100 Creatives 2013: Maggie Lasher, Dance Professor and Artistic Director

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Photo by Wally James
Maggie Lasher is, in a word, vibrant. From the lights and fire that she weaves into her dance performances to the colors she dons around Houston, everything Maggie touches in Houston's art scene seems to glow.

Maggie currently serves as a dance professor at Houston Community College as well as the artistic director of her own company, China Cat Dance. After getting an MA in dance from Case Western University, obtaining an MFA in dance at Sam Houston State, and spending two years teaching in San Antonio, Maggie landed in Houston in August 2010.

Performing came to Maggie early, at a dance studio in her hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. She always knew she wanted a career in the arts, although in her youth, she "hadn't really fleshed that out, besides 'movie star.'"

High school and college saw Maggie involved in performance art in a number of ways, including costume design, acting, tech theater, choreography, and teaching movement to pre-kindergartners. It was at Sam Houston State that Maggie brought together her various interests into one entity - China Cat Dance.

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Photo by Wally James
Lending the company a name based on her Greatful Dead fandom, Maggie has created shows inspired by animals, fire, luminescence, and vaudeville, just to name a few. While yet to include an actual kitchen sink in her shows, Maggie throws just about everything else at them, including elaborate costuming, lighting, multimedia, and choreography.

Maggie's not one to hold back with her HCC students, either. "I don't want them to come out and roll around on the stage," she says, "I want them to dance." This is never at the sacrifice of a good time, though - "I do try to create fun shows. I want the students to have a fun experience in dance."

Around town, Maggie's made a name for herself very quickly. Coming to Houston resulted in a "huge burst to China Cat," who have become known around town for their versatility, theatrics, and most recently, their affinity for fire-dancing. Maggie's been very surprised at how quickly things are moving. "I can't believe I've only been here three years, and the level that I've gotten involved in this community really kind of blows my mind."


What she does:

As director of China Cat and at HCC, Maggie aims to create art that's accessible, entertaining, and most of all, alive. "[With China Cat], I just wanted to do my own thing with, you know, color and fun and light and vibrancy...and dances that dance," says Maggie.

Why she likes it:

Maggie thrills in energy and entertainment value, damn the traditionalist torpedoes. When considering using Prince's "Purple Rain" for an HCC concert, Maggie thought, "this is a popular song, this might be viewed as artistic dance...screw it, why not do 'Purple Rain'? The Joffrey Ballet did it." She also sees this variety as a growth strategy for the HCC dance program. "We want to bring people from the community in," says Maggie, "we want to be known as a dance school." As for her personal investment in dance? "I've never lived without it. It's never not been in my life. I can't see my life without dance, without that creativity...making things."

What inspires her:

"I'm constantly inspired by nature, and animals, and color...I love color...but then also, just really human things, the basics, just what it means to be human. Something about those interactions of people together, of people close to me, my experiences with them are pretty powerful, so I come back to those emotions and themes a lot."

If not this, then what:

"I often wonder if I'd be in a completely different direction, like doing jewelry design or clothing or fashion...something design. Something totally with my hands...I actually do a lot of that anyway, just for fun. I'm quite a beader."

If not here, then where:

"I've always wanted to move to Sedona. I could go back to Arizona in a heartbeat, or the Oregon coast. I just love Arizona. It's in my heart, it's in my blood, just the geography...it's just gorgeous, and the diversity's amazing. And I love that new-age Sedona crap, the crystals and the vortexes and all of that, I just love it."

What's next:
China Cat will be applying to perform in the 2013 Houston Fringe Festival, which will take place in early October.

More Creatives for 2013
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre
Outspoken Bean, performance poet
Barry Moore, architect
Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist
Ty Doran, young actor
Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate
Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet
Justin Garcia, artist
Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center
Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric
Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician
Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse
Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company
Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography

Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions
Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover
Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist
Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer

Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker
Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer
David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer

Danielle Burns, art curator
Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder

Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator

Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker
Amanda Stevens, scary book author
Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger

Ana María Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach

Billy D. Washington, comedian
Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer

Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer

Kelly Sears, animator and film maker
Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director

jhon r. stronks,dance-maker
Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer
Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer

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