Thursday, July 5, 2012

Arts.Advocacy+Wellness: Groove Theory: Laurie M. Taylor/Soul Movement

Happy 4th FUTURE Fans and Happy Birthday to my mom. 

A day of independance and a day of sharing.  Check out this article featuring up&coming choreographer Laurie M. Taylor.

Groove Theory: Laurie M. Taylor/Soul Movement
by Jamal Story

A host company may want to think twice before engaging Laurie Taylor/Soul Movement to open its evening.  After her performance Saturday at DNA, it’s clear she and her troupe can easily run away with a show.

Alongside her admirable desire to re-define the business model for dance companies toward respectful partnerships vs. hand-me-down write-off receptacles, Taylor presented a festival of moods and feelings that emanate from the stage.  Her work is as much a celebration of musical nuance as it is a trek through transcendental expression.  

This was especially evident in Repositioned for Greatness, a collage of several dance idioms that asked a very spirited quartet to inhabit flatback, arabesque and house club footwork in less time than it takes to read this sentence. The young ladies, all laden with strong energy and general swagger, rose to the occasion. 

But none were as adroit in her work as Taylor herself, whose star power and maturity prevailed in Best Love Ever.  Set to a throbbing Robert Glasper track, Taylor succeeded in embodying her ideal:  a strong artistic life force with spiritual honesty, emotional integrity and sensitivity to the “groove” in the music, all to our ineffable fulfillment.  She refused to dwell, giving nothing less than 100% of her energy investment to the present moment she and her audience are experiencing. 

And while we’re on presence, it would be criminal not to mention Jessica Featherson, whose endless arms and sumptuous torso were impossible not to watch as they managed to find ethereal and earthly roots at once.

Just in case we were skeptical about her vision, Taylor featured mesmerizing Francine Ott in a self-made solo aptly titledUndivided Attention.  Clad in black from ankle to wrist, the young woman appears oddly exposed, confronting herself at every turn.  Ott ran the gamut from arrogance to plummeting self-esteem while her articulate ribcage demonstrated how virtuosity can exist in an undulation.      

Let’s be clear; Taylor has some things to say as well. Nestled in the abstraction of her group pieces were several whispers about femininity, sexuality, body image and the value of community.  In a particularly affecting moment of Falling, individuals stand present, chests lifted and weight forward as if to confront adversity; one begins to collapse as the others rush to pull her to standing.  It happens a few more times and, thanks to the commitment of her dancers, loses no impact.

Taylor’s art could benefit from more hands-on contact of this sort throughout the rep. And we can only imagine what kind of musical imaginings might be inspired by more involved partnering.  But eerily absent were men, making it hard not to wonder if a Paradise Island demographic is essential to her dance-osophy.

For the competition it might be a good thing. Add select male dancers and a big budget and Taylor could run off with more than our standing ovation. 

Jamal Story:
An LA native, Jamal began dancing with Lula Washignton  during his teen years. He went on to perform as a guest artist with Dallas Black Dance Theater and Fort Worth/Dallas Ballet while earning earning two degrees (Dance Performance and TV/Radio Communications) from Southern Methodist University. Jamal has also danced with Donald Byrd/theGroup, Madonna's 2001 Drowned World Tour, Complexions, and (as an aerialist and dancer) Cher's Living Proof: The Farewell Tour.
He worked with Donald Byrd to help discover the movement for the history-making Broadway show, The Color Purple, where he was a dancer and assistant dance captain for the Broadway run. Jamal continues his advocacy for educating young artists about the changing landscape of dance. His first novel, 12:34 is now being taught in English classes at Cypress College, Cal State University Long Beach and Los Angeles City College.

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