by Len Lear
Lauren Putty White, one of the region’s most acclaimed dancer/choreographers, is not about just entertaining an audience with simplistic, feel-good pieces like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Nutcracker.” For example, in her 2012 piece called “Hello?” that people still talk about (it was the first venture from her own Putty Dance Project), Lauren` explored a subject one would not expect to find in dance — schizophrenia!
“Hello?” was a beautifully executed jazz dance solo about schizophrenia with live accompaniment on drums and trombone.
“I knew I wanted it to be something powerful and thought-provoking,” Lauren explained, “and I wanted live music to add to the emotion that was driving it. The first part of the dance is a solo that portrays the dancer as a person who is hearing negative voices in her head. Lots of chaotic movement mixed with moments of stillness and slow motion show the different reactions she’s going through based off of what she hears mentally.
“The second section of the dance is a trio between the soloist and the other two dancers, showing how she tries to confront them and fights to destroy them, but in the end she remains defeated. This idea developed more as I was choreographing the piece. I eventually would love to expand on it more and base a whole evening-length work on it.”
Lauren, 32, who lives in Logan with Brent White, her musician/composer husband of six years, and several other local performers will present two evenings of diverse entertainment on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5 and 6, 7:30 p.m., at Cliveden, 6401 Germantown Ave.
“My choreography is often inspired by personal life experiences, current issues going on in the world and spiritual epiphanies,” Lauren explained. “The movement often just shows up in my mind, and then I physically investigate it until it becomes a conclusive phrase.”
At Cliveden on Aug. 5 and 6, a few of Lauren and Brent’s Putty Dance Project dancers will be performing an excerpt from their production “iStand: Stories of an American Civil Struggle.”
In 2005 the Baltimore native received her BFA from the University of the Arts in Center City, where she received the Choreography Prize and award for Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance. Lauren’s professional choreography debut was at the 2005 Elan Awards in New York.
For her choreography, Lauren received the Individual Artist Fellowship Grant in Baltimore. In 2010, she premiered her piece, “Hide,” on BalletX in Philadelphia. Her piece, “Sleeping in Wonderland,” was featured in the 2011 Regional Dance America showcase in Pittsburgh. Lauren is also the 2013 recipient of the Ellen Forman Memorial Award for choreography, and she was nominated for a 2016 PEW Fellowship.
“I started training in dance when I was 3 years old,” said Lauren, “but according to my mom, I started dancing in the crib! Neither of my parents were dancers, so it was just a gift I was born with.”
Although Lauren has won numerous awards for her dancing and choreography, she insists, “What honestly means the most to me is when kids and adults tell me how my work has impacted their lives or their spirit. To me that is more rewarding than anything …
“My ultimate goal as a dancer/ choreographer is longevity. I want to continue to produce work for the rest of my life, and I want it to be legendary and historical.”
What was the hardest thing Lauren ever had to do? “It was to miss the funerals of some very close family members while I was on the road touring. The saying that ‘The show must go on’ is so true, and it definitely comes with many sacrifices.”
What is the best advice Lauren ever received? “It was to stay humble. It is so simple yet so powerful because the more successful you become in any business, the easier it is to lose your ground.”
What is Lauren’s favorite dance movie? “This is a fun question! One of my favorite dance movies is ‘Center Stage,’ a hands-down classic! The storyline is cliché, and the acting isn’t Oscar-worthy, but the dancing is superb, and the film came out at a time when dance movies weren’t really being made that often.”
What is Lauren’s most treasured possession? “My family photos. Those are cherished memories that you can never get back, and so it just captures those special moments in your life.”
If Lauren could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? “It would be California. I know that may seem like an anti-climactic answer, but it’s so beautiful there!”
In her spare time, Lauren likes hanging out with family and friends “or just chilling at home with my husband making pizza and watching Netflix.”