Goats clamber atop a pile of discarded red bricks and look inquisitively at passers-by. Farther down the gravel road, a hog takes refuge from the city heat under a tarp thrown like a tent creating shade. Just down the hill, inside a deteriorated warehouse, vines grow through the broken glass windows, and five artists bend and contort their bodies on a dance floor, exploring the space.
Lauri Stallings is the choreographer for gloATL dance company, which began about two years ago. Stallings said her artwork is about utilizing whatever space and time is available to the dancers. gloATL has been roaming the city, creating and performing pieces in any empty space that was offered to them – concert rehearsal room, front lawn, museum gallery.
“We’re nomads,” Stallings said. “It matters not so much the space but how it’s used with the community.” The dancers have performed or practiced at Lenox Square, Symphony Hall and the High Museum of Art.
Finally, this spring the dancers settled down in a place of their own: the Goodson Yard, a vast, ramshackle warehouse located on what is now The Goat Farm of West Midtown. The room needs new windows, air conditioning, and a light system, but Stallings calls it, “our new home.”
“We can only be grateful,” she said. The Goodson Yard is a dance space with the best creative energy Stallings said she has ever experienced. The Goat Farm is fertile ground for developing artists. The grounds are home to 180 artists melding, sculpting, painting, carving and sewing, according to the choreographer. The hope is that now the public will come to see gloATL on its home turf, and eventually explore more of the artistic community in Atlanta.
Connecting with the city and its people is a core purpose of gloATL. The Goodson Yard is the perfect location to reach out to the community, Stallings said, because space is so close to the heart of the city.
“You can put your finger in it,” she said. “[The Goodson Yard] is outside amidst this urban world.”
Stallings never expected to stay in Atlanta, but she found that the city was wrapped in mystery and stories, an element the choreographer always incorporates into her dances. By invading public spaces to practice and perform, the dancers are becoming a part of the city’s legends.
But the choreographer recognizes that the company’s contemporary, raw, visceral dance style is unfamiliar to most of the population, not the kind of art one might expect to find sitting in the Woodruff Art Center courtyard. “We are asking a lot of Atlanta,” she said. Often, dancers will release natural bursts of breath and gutteral noises as they dance. The Goodson Yard space provides a 360 degree view, which allows choreography more variety and dancers to take risks. “[The style] jiggles the retina,” Stallings said.
The choreographer believes creative movement is just another way of reaching one another through art and culture, and Atlanta is emerging as a leader in contemporary dance. In fact, gloATL invites audience members to take out their cameras and cell phones, freeing the public to photograph, record and share each performance with others, and focus on the message. Stallings said, “We’re sharing in an experience.”
Here are some of gloATL's upcoming performances:
- Utopia Station, a series of five physical installations, takes place in five Atlanta area public spaces from July 8 through July 23.
- Maa' -- a new creation in collaboration with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Conductor Robert Spano, and the musicians of Georgia Tech's Sonic Generator -- has its world premiere September 9-10 in Symphony Hall. Maa' is a composition by the Finnish composer Kajia Saariaho and will be created through a marriage of the art forms-music, dance, film and architecture.