD won a Lester Horton Award for Best Performance in a Company (2008), and I was nominated for Best Female Artist. LMU paved my career path and gave me the opportunity to create such amazing bonds and lifelong friends. I am forever grateful and will always consider LMU my home. LMU was truly instrumental in my career as a professional dancer, choreographer, educator, and human being.