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20 People to Watch - T. Lang

The dancer/choreographer melds the technical and the spiritual

There's something both intellectual and spiritual about a T. Lang performance. The dancer/choreographer says her prayer, her mediation, is in movement. This revelation shouldn't surprise considering works such as 2012's Mother/Mutha, which delved into the complexities of African women forced to breed slaves; Shared, which displayed the ins and outs of a romantic relationship on the brink of despair; and For Unmarried Girls Before They Wed, a piece that shed light on relationship issues from a woman's point of view.

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"As an artist, I'm just continuing to follow this whisper's dream, this purpose, this path that I made with my younger self," says Lang, who relocated from New York to Atlanta in 2008. "I've been doing this for so long, working for this moment. I always want to step into new territory and evolve my aesthetic."

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The creative energy she brings to the city through her company T. Lang Dance has been subtle but important. From her cutting-edge performance in Up Right: Atlanta, a collaboration with Chicago-based performance artist Nick Cave and Atlanta's Flux Projects at Ponce City Market's opening, to her soul-stirring presentation of Lit at the High Museum of Art, her abstract vision has helped illustrate the potential of arts in Atlanta. Her work is ethereal, poetic, and poignant. You don't just watch her works; you feel them. Her liberal use of technology enhances the ideas and perspectives.

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Lang, whose given name is Tracy, says that moving to Atlanta allowed her to take some intellectual risks and finally find her voice. She says it's something she sees happening with a lot of Atlanta artists.

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"They have room to explore their curiosity and develop their voice in their own time and I think that's pretty revolutionary," Lang says. "It speaks to the volume of the renaissance happening in Atlanta where you have the freedom to experiment."

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Lang is a professor at Spelman College and has previously danced with Marlies Yearby, Nia Love's Blacksmith Daughter Dance Theatre, and the Metropolitan Opera. In the fall, Lang will deliver one of her most ambitious productions to date, Post, the final performance in her four-part "Post Up" series, which includes the works Post Up, Post Up in the House, and LIT Variations 1-10. After the loss of her father in 2009, Lang says she was searching for ways to reconnect with him and using technology to maintain her link, such as old email exchanges they shared.

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"I was in that delusional state," she says. "But I didn't want to be self-absorbed. I was interested in seeing some connections between history and community."

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In an effort to expand her vision beyond her personal loss, Lang also takes inspiration from Heather Andrea Williams' Help to Find My People. The book explores the stories of freed slaves who searched for their loved ones after emancipation.

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"There was this beautiful story about a couple who finally reunited and it stopped right there — we don't know what happened after," Lang says. "I'm really interested in telling the story of the ever-after in Post, things that are not the typical fairy tale. How do we step back into this new space and time and reclaim love and deal with the hardships of being separated, the reality of trying to get back into each other's space?"

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As with most of her work, Lang will incorporate interactive technology into Post and will work closely with designers from Georgia Tech in building the set. Lang's hope is to illustrate how technology can play a role in exploring our connectivity to one another, both past and present. The inclusion of technology will be vital to the overall narrative, as will the set and the location, which she insists must have history and a tangible connection to the city. She says the mark she hopes to leave on the city's culture ties directly into her personal vision for her art.

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"If anything, my imprint has been having the audacity to embody the space to disrupt and unleash endless possibilities of being creative," she says. "I hope people see that and are inspired."



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