On Nov. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m., local dance company Tori Lawrence + Co. will perform its show, “Progress,” at the Lawrence Arts Center.

The show will feature two professional dancers, Taryn Griggs and Ellie Goudie-Averill along with a local rock band, Shiny Jets. Tori Lawrence, choreographer and owner of the dance company, said the performance was a long time in the making.
The show was originally inspired by Lawrence's experience growing up in Atlanta, which she said grew her interest in the history of suburbia. According to Lawrence, her family lived in a “quick-built development” after they moved from a smaller apartment in Chicago.
According to Lawrence, the change was difficult to adapt to.

“I remember moving from a small apartment in south side, Chicago to one of those odd subdivisions in Atlanta and finding it so hard to get used to,” Lawrence said. “The suburbs created a kind of normative lifestyle that everyone was trying to abide by and perfect. To me, it all seemed so superficial and brought up huge divisions between gender, race and sexuality. So, this whole project inspired me to research 1950's educational/advertising/propaganda videos, white flight and the post-war suburban expansion.”

Through this experience, Lawrence said she wanted to expand these ideas and demonstrate the forward motion of societal progress through her show.
“‘Progress’ challenges the concept of societal progress by looking at trends of normality and homogenization within mid-century American culture,” Lawrence said. “By bringing up past struggles surrounding gender, sexuality and race, the piece encourages audience members to reflect on their current modes of thinking and to question society’s forward march towards perfection.”
By creating such a thought provoking piece, Lawrence said she wants audience members to observe how bodies occupy space.
“From spaces, we create places ... and by understanding this, I think that we can begin to undo and shift past approaches,” Lawrence said. “ I think that dance is a valuable tool to show how bodies exist and inhabit space.”
The show has been through several changes over the two years since Lawrence first started piecing together the choreography. The original piece began with all male dancers, but has now expanded and doubled in length. 

“The piece was a lot different then ... it was set on male dancers. It was much shorter in length, and it had very different movement vocabulary,” Lawrence said.

Now, the piece centers on more developed themes and gives the audience a broader scope of vision. The dance has also been set in a completely white space, Lawrence’s favorite aspect of the show.
"There are giant industrial white walls. Every inch of the floor is covered in white printing paper, and there are giant fluorescent light fixtures that hang from the ceiling,” Lawrence said. “I decided to transform the stage into a completely different setting.”
Ellie Goudie-Averill, one of the show's dancers and a lecturer in the University's Department of Dance, said she also found the stage setting to be one of her favorite aspects of the show.

“I love the way that the stage has been transformed,” Goudie-Averill said. “Every time I enter the door onto the stage, it feels like I’m entering into another world. It really helps me do the movement in the correct way, because the movement is a little bit other worldly too.”

Goudie-Averill is also intrigued by the thought process that went into Lawrence’s design of the show and what the performance leads the audience to contemplate.

“I really hope that the audience is able to take in all of the visualized images in the video montage, because there are a lot of images within the dance and the movement, and there is also a lot sound from the 50s. I would love for the audience to think about the trajectory of our culture since the 50s and the building of the suburbs,” Goudie-Averill said.

— Edited by Cody Schmitz

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