A list of Camille Friall’s favorite things includes Saturday dance rehearsals at the Ballet Arts Conservatory of Tallahassee (BACT) with her friends and the ballet history she learns during her weekly repertoire classes with distinguished dance educator Amy Lowe.
Camille, 16, is a company soloist in BACT’s Capital City Festival Ballet and says that above all else, leaping across a wide-open stage tops that list.
“I’ve been dancing for almost as long as I can remember,” says Camille. “I’ve grown up with ballet and fallen in love with it over the years. It’s not only the structure, but how everyone moves together and forms this beautiful picture for the audience to see. It’s almost like an interactive experience that a dancer creates for the audience.”
This December, Camille will perform in BACT and Capital City Festival Ballet’s "A Few of My Favorite Things." The performance will feature excerpts from three classical ballets: "The Nutcracker," "Pas de Quatre" and "Les Patineurs” to ring in the holiday season along with live music played by local musicians.
Much like the performance, Camille's own training in the arts has included both dance and music. She’s trained in piano and earned superior ratings in her school district performances as a percussionist on tympani, snare drum, and xylophone.
'Healthy mind and body'
Camille will often learn a piece of music that she is dancing to in order to study the work from the inside out. When it comes to dance, she says her training with Lowe has proved invaluable, and goes beyond lessons in ballet technique.
“Miss Amy focuses a lot on having a healthy mind and body,” says Camille. “When I was younger, I remember in the conditioning classes her explaining to me that every single body is beautiful and important. That really hit home with me because as a dancer there are a lot of harmful stereotypes out there. Being told that it’s OK to look different and dance, and that you’re still beautiful, really warmed my heart and made me love it more.”
Camille is adamant that diversity is part of the conversation in ballet. She is continually encouraged to see professional ballerinas like Misty Copeland, who made history as the first African American female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.
Being the change on diversity
Camille recently played the lead role of Clara in last year’s “The Nutcracker, Reimagined” at BACT.
“There was a time when I was talking to a family friend and she was really upset because she didn’t get the role of Clara at her studio and said there was never going to be a black Clara,” recalls Camille. “I was able to show her that I did it and that it’s possible. The hope I saw on her face was heartwarming, it really made me feel like I was making a difference and solidified this as something I want to do.”
Camille felt a similar inspiration after seeing the Hiplet ballerinas perform in town. The company merges hip-hop with ballet’s pointe work to create an entirely new dance form. Camille was ecstatic to purchase her first pair of skin-tone appropriate pointe shoes from Capezio, a dance shoe brand who released a line of shoes made for black and brown skin.
“It’s a very new concept in the dance world,” says Friall. “That got me so excited because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve wanted to demonstrate those aspects of me.”
Camille describes her style as a dancer as revolving around strength and precision, but that it is a tough balancing act with grace and gentleness. She always aims to draw the audience in with her joy and playfulness. Even when a move requires a great amount of muscular effort, her goal is to look effortless.
When she approaches the ballet barre each day, she sets her intention for the class. Camille says that by setting a goal right at the start, she has seen incremental improvement over the past year or so in her artistry. This also kept her motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown when the studio was temporarily closed and holding classes online.
Friall’s makeshift home studio included pieces of dance floor distributed by Lowe and a ballet barre she bought online. Even in those tough months dodging her couch and tuning out her dog barking, Friall remained hopeful. She was relieved to return to the studio and dance again, even with masks and distancing.
“During COVID we worked really hard to be able to still perform for everyone,” says Friall, who remembers the challenges of last year’s performance. “In rehearsal, all the levels, from seniors to the little girls, all line up in our costumes to get checked and make sure everything is shipshape for the show. That was a moment where I realized this will happen, and we really would be performing and sharing our gift with the community again.”
Dancing into the future
Camille plans to keep dance as a part of her future plans after high school and is currently dreaming about studying abroad. In the meantime, she looks forward to being onstage and performing for a second time in "A Few of My Favorite Things.”
Camille remembers her first role in the show at the age of 6 or 7 as a “baby skater” in the "Les Patineurs” section which celebrates ice skating out on a frozen pond during the Victorian era. Now, as a part of the senior company, Friall is looking forward to dancing more technically challenging parts in that ballet, as well as performing the Chinese Tea variation in “The Nutcracker.”
“My favorite thing is performing,” says Camille. “Getting to share dance with people, showing them all my hard work, and having them enjoy what I have to offer creates a really good feeling. I always hope people walk away feeling a bit lighter than when they came in.”
If you go
What: "A Few of My Favorite Things"
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11
Where: Lincoln High School Auditorium, 3838 Trojan Trail
Cost: Range from $20-40, special pricing for students and children
Contact: For more information, call 850-510-1302 or visit https://28753.danceticketing.com/.
Amanda Sieradzki is the feature writer for the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the capital area’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org).
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Dancer Camille Friall's favorite thing is performing