Student dancer says performing is "the epitome of me"


Tyner Dumortier
Tyner Dumortier

Tyner Dumortier can’t contain himself.

Dumortier, 22, a senior BFA Dance student at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, is perched on an office chair in a conference room, but he can barely utter a word without moving his hands, his head and his eyes, all with unforced fluidity.

“I fell right into dance,” the Tennessee native says. Dumortier was raised by his French father and American mother in the South of France until he was 8 years old, when the family moved to Kentucky. “I loved listening to the music. I loved being able to move my body. I loved how the dancers were expressing themselves.”

More than a decade later, Dumortier feels the same way.

“That surge of energy when I’m onstage is so satisfying,” he says.“It’s a release of everything.”

Dumortier is already carving out a busy career in dance: In May 2011, his choreography and dancing won first place--and $10,000--at the National Society of Arts and Letters’ National Career Award Competition in Dance, which took place in Birmingham, Ala. In June, he and three other Mason Gross dancers will collaborate with the modern-dance company Freespace Dance on a series of performances at New York City’s St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery; he will take part in Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s summer intensive in July.

“I’m determined I didn’t work for the last 10 years for nothing,” Dumortier says. “It’s easier to dance and struggle with the realities—money and injuries and fatigue—than not to dance. It’s worth it.”

“That surge of energy when I’m onstage
is so satisfying.
It’s a release of everything.”


By the age of 12, Dumortier had begun competing all around the country in a dance troupe, amassing trophies and ribbons and indulging his passion for travel. But Dumortier truly began to regard dance as his vocation when he was 14, the moment he caught the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet performing on a French news channel.

“I was glued to the TV,” Dumortier says. “I was mesmerized. I turned to my parents and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ ’’

Soon after, Dumortier’s independence and ambition led him to a conservatory in Nice. He bunked with a host family during the week and spent weekends with an aunt in Cannes. He studied abroad for a year, encountering modern dance for the first time.

“It was my first professional experience being with people focused just like me,” he says. “I came from flashy, showy, show your tricks [in the dance troupe] to investing yourself and working on your body and building your technique.”

When Dumortier returned to the United States, he studied at a Nashville arts high school, living with family friends and, eventually, a teacher, just to keep dancing.

Tyner DumortierAs independent as Dumortier was, he admits that the freedom college offered came as a surprise.

“By my sophomore year, I was tired of being perfect. I was always independent and working and fixing problems,” says Dumortier, who recalls caring for his siblings while his parents worked in their upholstery business. “I got so tired of it. I felt I had missed growing up.”

Dumortier says he began skipping class. Fortunately, he says, Mason Gross Dance professor Randy James became a “big mentor. He said, ‘You need to get yourself together.’ It was a smack in the face: ‘Get it together.’ So I did.” Dumortier began to immerse himself in collaborations with Mason Gross guest artists such as Mark Morris of Mark Morris Dance Group and Benoit-Swan Pouffer of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

“It opened up: ‘This is what I can do with dance,’ ” he says. “With the guest artists, I want to push myself. It’s on you. You have to impress those names. This is where you make yourself; not when you leave here.

“At first, I looked at dances as technique,” Dumortier continues. But he says Mason Gross has taught him that “being an artist is expressing yourself as an individual, not being a machine. It’s a melting pot of artistry and technique.”

On May 2, that melting pot was on display as Dumortier appeared with other Mason Gross dancers in the Rutgers in New York program at The Joyce, New York City’s premier modern-dance venue.

“Me onstage and you seeing me—that is the epitome of me,” Dumortier says. “It can’t get any more personal. . . . I crave that [energy]. I want to keep having that feeling.”

Watch Dumortier and other Mason Gross dancers at work: