Micaela Taylor & The TL Collective made their debut as Company In Residence at the Wallis Annenberg Center for The Performing Arts for two nights this past October 29th and 30th. The Bram Goldsmith Theater was once again the perfect venue for the performers and audience alike. As before The Wallis adhered to strict Covid protocols making us all feel safe while allowing us to enjoy live theater yet again.
Micaela Taylor is receiving a lot of attention as one of LA’s “Hot” choreographers and rightfully so. Taylor’s choreography encompasses the freedom of hip-hop, the theatricality of musical theater and the technique of modern jazz. She is unique in her style, innovative, endlessly inventive and technically superb. Her dancers are equally accomplished and capable and her company works together like a well-oiled machine. With all that in place a” knock out” night of dance seemed inevitable but sadly this was not the case.
“Drift” seeks to demonstrate an individual’s ever-changing relationship to self, while exposing a personal season of self-growth.” Micaela Taylor
Opening with “Drift” the dancers appear in black suits and white face instantly reminding one of the great mime artist, Marcel Marceau. The meaning of this affectation however is not clear especially in connection to the above statement. What begins as intriguing marionette like movement dissolves into repetitiveness that undermines the hard work of the five dancers. Rarely does Taylor change up her rhythmic approach to include lyrical phrases or long smooth runs of movement. Everything is based on articulation, quirkiness and constant pattern changes and as impressive as that is she would benefit from slowing down and allowing the dance to settle in and bring the viewer along. The music or “Mash Up” of a soundscape is also problematic in that there is nothing to grab onto, no hook that draws on the audience’s emotions. There is a palpable sense of relief when she drops in a segment of a tune such as Kool & The Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging.” Here she shines with wonderfully funny group choreography that is both a comment and entertainment. I also found Taylor’s solo to Sam Cooke’s iconic “A Change Is Gonna Come” to be a breath of fresh air. Though rife with ideas a pause to breathe, more attention to the idea itself and more actual music might just make the difference. The accomplished dancers were Micaela Taylor, Jennifer Lacy, Jessie Lee Thorne, Gianna Todisco and the exceptional Matt Luck. The “Mash Up” music was by Micaela Taylor. The notable lighting designs throughout the concert were by Katelan Braymer.
The world premier of Taylor’s “Time” seemed like a continuation of “Drift.” Again the Mash Up score by Micaela Taylor though different, felt the same. Using segments from un-credited classical music she brought more sound than music to the fore. While both dancers Micaela Taylor and Matt Luck, are technically excellent there was no depth of feeling and no particular meaning behind the movement. Again this was overly busy, every count bursting with movement leaving little room for the free flow of dance and or any perceivable emotion. This piece needs time to incubate.
After a longer than announced “Pause,” ‘90Sugar” hit the stage. Apparently this work is meant to be a comment on the “90’s, before easily accessible computers, Internet and cell phones etc. This time Taylor has added dialogue, monologues and rap to what otherwise looks and feels indistinguishable to what has come before. Again the movement is kinetic, quirky, sometimes funny and always too much. If we were to understand the intent through the spoken word unfortunately it was unintelligible with the exception of a word or phrase that you might catch as it flew by. Adding voice-overs and or dialogue to dance pieces seems to be the new norm but I have rarely seen it work well and that is the case here too. Because one did not know where to look or what to listen to it was easy to be distracted and even bored which is truly unfair to the dancers who were fully committed to every move. The music, sound score composed by Tam Visher did not help, as it was again an amalgam of sound with the occasional relief of a snippet of an actual tune. When Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” or Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” filled the room with something fun to listen to the audience came alive for the first time sighing and moving to the groove. Many more moments like this would have been welcome. The precise, hard-working dancers were Micaela Taylor, Jennifer Lacy, Matt Luck, Keilan Stafford, Jessie Lee Thorne, Gianna Todisco, and Austin Tyson. No credit was given for costume design, which is reflected in the unflattering cobbled together looks.
Micaela Taylor has brilliance that is only impeded by her overabundance of abilities. Perhaps if she takes a step back from doing it all she will see that it’s possible to let the dance breathe, to bring in more actual music and to tell a story with simplicity and clarity. I believe by developing these skills she has the potential to become a world-class choreographer.
Thanks to The Wallis for its acknowledgement of the importance of dance in the community and to their commitment to our local companies. I always look forward to seeing what’s next at The Wallis.
To visit the Micaela Taylor & The TL Collective please visit their website.
To learn more about The Wallis, please visit its website.
Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: TL Collective – (L-R) Matt Luck, Gianna Todisco in “Drift” choreography by Micaela Taylor – Photo by Karen Tapia.