Art manager

Behind the Scenes: Georgia Southern Arts Marketing Manager, professional dancer and choreographer Lauren Holmen

Lauren Holmen, director of arts marketing at Georgia Southern University, poses outside the Fine Arts Hall box office on the Armstrong campus in Savannah.

Lauren M. Holmen (’13), head of arts marketing at Georgia Southern University, is also a professional dancer and choreographer who has been performing since she could walk. Today, her multiple roles overlap and are deeply embedded in Savannah’s thriving art scene.

Currently, she is a professional dancer in the inaugural “Dancing with the Bananas” competition, hosted by the Savannah Bananas baseball team, and heading into the second round of the competition on July 6.

Q: Tell us about yourself: where are you from and how long have you been involved in the arts?

A: I’m from Savannah. My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather are from Savannah.

I started dancing at the age of three and did ballet. I did jazz and tap dancing when I was a little older, then moved on to Irish dancing. It was so much fun, but I loved the ballet. It was always my goal, my heart, everything I did. I started working more with Savannah Ballet and only dancing with them. When I got to high school, I went to Savannah Arts Academy and decided to do acting instead of dance. I was so busy with acting that I kind of gave up on my dance training. But I started in college and danced all through college.

Q: Tell us about college and how you got back into dancing.

A: I was friends with a guy from Georgia Southern, and he invited me to visit him several times. I always had a great time and started watching PR programs, and the Georgia Southern program was the one that stuck with me the most. So I went, and it was the best decision I made.

I obtained a bachelor’s degree in general studies with a specialization in public relations, communication arts and marketing. I liked general studies. I liked having to do the marketing side, as well as PR and communication arts because it all sounds alike. There are still different nuances between them, but I think that helped shape things for me.

I was on the Southern Explosion dance team. It’s like cheerleading in the NBA for basketball games. They compete in national championships every year for the University. For the competition, we took a jazz approach or sometimes a more modern approach. It’s really fun. I did this for three years. I was captain my senior year.

Q: Tell us about your role as director of arts marketing for Georgia Southern.

A: I have a really unique role at the University. I assist the Betty Foy Sanders Art Department, Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music, and Theater Program to create and execute marketing and social media campaigns, exhibits, concerts, and productions. I also work with the Georgia Southern and Savannah communities to host events at the Beaux Arts Auditorium.

Q: Why is working in arts administration important to you?

A: The arts occupy such an important place in everyday life. To be able to bring that to the public is very gratifying. I take the skills I learned in college and apply them to my passion to create a space for artists to express themselves and bring amazing experiences to the community. I think it’s really special.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I love seeing our students grow as they gain confidence in their performances and exhibitions. There’s also nothing like the feeling of a full auditorium seconds before a performance starts.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being involved in the community arts scene in Savannah?

A: I love the sense of community that the art scene in Savannah has. Everyone in this town wants to produce great art and help each other bring great art to Savannah.

Q: How did you restart your career as a choreographer and dancer?

A: After college, a friend of mine called me and said, “I’m doing a show and I want you to choreograph. And I was like, ‘I don’t do that anymore.’ He said, ‘Come choreograph. It’s gonna be fun.’ And that’s what I did and I choreographed for this company, the Bay Street Theatre, for almost 10 years. Because I was choreographing, they made me go up on stage in a sneaky way. I started playing again because of the choreography with them. And then I kind of shifted my career into the arts and realized that I could work in arts administration, which I didn’t even know was possible. So it was a cool transition. This led me to my current role.

Q: What kind of performances are you doing now?

A: Currently, I am doing theatrical performances. More recently, I did “Hair”. I’ve done ‘Rocky Horror Live’ several times. It’s funny. I also choreographed for a feature film, “Lone Star Bull”.

I also choreograph the musicals on the Armstrong campus. I choreographed the musical “The Addams Family” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” last year.

Q: How do you approach the choreography of a show?

A: I’m doing some research. I watch a lot of YouTube videos to see what other theater companies are doing. Also, what are the other competition style videos, plus random offshoots of someone making songs and seeing what they’re doing and being inspired by it. But I kind of have my own style that I like to sneak into. It’s just a combination of my experience.

I consider myself a choreographer for non-dancers, because they don’t necessarily follow mainstream accounts in terms of how they see things, and I try to find words that will help someone with that. For example, for “Great American Trailer Park”, they had problems with the bourrée steps and I said “sing a song”. You can say “one, two, three pas de bourrée” or whatever you want. They just started shouting random words. All that works in your head is rhythm. That’s how I teach it.

Q: You are a member of the Savannah Ballet Theater Board of Directors and currently a professional dancer in the inaugural “Dancing with the Bananas” competition, organized by the Savannah Bananas. How did these two worlds collide and what was that experience like?

A: I was contacted by the Savannah Ballet Theater, which is under contract with the Savannah Bananas to help with “Dancing with the Bananas”. Immediately I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ I was so excited, then immediate panic hit.

The other women performing are contracted ballerinas for the Savannah Ballet. So coming back to this realm is really scary, but fun.

We are hosting an in-game dance competition where dancers are paired with a baseball player and each couple performs between innings. So they play baseball, come dance with us and then go back to the field. Afterwards, fans have the opportunity to vote in the stands. The next day, they post the videos on their YouTube channel and the public votes. We had a week to put together a minute and a half of choreography and teach it. I chose another version of ‘Puttin’ at the Ritz.’ It’s a little jazzy musical theater number, which is really cute. I gave my partner, Bryson Bloomer, a paneled jacket to wear over his uniform.

He thinks it’s really fun and it was really cool to see him get it. There’s a part of the choreography that he was struggling with and seeing him being very determined to figure it out was really, really cool. At the end of rehearsal, he had it.

It’s up to us to really tell a story. Especially with such passionate fans. The music should be right. It must be fun. There must be an element of stupidity there. It can’t be a serious pas de deux.

It’s the biggest audience I’ve played in front of. It’s a great experience, and it’s not something I ever thought I would do.

My friends and family have been so supportive of it all, which is so lovely. I find that with Savannah, people are so supportive.