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20 Questions

My NOLA: 20 Questions with Maya Taylor

New Orleans-based choreographer Maya Taylor talks about the local dance scene and shares her favorite things to eat, see, and do in New Orleans.

Maya Taylor
Maya Taylor (Photo: Robert X. Fogarty)

“I could be at a club on Frenchmen or at a friend’s house listening to records, and if I start to see steps in my head I immediately become inspired and have to create,” says New Orleans-based choreographer Maya Taylor. “I observe people dancing or speaking with their hands all of the time and sometimes use the gestures I see in my work.”

Maya Taylor. (Photo: Robert X. Fogarty)

Taylor is a resident choreographer and rehearsal director for the Marigny Opera Ballet, a contemporary ballet company based out of the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans. Formerly a church, the Marigny Opera House calls itself a “non-denominational neighborhood church of the arts” and hosts artistic, religious, and community events.

“The dance community is pretty amazing here,” Maya says. “You have wonderful studios like New Orleans Dance Academy and institutions like NOBA that provide incredible training and experiences for dancers of all ages. There are many talented choreographers here that are doing some really challenging and cool work, and as a professional dancer you can engage with each of them for a fulfilling experience.”

Before making her home in New Orleans, Taylor trained at some of the nation’s best dance institutions, including Ballet West Conservatory, The Ailey School, and Jacob’s Pillow. After receiving her bachelor’s in fine arts, she joined Elisa Monte Dance and toured throughout the United States and Europe. In 2012, she founded her own contemporary dance project, Maya Taylor Dance, and her choreography was selected to appear in festivals and events throughout North America.

In April 2015, Taylor was commissioned to create and perform a solo piece for Let’s Dance International Frontiers, a month-long festival based in Leicester, England. “It was my first time presenting my work on an international scale and it was quite thrilling,” Taylor says.

Her newest project is a dance film for a piece she created last year. “I collaborated with my friend, Ben Reece, who is a super talented director, on a short dance film that we shot in nine different locations around New Orleans,” Taylor says. “I’m looking forward to premiering the film later this fall.”

Photo: Elsa Hahne for Marigny Opera Ballet

20 Questions with Maya Taylor

1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?

Frank Gagnard. He was a critic for the Times-Picayune and my former neighbor. I still see him when I ride my bicycle past his stoop in the mornings and always make sure to say hello. When I lived next door to him, he would always lend me books and share his scandalous dance and theatre gossip from back in the day. One day, he nonchalantly shared a handwritten letter from Agnes de Mille with me, which any artist would freak out over.

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

My boyfriend, Robert Fogarty, invited me to visit New Orleans when we first started dating. I fell deeply in love with the city that first weekend, especially when he took me dancing at Vaughan’s. It took me about two years to make the move official, and I’ve never felt more at home.

3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?

The Quarter!  It’s the only place I’ve lived since moving here and it never ceases to amaze me.

If my heart ever stopped, Benjamin Booker’s music could get it beating again.

4. If it’s a beautiful day, where are you going to spend it?

I’d start the day off by sipping coffee on our balcony while listening to the Quarter come alive. Then I’d grab a book, some lunch from Merchant, and hop on my bicycle for a ride on Esplanade to City Park. There, I’d find a good spot to read, stop into NOMA for some cool air and art, and then wander around the sculpture garden for inspiration.

5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?

The best meal I’ve ever eaten was at the chef’s table at Emeril’s. It was one of the most incredible meals where each dish was a surprise. I wish someone had been filming us in slow motion, as we were making the most intense faces with each delectable bite.

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

Satsuma in the Bywater.

7. What’s your favorite po-boy?  Where do you go to get it?

My mouth waters for the Surf and Turf po-boy from Parkway. Throw in a bloody mary and some fried pickles, and we can call it an afternoon.

8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?

I’m taking everyone to rent bicycles as it is my favorite way to get around the city. Then we’d head for a bike ride Uptown for croissants and coffee from La Boulangerie and a stroll down Magazine. We’d make our way back to the Quarter, stop at Lafitte’s for a Purple Drink and dance party. We’d head to dinner at Meauxbar, followed by a trip to Frenchmen for lots of music and more dancing. The next day, we’d all head to Bacchanal for music and wine and leave just in time to catch the sunset at Crescent Park.

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

Bar Tonique. Their Moscow Mules are dangerous.

10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?

I love the Sazerac from Barrel Proof.

11. What’s your favorite dessert or sweet treat in the city?

Coffee and ice cream from Angelo Brocato’s.

12. Best spot to see live music?

Tipitina’s.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

Maggie Koerner has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. She is a force of nature. And if my heart ever stopped, Benjamin Booker’s music could get it beating again.

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

Jazz Fest.

15. What’s your ideal New Orleans date night?

A slow walk through the Quarter with a go-cup of wine in hand followed by dinner at the bar at Sylvain, where we always end up staying way later than planned. One of the things I love about this city is that there is always so much to do, so after dinner who knows where the night will take us.

16. What are your favorite local shops?

I am obsessed with notebooks and stationery, so Box Paper Scissors on Magazine is my go-to. I also love Exodus Goods and Revival Outpost if I want to do some neighborhood shopping. Little Flea Nola is pretty special, too.

17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?

I love walking around the CAC. The 30 Americans exhibit in 2014 was jaw-dropping. They also have amazing programming and have brought in some incredible dance companies, such as Sidra Bell Dance and Abraham in Motion, these past two years.

18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?

Cosimo’s or a friend’s house for good food and drinks.

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.

Breathtaking.

20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?

The last time I fell in love with New Orleans was May 27th, 2015. We had a dinner party at our house and we asked each of our guests to write a love letter to New Orleans. To hear the people you love share about the city they love and the different ways it has changed them was very emotional and brought us all a little bit closer. We really live in a magical place.

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