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'Avatar' choreographer brings dance show to Folsom's Three Stages

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph staff writer
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FOLSOM CA - Choreographer Lula Washington will bring her dance company, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, to Folsom for a special performance this Friday. Founded in 1980 in the inner city area of South Los Angeles, Lula Washington Dance Theatre is composed of athletic, young dancers in the tradition of Alvin Ailey and African-rooted dance. “In inviting three dance companies to Three Stages as part of the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival, I wanted to provide three distinct looks at the diverse dance talent of California,” said Executive Director Dave Pier. “It is an excellent opportunity for families to experience a wide range of dance over one exciting weekend.” Joining the Lula Washington Dance Theatre from Oct. 5 through Oct. 7 is Danza Floricanto/USA and Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company. Lula’s daughter, Tamica Washington-Miller, grew up watching the company develop. For many years she was a lead dancer and teacher, but today she works as the associate director. Lula and her husband, Erwin Washington, own the company. “My parent’s vision was to make an opportunity available to other dancers who may not have had one,” Tamica said. “Today, Lula has the school and the company — which is rare. Very few dance company’s tour nationally, internationally and still have the training school kept at home.” Tamica explained that her mother was 21 when she decided to study dance seriously. After attending UCLA, she moved around from auditions and jobs in Hollywood as opportunities arose. Soon, with her mentor behind her, she finally made the decision to create her own dance company and use her own choreography. “The story of Lula is that she never stopped trying and pushing to make her dream a reality – because everyone continually told her that she would not make it as a professional dancer at her older age,” Tamica said. “She made it because someone believed in her. So that was the message that she wants to give to others.” Tamica said her mother’s choreography has a variety of messages, from entertaining, political to social. “It’s important to her that an artist tells these stories on stage,” Tamica said. Washington also served as choreographer for the movie “Avatar,” with James Cameron. Cameron had Lula create dances for the Na’vi people in the film. Tamica also doubled as Mo’oat, the queen mother of the Na’vi. Lula said that in 2010 it became widely known that she had worked on “Avatar.” “It was like we got discovered overnight,” said Lula. “Our company was 30 years old. We had danced all over the world, but, it was like we were suddenly special for the first time.” Following the film’s premiere, Lula and her company went back to doing what they had always done – tour and dance around the world. The company has danced in Russia, China, Brazil, Mexico and across the U.S. since their work in Avatar. Tamica said watching her parents live out their dreams and create a company that not only teaches dance, but teaches also confidence and life lessons, has positively influenced her life. “I think about that everyday, I wonder how my life would have been different had I not grown up with the dance life. But it was definitely my choice, and I chose to come home and stay with the studio,” Tamica said. “Their strength and will is very inspiring, both of them came from nothing, and made this company happen out of sheer will and a vision. So that definitely has a hold on me. I love to teach and watch people’s stories unfold. I love how dance can change lives.” She said the best lesson her mother has taught her is everyone should have a chance to explore his or her passion. “There should be a space for everyone who wants to try and has a passion to try,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see how dance can affect someone’s confidence and how they see themselves.” While the company and school is, and always will be, based out of LA, Tamica said her family loves the opportunity to travel and perform nationally and internationally. “When you come to see our show, you are going on a journey,” Tamica said. “We are excited to go everywhere, and now Folsom. This is an opportunity to show someone something new. We never know who we are going to inspire and how we will change someone’s life. There is no such thing as a small show, just a small mind.” Lula Washington Dance Theatre will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, at Folsom Lake College, 10 College Parkway, Folsom. Tickets are $19-$29, with premium tickets available for $39. For tickets and more information, visit threestages.net.