Columbus Makes Art Presents: Lauren Squires on Tap Dance, Rhythm and Community
Lauren Squires is the Director of Movement Afoot, Columbus’ only all-tap dance company. This month the company presents its third annual concert, Rhythm Studies, April 27-28 at the Van Fleet Theatre. Local tap dancer and Movement Afoot member Janelle Maur sat down with Lauren to talk tap and more.
Janelle: How long have you been dancing, and why did you gravitate towards tap?
Lauren: I’ve been dancing since I was about 4. Until I graduated high school, I did tap, ballet, pointe, jazz and modern. Tap was always my “thing,” though. I always loved making rhythms and exploring what kinds of tricks I could get my feet to do.
Janelle: What brought you to Columbus?
Lauren: I moved to Columbus in 2012 to take a position as a professor in the English department at Ohio State. My Ph.D. is in linguistics, so I teach and do research about the English language from a linguistic perspective.
Janelle: How does your linguistics background impact your approach to tap dancing and choreography?
Lauren: Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It’s taking a rigorous analytical approach to something that is fundamentally about both human creativity and cultural expression. Tap is the same way—you can do it intuitively, but you can also be very analytical about the rhythms you’re creating. I think being a linguist might make me a little geekier about the dancing. Like, I’m not sure how many other tap dancers are sitting around looking at waveforms or spectrograms of their tap dancing!
Janelle: What surprised you about the dance scene in Columbus when you moved here?
Lauren: I did assume there would be some sort of performance-based tap scene, since Columbus is a much bigger city than where I’d been living previously. But there really wasn’t too much beyond classes. That wasn’t too surprising though—in most places outside New York, LA and Chicago, there just isn’t a ton of professional-grade tap going on. Honestly, starting a dance company was not really ever part of my plan, but continuing to dance and create were. I wanted there to be a community for tap dance here, and that’s why Movement Afoot was founded. And here we are today, getting ready to present our third full-length tap dance show! I am so thankful to the dancers in the company for believing in the vision and sticking with me.
Janelle: Why is it important for tap to be part of a city’s dance community?
Lauren: I think it’s important for tap to be part of a city’s arts community, period. Ideally tap is not just part of what’s going on in the dance scene but also what’s going on in the music scene. Tap is music. But anyway: tap is a versatile, endlessly interesting art form. It’s entertaining, but it can also be very sophisticated and moving, and it has an important history. I think tap can provide a wonderful entry point into dance for folks who may not connect right away with, say, ballet or contemporary. I want everyone to have the opportunity to see a tap dance concert at some point in their life.
Janelle: What other organizations have you collaborated with, and what’s the best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
Lauren: Movement Afoot has performed at Hot Times, Independents’ Day, ComFest and the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as at several events with OhioDance. We’ve performed at benefit shows. We’ve had amazing guest artists in our concerts: Mansee Singhi (kathak), TrigNO (hip-hop), New Vision Dance Co., Columbus Moving Co., OSU Department of Dance and GOREE Drum & Dance. And several of us are tap educators, teaching around town including at BalletMet Academy and Artisan Dance Studio in Clintonville. Right now in Columbus, I’m excited about what continue to be new, reconfigured and collaborative dance companies and shows popping up. For instance, this is our second year presenting a piece in Columbus’ production of Ten Tiny Dances® (April 14 at the Garden Theater), which brings 10 dance artists together in one show. I love that kind of collaborative idea.
Janelle: What are you working on now?
Lauren: We’ve been at work creating Rhythm Studies, which represents significant development in the company: we have more dancers, more choreographers, and the program is more conceptual. So we have three acts, each of which develops a different theme related to the process of choreography in tap dance, and they’re all very different in feel. There will be jazz standards, a cappella works and a live jazz trio. It’s going to be fun, thoughtful, energizing, educational and unlike anything else you can see (or hear) in Columbus.
Rhythm Studies runs for three performances: Friday, Apr. 27 at 7:30 p.m. (with talk-back), Saturday, Apr. 28 at 3:30 p.m. (with talk-back) and 7:30 p.m. Shows are at the Van Fleet Theatre in the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave., Columbus, OH 43215. Tickets are available online here or at the door. Advanced reservation is recommended.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.