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Get Rhythm

It starts with the sound. [People] have a sense that tap is about making noise, or making rhythms, but I don’t know that they get—from traditional representations or mainstream representations—a sense of how complicated or delicate or nuanced or expansive those rhythms can be.” Lauren Squires has always been mildly obsessed with sound. She’s a [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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It starts with the sound. [People] have a sense that tap is about making noise, or making rhythms, but I don’t know that they get—from traditional representations or mainstream representations—a sense of how complicated or delicate or nuanced or expansive those rhythms can be.”

Lauren Squires has always been mildly obsessed with sound. She’s a sociolinguist who researches language variation and processing. She’s capable of nerding out over vowel shifts and dialects. She’s also a lifelong student of tap dancing. What do these diverse interests have in common? Quite a bit.

“I think that they are both very analytical, and very creative and humanistic at the same time. Language is human and it’s social… tap is the same way,” Squires explained. “Of the dance forms that I have done, as they have been taught to me, [tap is] the one that feels a little bit ‘mathy.’ The precision of the rhythm. The counting. My brain likes to combine the creative and the analytic and I think that both linguistics and tap dance have me doing that.”

I’m with her. As a former student of linguistics, I understand having a love of organized systems, and a wonder at how the vibration of sound waves can create a way for people to relate to one another. I also understand how something that seems fascinating to you can often be overlooked by others—sometimes it’s that way with linguistics. And tap dancing.

Originally from Springfield, Missouri, Squires began dancing in a studio at age four, doing the normal round of community performances and competitions before she got to perform in a show in nearby Branson. “I was a dancing bear in that show, among other things,” Squires laughed.

But serious tap dance has never left her agenda. When she moved from Ann Arbor to Columbus to take an assistant professorship in OSU’s Department of English, she hoped that in a larger city, she would find an active tap scene.

“You see other larger cities getting in on the action with people starting new companies and new festivals popping up all over the place,” she explained. “I didn’t find anyone providing what I wanted, which was a community of adult advanced tap dancers to dance with and to perform with. So that’s why I tried to create it myself.”

Movement Afoot—Squires’ appropriately linguistic creative name for her company—is part of the nationwide “movement” to help people with a passion for tap dance find each other, a place on the dance floor, and an appreciative audience.

“One of the things that I’m trying to do in my own small way is to expand people’s understanding of what tap dance is,” said Squires. “It’s not just the Rockettes. It’s not just Savion Glover, either. It’s a whole bunch of things. It can be emotional or up lifting. It can be thoughtful like all other dance forms can be.”

Squires serves as the director and has performed with seven other dancers at festivals and community events over the past three years. The company also hosts open workshops with guest teachers and jazz jams.

Last summer, Movement Afoot held its first theater concert at the Van Fleet Theatre, introducing the city to the world of rhythm tap, or jazz tap. Rhythm tap focuses on musicality—the percussiveness of the taps striking the floor. Broadway, or show tap, is commonly performed in musical theater and focuses more on whole body movement—it’s what people tend to think of when they think of tap dancing.

“Oftentimes I’ve had people act surprised at what they see us doing, and I don’t exactly know the source of that surprise. But I do think it’s something like the experience of tap dance is one of just silly, upbeat, pure entertainment as opposed to a feeling of being moved,” Squires mused. “What we really try to do is focus on rhythm, sound, and acoustic feelings as opposed to visual ones, [which] can be just as moving. And there’s also something really interesting about how dancers’ bodies can create those sounds.”

Rhythm tap stands in contrast to ballet or modern dance, which are concert forms and usually taught as part of college dance curricula. In Squires’ experience, outside of dance studios for children, very little tap is publicly performed.

“Tap is an art form that was, sort of, a very vernacular art form,” she said. “Possibly because of that history, [tap] has always struggled to get the kind of funding or prominence other dance forms have had.”

But as ambassadors of their art, Movement Afoot is tapping out a message—and the capital city seems to be catching on.

“There is an appetite for tap dance in Columbus,” said Squires. “People always love seeing it. Every time we perform people just get so excited.”

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion

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As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”

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Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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