Laura Valentine, the artistic director and choreographer for Numinous Flux Dance Company in Nashville, was recently named the winner for BellaMoxi Dance Convention’s 2017 Emerging Artists Choreographic Festival in Bowling Green, KY. Her award-winning routine, Remorse, was performed by her company.
In the past, Valentine has also won the RAW Artist of the Year Title for Tennessee and has had her work Confidants selected for the NC Dance Alliance Annual Festival. She has choreographed and produced the full-length productions of The Dollhouse and The Veneer, which were driven by a motivation to bring awareness to anti-trafficking efforts, and Illustrated, which was inspired by those coping with grief. To get to know Valentine a little more, check out her interview with Dance Informa.
When did you start dancing? What inspired you?
“I was a wide-eyed seven years old when my mom first adorned my tiny feet with tap shoes. I quickly joined ballet and jazz class as well, but my spirit really lit up when I took my first lyrical class. I can remember dancing to ‘Water From The Moon’ by Celine when I was 9 or 10 and falling head over heels with telling stories on stage.”
In what styles did you train?
“I trained at Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, GA in jazz, ballet, tap, lyrical, contemporary, acrobatics and hip-hop. From there I started exploring musical theatre around my hometown with different teachers. I later attended Appalachian State University where I focused on modern, contemporary, ballet, somatics, choreography and Pilates.”
So, when did you start choreographing?
When I was young I had a rock collection and I used to set it up in different configurations and pretend each rock was a dancer. I would do this for hours on the floor in my room, mimicking my dance teachers and moving the rocks to and fro. This was definitely foreshadowing. I started choreographing a bit for my high school show choir group at 16, and then choreography really caught my heart in college. I took a choreography class under a professor named Emily Daughtridge at Appalachian State University. She truly inspired me. Once I started creating, I became obsessed. I found myself imagining dances as I watched cars weaving in traffic, or people walking through revolving doors or having a conversation on a park bench. My entire world began to dance before me. Tiny dancers took up residence in my thoughts, and I haven’t stopped choreographing since.”
Wow! So do you focus solely on contemporary/lyrical movement or do you delve into other techniques and styles as well?
“Contemporary and lyrical are the styles that inspire the most creation in me. However, I do enjoy constructing a comedic jazz number or an otherworldly modern piece from time to time as well.”
Who are some dancers and/or choreographers you look up to?
“There are so many wonderful creators I have studied, read about, taken class from, and seen; the dance world is so full of talent. It seems everywhere I look there’s someone to look up to.
But above all others, I marvel at the Numinous Flux Company dancers. They are the muses of my craft. Each one of them is different, and indispensable, inspiring a different facet of the working story. These characters awaken movements in me I’ve never imagined. I love to challenge their spirits and their physical capabilities. I love to push them far beyond what they thought was possible in their body. I love to expand their territory. Every one of my dancers has changed me, opened me, challenged me, inspired me, transcended with me.
I am inspired by great choreographers and great storytellers as well. Twyla Tharp’s writing is wildly inspiring. I performed a piece by Mia Michaels at a young age, and the way she worked grew my passion. The story was more important to her than the technical aspects. That excited the creator in me.
And of course, my husband Tom, who plays the narrator in Remorse, has had great impact on me. He has never danced, but he has a choreographer’s mind, and a creator’s heart. We shoot ideas back and forth, and I bother him with my work until we find a key together to unlock doors into deeper rooms within it. He inspires me to do the good work – the real work.”
On that note, what are your dance goals?
“My main ambition is to continue growing Numinous Flux, finding performance opportunities for the company dancers, and producing full-length productions. So long as I have a story to tell, and movement swelling within me, I will continue to create.
I’d love to begin growing our platform too. The stories I aim to tell are rather large! And so the stages they grace should be too. It is not my intention to throw things on stage quickly. My current goal is to complete this full-length production that illustrates the story of an older man named Syracuse in his last seven minutes of life. Each dance serves as a looking glass into a memory he is having. This story is continually growing inside of me. It is a buried treasure I am digging up daily. As I uncover more of it, it uncovers more of me.”
How did it feel recently being named the 2017 BellaMoxi Emerging Artist Choreographic Festival Winner for Bowling Green?
“The night I won was my 31st birthday. It was a wonderful birthday present to receive. Winning was of course so exhilarating in the moment, and extremely affirming for my heart. But the best thing that happened took place after the actual win; nearly every judge sought me out over the next couple days to let me know how moved they were by the piece, and to ask me questions about the story. A few of them wanted to know more, wanted to understand, many told me they cried with the piece. Their enthusiasm was so genuine. This was overwhelming in the best way. Knowing my work, my art, my story had stirred people up inside; knowing the dancers delivered it flawlessly; discovering how the work connected me and the dancers deeply to people we had never met – it erased so much fear in me.”
So tell us a little more about this work, Remorse. We know it’s about an older man named Syracuse… What else? When did you start working on it? What was the rehearsal process like?
“Remorse is an excerpt from the full-length production on the life of Syracuse, a man still grieving the loss of his wife 40 years before. His life is flashing before his eyes in a series of movements as he fades. This is the story of man who drowned in the ocean years after he lost someone he loved. The dancers and I have been hacking away at the narrative through movement for some time now, and were not finished yet!
For me, rehearsals are completely transcendent. We discuss our souls. We move through our own griefs. Often times, I work with the dancers much the way a director would approach actors. They have to become these characters. They have to invent memories and tell me who they aspire to be (in character). They have conversations and improvisations in character. Rehearsals can be taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s great to take part in this process as an artistic director. The cast is really becoming quite a family. I’m so honored to do this work with them.
Looking to the future, how does this recognition with BellaMoxi push you to keep producing work? How can we follow your work moving forward?
“This recognition has given me courage, and it has made me more aware that I’m on the right track! You can follow my dance company, Numinous Flux, on Instagram @numinous_flux and at facebook.com/numinousflux to keep informed of our upcoming events. You can also visit our website at numinousflux.com.”
For more information on BellaMoxi, visit Bellamoxi.com.
By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.
All photos courtesy of BellaMoxi and Laura Valentine.