Over the past few years, Micaela Taylor has proven herself to be one of Los Angeles’ leading choreographers. In just three years, she has taken her company TL Collective from the innovative Highways Performance Space and Gallery to Jacob’s Pillow Summer Dance Festival and The Ford Theaters. Her work has been presented on Dance at the Odyssey, LA Dance Festival and she has been commissioned by BODYTRAFFIC, Springboard Dance Montreal, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and B12 Festival Berlin, to list just a few. Taylor is the recipient of the Inaugural Springboard EMERGE Choreographic Award and recently named one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 to Watch,” in 2018.

Micaela Taylor - Photo courtesy of The TL Collective

Micaela Taylor – Photo courtesy of The TL Collective

Adding to this growing list, Taylor has been commissioned to create a new work for the Cuban company Acosta Danza, founded by the world renown ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. In addition, Taylor will be working with Tyra Banks and producer Ryan Shaw on a new project to create Modelland, a new permanent attraction that will open in 2019 in Santa Monica, CA. Taylor is indeed a dance artist to watch.

Working with Acosta Danza will be a Taylor debut international commission. “I am very excited to have this opportunity to travel to another country, “She said. “setting a work with dancers from a different culture. Working with dancers whose background and training is in different styles of movement.”

Taylor feels that this opportunity came about very organically. Her company performed at the 2018 Dance Platform in LA where she met Olga Garay-English, the Executive Director at The Ford Theatres. Garay-English invited Taylor and her company to have a month’s residency at the John Anson Ford Theatres where she choreographed a full-evening work Drift.  Garay-English asked for a copy of the video of Drift and sent it to Carlos Acosta in Cuba.  It was from that video that Garay-English received a call two days later inviting Taylor to set a new work on Acosta Danza, and she emailed Taylor the good news. Taylor admitted to me that she did not know very much about Carlos Acosta, so set out to do her research.

Micaela Taylor + The TC Collective in ROSEWOOD – Photo by Becca Green

Carlos was born in 1973, the 11th child of low-income family in one of Havana’s poorest districts. He was sent to train at the National Ballet School of Cuba where he trained with some of its most influential teachers including Ramona de Saa. From 1989 to 1991 Carlos performed throughout the world, guesting with several leading companies including the Compagnia Teatro Nuovo Di Torino in Italy. He was invited by Ivan Nagy to dance with the English National Ballet during their 91-92 season, where at the age of 18, he became ENB’s youngest ever principal dancer. He performed with the National Ballet of Cuba under Alicia Alonso, touring with the company to Spain. Later, he was offered a position as Principal dancer with the Houston Ballet which he accepted and spent five years with the company. In 1998, he became a member of the Royal Ballet under the direction of Anthony Dowell, becoming Principal Guest Artist in 2003. Acosta has also made appearances with American Ballet Theater and the Bolshoi Ballet.

Carlos retired from the Royal Ballet stage in 2015 but continues to perform contemporary ballets with his newly formed company in Cuba, Acosta Danza. He has also created the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation and Acosta Danza Academy which opened its doors in Havana in September 2017.

To watch the trailer for Acosta Danza, click here.

Taylor listened to interviews with Acosta where he stated that “He wanted to create a dance company that was really diverse.” She said. “Diverse in race, in the styles that dancers perform, diverse in the kinds of international choreographers that he brings in, but more importantly, in developing the talents that he recognized in his own country of Cuba.” Having grown up in poverty, Acosta is aware of his good fortune and wants to give that opportunity to other children who are growing up in similar living conditions.

“I find that even with hiring me” Taylor said. “that it is a way of his giving back and taking a chance on an emerging choreographer, a woman of color. It speaks to who he is.”

Micaela Taylor performing in her work titled DRIFT – Photo by Renae Wootson, courtesy of the Ford Theatres.

I reminded Taylor that she is also very talented, but it does speak to Acosta’s eye for talent and his willingness to hire a young choreographer who does not have a large visibility within the United States dance scene. Those of us who have seen her in LA know of her gifts, but Taylor is just beginning to stir interest nationally. Acosta Danza is an internationally touring company, so this is a huge opportunity for Taylor.  “I think that is just something that is unspoken,” She said. “the understanding of moving forward no matter what obstacles come to you or who you are. Having the confidence of who you are and what you bring to the art form of dance as a choreographer.”

Taylor and I spoke about how Acosta was able to go from living in poverty to traveling the globe as one of the world’s most admired ballet dancers. “I am really inspired by his story.” Taylor said. “By me going there, I will want to obviously bring who I am, the mixture of my hip-hop background with the more classical background training that I have, but also to learn from their culture, the way that they move with the Cuban style of dance and to grasp as much as I can.”

Taylor will be in Cuba for the month of July in 2020. During the limited time that she has, Taylor plans to observe and absorb some of the Cuban people’s lives and culture so that she can incorporate what she learns into the work that she creates for the dancers at Acosta Danza. It was decided that she would work with just seven dancers. She is used to working with an intimate cast of dancers, but here, of course, she will be working in a new environment and with dancers that she does not know.  TL Collective member Matt Luck will be traveling with Taylor as her assistant. Luck has performed with the company going on two years and knows Taylor’s style.

For Tyra Banks’ new project, Modelland, Taylor said that “she feels honored to have been discovered by Tyra Banks and producer Ryan Shaw for this incredible project. I know that this opportunity will take me to a higher level as a creative. Looking forward to new challenges and to share this with the world.” She shared a link with me of Banks talking about this project which you can watch by clicking here.

Micaela Taylor – Photo by Jobel Medina

Taylor says that she is ready and excited about these new challenges. She explained how over the past few years she has begun to trust that most of the opportunities that are offered up to her have occurred organically, not by her attempts at forcing things to happen. She has learned to trust that it is building relationships with people, trusting oneself and to celebrate each moment of the journey.

To learn more about Micaela Taylor + The TL Collective, click here.

For more information about Carlos Acosta’s Acosta Danza, click here.