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Jessica Harris '11 Awarded Jack Kent Cooke Arts Fellowship

Jessica Harris '11 performing "Folding" with Shen Wei Dance Arts

Jessica Harris '11 performing "Folding" with Shen Wei Dance Arts

Jessica Harris ’11, a dance major from Durham, North Carolina, received the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Scholarship, which are bestowed on students and recent alumni who have exceptional artistic or creative promise. In 2012, the Foundation selected only 15 recipients for the award.

The fellowship provides funding up to $50,000 per year for up to three years for students with financial need to pursue graduate study at an accredited institution. The award covers tuition, room and board, required fees, and books. Recipients are chosen by a review panel of distinguished artists, arts faculty, and university administrators using criteria that include artistic or creative merit, academic achievement, financial need, will to succeed, and a breadth of interest and activities.

Currently a resident of Brooklyn, NY, Harris is originally from Durham, North Carolina. In 2000, she attended the American Dance Festival and worked with choreographer Shen Wei on the piece Near the Terrace, which was so successful that it led to the founding of Shen Wei Dance Arts. She has danced with the Company since 2001, including performances at the Lincoln Center Festival, American Dance Festival, Sydney Opera House, La Fenice in Venice, Het Musiztheater in Amsterdam, Hong Kong Grand Theater, the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the Barbican in London.  In 2007, she joined Shen Wei in choreographing material for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Harris attended Pomona College in 2000-2002, augmented her studies with undergraduate classes through the New School in New York, and returned to Pomona in 2010, to finish her degree. A course with Prof. Anthony Shay in 2010, Traditions of World Dance, shifted her career focus from “wanting to choreograph dance to wanting to use dance to choreograph and communicate ideas,” she says.

It began with a research paper on flash mobs that led to two years of research on “the recent trend in public participatory performance, and how it’s laying the groundwork for new forms of sociability, made possible by the inter-connectivity of the Interne,” explains Harris. “These new forms of performance represent our paradigmatic shift from consumption to connection…. As an artist, I am interested using my artistry to create experiential campaigns that cultivate relationship within communities, rather than just displaying spectacle to be consumed. I aspire to have an experiential marketing company that offers clients artful and interactive marketing solutions, while also providing new opportunities for artists to profit from their work.”

Following her graduation, Harris remained at Pomona during the 2011-12 academic year as a visiting guest artist in the Dance Department. During that time, she produced more than 25 interactive performances in and around the campus, including working with three students to turn their senior theses into performances.

Among her inspirations, Harris lists Shen Wei and Prof. Shay, “an avid, passionate researcher…[who] articulates his ideas in a thoughtful, objective way that is positive and exciting [and who] encouraged me to pursue original research and to trust myself in new territory.”

Harris has deferred her Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship until fall 2013 and is currently dancing with her former dance company, Shen Wei Arts, and will tour with them in China, in December. Meanwhile, she is reapplying to CalArts, NYU Gallatin and Hollins University for graduate study.