As the Shades Dance Theater gears up to launch our inaugural season—nearly a year after the official announcement of the company’s creation—we want to take a moment to reflect on all the amazing steps we’ve taken to get here. Through this series, we will explore the company’s origin, our journey to where we are today, and what we have in store for the future.
Planting the Seed
In the summer of 2020, starting a company was the last thing on Shades Founder and Artistic Director, Cameron Terry’s mind. As was typical for Cameron, the beginning of his final year at the University of Oklahoma was filled with creating new material and making preparations for his senior capstone presentation.
It wasn’t until he was back rehearsing in the studio, after months away due to the pandemic, that he realized the wonderful opportunity that was standing right in front of him.
“I looked at the dancers I was working with and I decided that if I was going to start a company, these were the type of dancers that would be the blueprint—the foundation—to start the organization,” Cameron said.
As the semester progressed, this seedling of an idea continued to prod at the back of Cameron’s mind. Through rehearsals and classes Cameron mulled over what it would mean to follow in the footsteps of the celebrated greats like Lester Horton, Alvin Ailey, Sidra Bell, and Kyle Abraham and start a company of his own.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that this company—one that hadn’t even existed in concept months prior—was his destiny. That this would be his opportunity to make a lasting impact on the world.
Eventually, he couldn’t fight back any more.
“All these little gems were dropping at my feet,” Cameron said. “And I was like, ‘Okay I get the hint. Start the company, kid.’”
And just like that, the seed was planted, the roots had taken, and Cameron’s idea had started to blossom into something much more tangible.
Handling With Care
Once the ball began to roll, it was nearly impossible to stop. The project Cameron had envisioned for his dancers at the beginning of the rehearsal process had suddenly expanded into something much larger.
“I had to convince the dancers to go on an extra journey with me,” Cameron said. “And, in the end, they believed in me.”
Now, in addition to choreographing and curating a show—which would be presented both as the Shades’ debut and Cameron’s senior capstone—Cameron immediately had to take on the behind-the-scenes responsibilities of building and growing a new organization.
Board meetings, paperwork, marketing, eighteen hour work days. The process was brutal and rigorous, but Cameron forged ahead.
“I had a vision and goal, and I wasn’t going to let up,” Cameron said.
Watching It Grow
After months of rehearsals and ceaseless hard work, the Shades premiere performance was upon them. Despite everything that could have gone wrong—securing the space, issues with lighting, potential injuries, and the threat of the pandemic—the artists prevailed.
“All I could think was ‘Wow, we really did it,’” Cameron said. “Against all odds, we did it.”
Hours of hard work finally paid off. The Shades Dance Theater blueprint persevered in the face of adversity and performed an overwhelmingly successful debut and paved the way for the future of the company.
“I know God created Shades Dance Theater,” Cameron said. “Because that’s the only way we could have made it through.”
This was only the beginning—a mere taste of the journey Cameron would embark upon. As Shades Dance Theater continues to grow, Cameron continues to emulate humility and gratitude for all that it has taken for the company to blossom.