Our featured Dance Season interview for Tuesday is with Taylor Graham.
What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?
Initially, it was my parents that got me into dancing but on a more professional front, one of my main motivations to pursue this as a career came from attending an intensive in Los Angeles called 'The Gypsy Project' in 2017. The mentors I met there (Tilman O' Donnell, Jermaine Spivey, Spenser Theberge, and many others) showed me a realm of movement based upon curiosity, creativity, and embodiment. I felt incredibly nourished working with them. I began utilizing movement as a way to understand where and who I am, to continuously be reminded that everything is changing and impermanent. So all I can do is pay attention. Dance is how I pay attention.
How have recent restrictions affected your processes?
I happened to be in my childhood home in New York when the first lockdown hit. This affected me pretty heavily as I felt I was just gaining momentum towards landing my life in Ireland. Reflecting on that period of time, I am grateful for it. I was able to recenter, to come back to myself and to reconnect with family in a more caring way. I got into a routine; ballet 3 times a week, yoga 2 times a week, Dance Church, rollerblading, biking, walking. Just getting to know my body more intimately. I spent a lot of my time outdoors connecting with nature. I wasn't in any creating headspace during that time, so I focused more on 'the schedule'. I arrived back in Ireland in July and began reacclimating. Things were very intense emotionally, so I started creating this piece. Overall I think I've been lucky within this pandemic event. I have a practice I'm passionate about surrounded by a very supportive community both in The States and Ireland.
In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?
When I began researching for this project, I was fighting through restrictions both physically and mentally. This work is about trauma, so it's deeply personal. There was unfolding of trust because I was working closely with collaborators on this very personal thing. I had to let them into this space. It was liberating to feel inspired by embodying my experiences. The three of us were really excited by ideas, particularly the fact that we got to create something that feels true to discomfort, confrontation, and absolute noise. There has been pain and joy in the process.
I'm translating my experiences with PTSD into expression through collaborating noise, writing dialogue, letting my body sound and words out as I move, etc. It may sound cynical, but I hope the piece invokes discomfort but simultaneously helps people feel seen and heard in their own experiences.
For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?
I'm an avid promoter of everybody being a dancing body. It's so fun. Looking at our bodies and being like "Wow! What can this thing do??". I recommend online classes. One I would highly recommend is 'Dance Church'. They are based in the States, created by Kate Wallich. That class encourages dancing for the joy of it rather than for a particular aesthetic or outcome.
Additionally, I've sought so much solace in connecting with my body through the Body-Mind Centring school. They have courses available online, and there are plenty of people certified to teach that I'm sure have classes available as well. I'd recommend this as it's a gentle way of embodying anatomy and experience.
On a more professional level, I believe that trying to fit into other people's ideas can be a more comfortable experience after discovering your own sense of movement. Embodying myself in such a way informs me of my intrinsic self-value. It's a treasured thing to find a mentor that guides, encourages and challenges you to express yourself as you already are.
If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?
My portfolio website will not be up and running until January 2021 but when it is ready the domain will be: www.tayelisegraham.com
For now, people can follow me on Instagram as that's the best way to look at my past, present, and upcoming work: www.instagram.com/tayelisegraham/
Facebook is also an option: https://www.facebook.com/taylor.e.graham.5