When he was only ten years old, second-year UCSB student Colson Lynn went to see a touring production of “Cats,” an experience Lynn would years later describe as “life-changing.” Today, Lynn is the youngest member to ever join UCSB’s Dance Company and the first in his class to produce his own show.
But Lynn remembers how close he came to not pursuing his dream. As an incoming freshman, Lynn had made plans to study Aquatic Biology. However, when dropping in on a dance class during summer orientation, he met Professor Christina McCarthy, who invited him to dance in the make-up auditions, scheduled only three days before classes began in Fall 2016.
Lynn was the only freshman on the UCSB Dance Company last year. Since then, he has performed in dozens of shows, including productions choreographed by UCSB’s Moira Saxena, Paris Cullen, Briana Markovich, and Sammy Gerraty.
UCSB’s Dance Company also took Lynn on tour in Europe. He has gained other experience through an apprenticeship with local professional dance company The Santa Barbara Dance Theater, directed by Christopher Pilafian.
Lynn is currently producing his own show, scheduled for mid-May. Creating the show involves choreographing eleven dancers.
The show, which will be free (though donations will be accepted), highlights the story of two people’s struggles through life, from birth to death. Lynn acknowledges how hard an undertaking producing one’s own show is; yet, he is determined.
In an interview with The Bottom Line over email, McCarthy, one of Lynn’s professors, commented that, “Colson loves moving. [People] are eager to work with him because of his infectious joy about dance and his unapologetic confidence in his vision for what he wants to create … As a performer, he captures attention with his commitment to the essence of the dance and his vulnerability on stage.”
McCarthy continued, “When he came to UCSB, he was a bundle of raw power. He has developed nuance, and is taking the technical aspects of his training very seriously as he works to hone the instrument of his body to better tell stories and fulfill the needs of other choreographer’s visions. He has not lost the energy, but has started to learn how to direct it and clarify it. We are lucky to have his focus and passion in our program.”
Lynn praises the UCSB dance faculty more than anyone for helping him thrive as a dancer. He told TBL in an interview last Wednesday that “[the faculty] offer a space for self-reflection … and make for a wonderful experience at UCSB.”
Every dancer, of course, credits the support and tutelage of instructors, trainers, coaches, and teachers, but no dancer makes meaningful progress without perseverance and dedication. Lynn dances nearly twenty-eight hours a week, taking four technique classes per quarter and often an additional dance history or other arts-related studies course.
On top of that, he is an Aquatic Biology major and must balance dance with biology, chemistry, and physics.
Furthermore, Lynn practices aerial skills and often visits open gyms that allow him to train in acrobatics and tumbling on the weekends. He dreams to join a dance circus like Cirque du Soleil.
Perhaps taking inspiration from one of his favorite musicals, Colson wants to perform like the Jellicle Cats in “Cats,” who “can dive through the air like a flying trapeze … [and] can turn double somersaults, can bounce on a tire.”
Lynn does plan to pursue a career in dance after graduation, perhaps going to graduate school or joining a dance company in New York before moving onto bigger things. He is inspired by artists like Isadora Duncan, Katherine Durham, Pearl Primus, and George Balanchine, especially.
Lynn described a pivotal moment when he had the privilege to meet one of the original performers from the “Cats” production he had seen ten years earlier. He ran into the dancer in New York as he traveled with UCSB’s Dance Company and he felt that the moment was meant to be. He is now certain that dance is what he’s supposed to be doing — he feels that he is fulfilling his childhood dreams.
Lynn relishes his experiences in UCSB dance and acknowledges that “all UCSB dancers are extremely dedicated and important—they all deserve to have their stories shared.” While that is undoubtedly true, Lynn nonetheless stands out as an extremely accomplished and diligent dance student at UCSB.