My first glimpse of Micaela Taylor was during a performance in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s Founders Lounge with AteNine Dance Company as part of the 2015 Moves After Dark series. She had a very brief solo slowly moving down the room’s center aisle. All eyes in the room were fixed on her. Since that night, I have followed her career as a dancer and a choreographer with great interest. Taylor has beautifully fused together her training in Hip Hop with contemporary modern dance to create a unique vocabulary that often speaks louder and more powerful than words.

Taylor’s company, Micaela Taylor + The TL Collective, presented an evening-long work titled ROSEWOOD at the Odyssey Theatre to open the venue’s Dance at the Odyssey 2018 series. With this amazing performance, Taylor has taken her work to a new, and higher, level. ROSEWOOD is a deeply personal work, but Taylor never causes one to feel anything but admiration for an artist who took a difficult period in her life, and turned that journey into a beautiful piece of art.

Based in Los Angeles, Taylor trained at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet, the LA County School of the Arts, and received her BFA at the Cornish College of the Arts in 2014. She founded The TC Collective just one year later in 2015. Taylor is young, but her artist soul appears to be an old one. ROSEWOOD demonstrates a sense of form and structure, along with time and space that is far beyond her years.

Opening with a video/film projection by Nadav, Taylor sits in a bathtub staring forward, she laboriously wets her hair and then slowly slides down beneath the water. This is followed with a line from Proverbs 24:16 “Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up”. It is a foretelling of Taylor’s narrative. ROSEWOOD rips open personal relationships, conflicts and it is a questioning of faith. The work flows seamlessly from one scene to the next and Taylor’s incredible dancing is supported by three equally engaging performers; Sam McReynolds, Julienne Mackey and Jessie Thorne.

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

The lighting for ROSEWOOD is stark and at times darkness almost triumphs. This is an insightful design by Katelan Braymer, who never lets the darkness win, but artfully depicts Taylor’s struggle not to succumb to its seductive temptation. The costumes are also black, but this black on black allows the performers gestures and facial expressions to become prominent. ROSEWOOD is not about flashy dancing, although it is quite extraordinary, but it is about Taylor’s victory over a personal darkness.

Taylor managed to relate her narrative purely through movement. There were poignant twists of facial muscles, and a solitary cough that felt like Taylor was expelling pain from within her body. There was also times when one person would maneuver another by an arm or a leg; toting them around like a sack of produce. Taylor has begun to discover moments of rest and stillness. I am not convinced, however, that she trusts them. But, one can see her beginning to try. She also manages to introduce humor into the work with a tongue-in-cheek love duet performed to Irving Gordon’s song Unforgettable made famous by Nat King Cole.

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

The salient projections helped move the narrative along and foretell Taylor’s progression through this period in her life. Other hints at the work’s meaning came through with moving gospel hymns. Without bringing religion into the mix, Taylor does look at the questioning of her faith. We know that she will be ok when at the end of ROSEWOOD, we hear “Do you believe in Jesus?” and Taylor, looking up with both arms extended, shouts “YES!”

Feature photo by Becca Green

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