Maya Taylor On: The difference between New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles

[stag_intro]Maya Taylor is the rehearsal director and choreographer at Marigny Opera House Dance Company. I interviewed her on contemporary modern dance, creative challenges, and the difference between New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles. [/stag_intro]

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Name: Maya Taylor

Title/Company Name: Rehearsal Director and Choreographer at Marigny Opera House Dance Company

Website: mayataylor.com

One- to two-sentence description of what you do:

I am a contemporary modern choreographer and dancer, so a majority of my time is spent working on my movement vocabulary, listening to music, and furiously searching the Internet for costume ideas. Most of my pieces are influenced by my personal experiences with love, death, and sex, but I also pull my ideas for choreography from gestures I see while walking down the street or from anecdotes at dinner parties.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career. 

The most significant accomplishment of my career was the first show I produced for my company, Maya Taylor Dance, after moving back to Omaha, Nebraska from New York. My friend Liz Ivkovich was a major influence in helping me start the company, and was there every step of the way for the production. Our first rehearsals together, when I was creating brand-new movement and where no idea was ever too crazy, were moments that really set the standard for who I wanted to be as a choreographer.

Was there ever a point where you thought, “This won’t work”?

Almost every other day! I remember trying to finish my piece, “Particles of the Universe,” which was based on my relationship with my mother and her passing in 2010. I used music from Behn Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and couldn’t finish the piece until two weeks before the performance. I was too in my head about trying to make everything absolutely perfect, since it was a subject so close to my heart. It wasn’t until I saw the company performing the piece that I realized the experience was helping me through the grieving process. I think it is so magical when your art can help you get through a tough experience.

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What attracted you to New Orleans?

Absolutely everything. I came down here to visit about five times before making the official move, and every single time I left, I felt homesick for New Orleans. I don’t think there is anything like the first time you step off the plane, smell the jasmine in the air, and dance in the middle of the street with someone you love.

How would you describe the young professional scene in New Orleans? 

Vibrant, hungry, supportive, and accessible. I have never met so many people who will come out to support a show or share a contact, and then will still want to go out for drinks and get to know you afterward. It’s not the “I’ll only talk to you if you can do something for me” feeling that I felt sometimes in New York and L.A. It feels genuine here, and the possibilities for collaboration are endless.

Tell me about a moment of failure.

For the past few years, I have applied to a very prestigious choreography competition for up-and-coming choreographers. I’ve been rejected every year I have applied. It is extremely competitive, and is something I really want for my career.

How did you overcome this temporary defeat?

I let rejection fuel my fire to produce. I take myself back to the studio to breathe and create something new. I always ask for feedback, which helps me focus on what I will submit for the following year. Being patient is the hardest part, but I know I am going to see a different letter in my inbox someday.

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Where do you see New Orleans five years from now?

I see New Orleans being even more of a hub for young creatives. I’ve never met so many people in dance, fashion, music, and business who are truly excited about what they are creating down here, and that energy is contagious.

What words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?

I would tell myself, say yes to every professional experience that comes your way. I would tell myself to be patient and welcome changes, because there are going to be a lot of them in your late 20s. And last, I would tell myself, don’t be surprised when you fall in love with everyone and everything in New Orleans. It’s okay to not live in New York City your whole life.

What is the biggest challenge for creative people in New Orleans?

For myself, I think the biggest challenge is not having access to the professional opportunities that are available when living in a larger city. I love that I am able to be involved in my art full-time here, but have found that spending time in dance hubs like New York or L.A. is important for networking and creating bigger opportunities to share my work.