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It is always wonderful to witness the process of an emerging talent finding her/his own voice. Micaela Taylor is one such talent and she showed this past weekend at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica that she has much to say and she allowed us to get a glimpse into who she is. Taylor founded the Los Angeles based TL Collective in 2015 and MOLECULAR FUEL was their very first full evening of works. The company has beautifully woven together contemporary dance, hip hop and theater. Taylor, as well as a few other local dance artists, have created a unique movement vocabulary that can, and is, also used in lieu of spoken dialogue.

Amir Rappaport in Molecular Fuel - Photo by Jobel Medina
Amir Rappaport in Molecular Fuel – Photo by Jobel Medina

MOLECULAR FUEL was divided into three separate, but related segments, and performed by three very talented and strong dancers. They were Orlando Agawin, Amir Rappaport and the truly amazing Micaela Taylor. Taylor’s stage presence is incredible. During the first section I was watching Agawin and Rappaport engaged in a very dramatic and physically demanding duet when I felt my attention being drawn away to the opposite side of the stage. I turned my head to find Taylor kneeling on the floor, her arm outstretched and very subtly moving her hand as if to control the others’ movements. Her presence demanded my attention without her doing anything physically spectacular. When Taylor is moving, it is difficult to watch anyone one else onstage. She is tall and slim, with legs that seem endless. Her body appears to move compartmentally and separately, but it always ends up where Taylor directs it to go.

Micaela Taylor in Molecular Fuel - Photo by Jobel Medina
Micaela Taylor in Molecular Fuel – Photo by Jobel Medina

In the first section of MOLECULAR FUEL, Taylor, dressed in all black, appeared as a benevolent force, an outside creative force threatened to be suppressed but, at the same time, demanding to be heard. The recorded text at the beginning expressed how one should go out into the world to find happiness doing what one loves to do. Here, Agawin and Rappaport appeared to be the resistance to Taylor’s finding that happiness, yet there were moments where Taylor’s gestures and movements controlled theirs. These dancers talked, led and competed without saying a word. Their bodies spoke volumes, however.

Micaela Taylor, Orlando Agawin in Molecular Fuel - Photo by Jobel Medina
Micaela Taylor, Orlando Agawin in Molecular Fuel – Photo by Jobel Medina

The second section spoke to love, acceptance, friendships, rivalry and loss. Taylor was again the outsider seeking acceptance; taking on the attributes of her peers to be included. She develops a friendship, falls in love with her friend’s partner and loses all. Watching these three dancers speak through this new movement vocabulary was totally engaging. Their chests cave, twist while their heads circle, bend or turn. A sudden shoulder move takes them to the floor and up again leaving one to wonder how they did that. Fortunately, Taylor resisted repeating the move, keeping the mystery alive.

The third section had more of a community feel. There were unison sections and less overall angst; although Taylor did bring back some of that emotion, leaving us to wonder about the uncertain outcome of these new world inhabitants.

Amir Rappaport in Molecular Fuel - Photo by Jobel Medina
Amir Rappaport in Molecular Fuel – Photo by Jobel Medina

Music for MOLECULAR FEUL was by Pan Sonic, and The Righteous Brothers. The text was by British philosopher, writer, and speaker Alan Watts. Taylor did not mirror the music. She allowed it to exist on its own to help create the atmosphere she wanted to portray. The electronic score by Pan Sonic surrounded the movement and at times drove the dancers forward or pulled them into another direction; but the outcome never became predictable. Lighting Designer Katelan Braymer did a marvelous job of creating mystery, separating the dancers when required, and when appropriate, assaulting our senses. I particularly liked the sudden visual attack by the fluorescent lights that startled without hurting our eyes.

Orlando Agawin, Micaelad Taylor in Molecular Fuel - Photo by Jobel Medina
Orlando Agawin, Micaelad Taylor in Molecular Fuel – Photo by Jobel Medina

Taylor & the TL Collective have much to be proud about their first full evening concert. Now, will they take this new form of dance style and expand its limits? Will Taylor add to this newly formed vocabulary?  The company has planted healthy and creative seeds which will need nurturing to grow an all-inclusive forest. From what I have seen, Taylor has that in her body and within her intelligent imagination.

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Jeff Slayton
Jeff Slayton has had a long and influential career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. Born in Virginia in 1945, Slayton began dancing as a child in order to correct his condition of hip dysplasia. He enjoyed a performance career in New York dancing for Merce Cunningham, Viola Farber and others. In 1978 he moved to Long Beach, CA. where began teaching at California State University, Long Beach as a part time faculty member. He became a full time faculty member in 1986 and continued to teach at CSULB until 1999. Jeff Slayton was one of the faculty members that helped design the Dance Center at CSULB as well as develop and implement the BFA, MFA and MA degree programs. While in Long Beach, he formed his own company, Jeff Slayton & Dancers, that operated from 1978 to 1983. He continues to stage works in the Southern California area. He is also the author of two books, "The Prickly Rose: A Biography of Viola Farber" and "Dancing Toward Sanity". For more information on Jeff Slayton please go to www.jeffslayton.org.

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