Lynne Taylor-Corbett was creating “Unpublished Dialogues,” her work about Virginia Woolf, for GroundWorks DanceTheater three years ago in Akron when the company’s artistic director, David Shimotakara, told her she had to see a great new local restaurant.

Dining with the admired New York choreographer at VegiTerrannean, Shimotakahara mentioned that the restaurant was owned by Chrissie Hynde, leader of the rock band The Pretenders. Taylor-Corbett said she’d thought the musician was British, but upon learning that she was born in Akron, she urged Shimotakahara to choreograph a piece set to her music.

“No, you should do something to her music,” Shimotakahara said.

“Cool idea,” responded Taylor-Corbett.

The result is “Hindsight,” which will receive its world premiere this week at Cain Park by GroundWorks on a program that includes works by Shimotakahara.

Taylor-Corbett had some homework to do to before creating the new piece. She knew several of Hynde’s songs, including “Brass in Pocket,” but she needed to get a better idea of the scope of her music.

“I listen a lot in my car,” Taylor-Corbett said by phone recently from New York. “I commute to Manhattan from Rockville Center

[on Long Island]. I could probably sing most of the songs by now.”

But how to use them? As a freelance director-choreographer of ballets, contemporary works, Broadway shows, plays and films, the Denver-born Taylor-Corbett has ventured into myriad dance territories that embrace both abstract and story-telling aspects.

“There’s a subconscious element to any work,” she said. “It’s that person re-associating with and responding to music. I have, as a more mature choreographer, been more interested in the theatrical narrative. Since I’m also a theater director, I automatically want to know what they’re doing and why.”

In “Hindsight,” Taylor-Corbett opted not tell one story. She chose six Hynde tunes that “would make a good arc,” she said. “The songs themselves are a through line because they focus on human frailty or relationships or pretty personal stuff.”

Shimotakahara has been a Taylor-Corbett devotee since he was a member of Ohio Ballet and she set two works, “Code of Silence” and “In a Word,” on the Akron company. After the success of “Unpublished Dialogues” in 2008, he was eager to invite her back for another GroundWorks collaboration.

“Her musicality, her sense of theater, her craftsmanship, her ability to tell stories even in an abstract way – there’s always an interesting way she realizes music,” said Shimotakahara.

Taylor-Corbett will be realizing Hynde’s music in “Hindsight” with assistance from projection designer Adam Larsen, who’s providing impressionistic images, as well as a more literal shot of Akron during the song “My City was Gone.”

“His work is multi-dimensional,” Shimotakahara said of Larsen. “It’s been really great that Lynne and Adam were able to work on this project. I haven’t seen everything he’s planning, but what I’ve seen is really beautiful stuff.”

Taylor-Corbett, it turns out, never set out to be a choreographer. She studied dance in Denver before moving to New York, where she worked with such noted choreographers as Anna Sokolow and Alvin Ailey and danced in modern companies.

Along the way, Taylor-Corbett began making solos for herself and dances for talent shows and musicals. She helped friends in budding companies and put together a choreography collective group, even though she didn’t yet consider herself one of the pack.

“This is so not me,” she remembers thinking. “I started slowly. I wanted to dance more than I did, but some of the people around me had so much more talent in that area. I kind of started [choreographing] as something that just happened and I realized I had a gift. It took a long time to change my identity.”

Taylor-Corbett’s identity is no longer unclear. Among the musicals for which her work has won acclaim are “Chess,” “Titanic” and “Swing!” She has created pieces for New York City Ballet, Carolina Ballet (of which she is principal guest choreographer) and other companies around the country.

Aside from the collective group, Taylor-Corbett has never run a company – and is unlikely to, though she has boundless respect for those who do.

“It’s such an uphill struggle that I don’t think my talent would lay in that area,” she said. “I found my niche and fit into this life I love. I would recommend someone other than myself to run a company without shame.”

By Donald Rosenberg
The Plain Dealer
July 10, 2011

Photos by Paul Kolnik and Dale Dong