Choreographic Possibilities: A young artist’s conversation with choreographer Annalee Traylor

By Samantha Miller, Dance Canvas Communications Assistant

I first met choreographer Annalee Traylor in her rehearsal for “maskewlin pt. 1” while I was documenting her choreographic process for the 2018 Dance Canvas Performance Series. I felt as if I was seeing her budding genius first hand as she led the dancers with a concise, quiet confidence that is apparent in her work. I knew that she was someone who I wanted to keep up with in the future.

So, when given the opportunity to interview Annalee for my work as Communications Assistant for Dance Canvas, I took the chance to pick her brain about her new work, how she finds opportunities and how she navigates the world as a professional choreographer.

Annalee’s work has been presented twice with Dance Canvas. Her 1st work “Dreaming Eternity” was part of the 2013-14 Season at the 14th Street Playhouse, and she was commissioned in 2018 for the 10th Anniversary Performance Series.

Photo by Richard Calmes, Courtesy of Dance Canvas, Inc.

Since working with Dance Canvas, Annalee has been exploring the world of creating content independently.

Since working with Dance Canvas in March of 2018, Annalee has worked all over the United States, most recently as a resident at Highway performance in Santa Monica and in New York presenting her work “the sheen” for the 38th year of the Battery Dance Festival.

The Battery is New York’s longest running public dance festival, attracting up to 12,000 people a year.

The Battery Dance Festival is by application, and Annalee submitted her work “the sheen”, a collaborative piece that she has been developing for some time with a group of dancers “on and off”. This work is in collaboration with 5 dancers, and was built with a story in mind, but crafted to highlight each dancers artistry. Other than it’s soft premiere earlier in the year, this is the first time “the sheen” has been presented.

"The sheen"

Dancers featured; Dolly Sfeir, Ian Spring, Hank Hunter, Allie Kronick, and Emily Diers
Photo Courtesy of James Koroni

“the sheen” is a zany and vibrant 5 character work that presents itself through a cheerful narrative. While it is bright and seemingly supportive, these characters all have ulterior motives to get in the limelight.

I asked Annalee about her process in creating “the sheen”; Since it had been something she was already developing, how did it mature into the piece audiences saw this summer? According to Annalee, her piece changed after some introspection about what she wanted to get across. She focused in on the male stereotypes of masculinity and how that lent itself to the movement and interactions of the cast. “It changed the whole climax” Annalee said, and the audience reaction to the changed piece affirmed this change.

“The audiences reactions, any reaction, is a success to me because it means they are engaged…. One of the most notable moment for me as a choreographer is when the audience responded to a moment of sentimentality with laughter because it made me see the piece through a different perspective.”

(Annalee on the audience perception/why she makes changes based on the environment of the work)

Presenting a work to 12,000 people can be a daunting experience, but Annalee feels only excitement and anticipation. “At a certain point you have to understand ‘whatever will happen will happen’ and let go”, she said when asked if she was nervous to present work. “I trust my dancers as artists, and these works are made in rehearsal to highlight what they bring to the table: their personalities, character.”

When asked about making edits and changes to her work, Annalee states, “staying as close to my intuition is my truest form of authenticity.”

Confidence in her work has come with time. The experience of setting a piece for the 2018 Dance Canvas Performance Series gave Annalee an idea of the process of freelance choreographing, especially with time management. Dance Canvas helped her find the tools to collaborate with strangers, bring out individual character development and find theatricality. She successfully managed to create a new work in a short time frame with new dancers while working from out of state.

“I realized that (as a choreographer) you’re responsible for creating that environment to let dancers feel vulnerable and tap into their imagination. Collaboration is really important to my process”

What is next for Annalee now?

Freelance choreographing is a hard job- it takes researching, using connections, reaching out and utilizing web resources like DanceNYC.org. Continuing with the evolution of “the sheen”, Annalee was asked to perform for the Dance Gallery Festival in NY on September 28th and looks to bring the piece to their Festival in Huntsville, Texas at the beginning of October. Festivals like these not only draw large audiences, but also attract a wide variety of artists to connect with.

Annalee is also part of the show “take root” at the Greenspace theater in Queens at the beginning of February 2020 alongside Dance Canvas choreographer alum Gierre Godley!

If you are interested in keeping with Annalee, find her on instagram @a_tray_bop and Annalee Traylor on Facebook.

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