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Individuals Making Waves in the Community: Volume Two

By Hayley Grassler

Welcome back to the second installment of Individuals Making Waves in the Community. In this iteration, we’re hearing from a poet, a musician, and a dance director. Although they occupy different spaces within the Atlanta arts community, they remain tied together as a testament to Atlanta’s unique community. We are excited to introduce you to Nicholas Goodly, a poet with deep ties to dance and movement, Ptar Flamming, a musician and producer with an ear for dance, and Riley Cooper, an energetic dance director making big things happen with a small budget.

Nicholas Goodly

Nominated for their open self-expression to others in the community through poetry, dance, and fashion and their dedication to visibility and inclusion

Photo by Christina Massad

Nicholas Goodly is beauty and grace. They exude an air of wisdom beyond their years and yet remain appearing effortless and approachable. This may be the result of their early and extensive participation in creative spaces; Nicholas has been dancing since the age of four—a hobby which they pursued passionately until health concerns in college inspired a shift away from dance and more towards poetry as a means of creation and expression. The lessons learned throughout their dance career allowed Nicholas to create their own space in the Atlanta and New York arts communities and fully explore their literary side.

“I kind of came to writing with the work ethic of a dancer—dancers love to sweat, we love to work hard, we love to feel the burn, we drive ourselves and push ourselves and that was my mentality when I got introduced to writing seriously.”

Nicholas’s work is powerful. It forces the reader to confront forgotten feelings and inspires people to examine life honestly. To produce these results, Nicholas finds inspiration in vulnerability and representation.

“I’m thinking about the question of the importance of representation. As a black queer artist, me putting work out there is more content generated by black queer people and that’s an important thing in itself. So being vulnerable on top of that, it’s showing these dynamic sides of queer black life, giving more points of entry into that experience. That is what encourages me to create.”

Nicholas is unafraid of expression, a theme which continues in the way they present themselves to the world. Nicholas is inspired by fellow artists and creators, such as movement artist Benji Stevenson, costumer and creator Jimmy Joyner, the Fly On A Wall team, and dancer and entertainment artist Corian Ellisor. Speaking of their love of fashion, Nicholas says

“I like that when you get dressed you have the potential to be whoever you want to be when you walk out the door you can present whatever you want to present when you walk out the door and I think there’s so much power in that. As somebody who used to be shy and wanted to feel strong and powerful, I liked the idea of putting myself in clothes I feel good in.”

If you’d like to learn more about Nicholas Goodly, be on the lookout for the latest edition of WUSSY, expected to print mid-April. You can also find Nicholas’s work on their website . Go ahead and bathe in it, you’ll come out softer.

Ptar Flamming

Nominated for the incredible depth of his music, and his innate ability to grasp exactly what choreographers are searching for

Ptar is that person who you see across the room at a party and think “wow, they’re intimidatingly cool.” Then you make your way over and find out he’s just a delight. Many people have probably had this experience during Ptar’s pre-COVID days of mixing music and DJing parties, performances and events. Although that aspect of his life halted with the pandemic, it’s still something he feels passionately about. Ptar made his entrance into the Atlanta arts community at 24 after having a lifelong interest in music, theater and opera. He began creating lengthy performances which combined improvisation, theatrics, music and choreography. Through open creativity, Ptar has made a name for himself collaborating with choreographers and dancers to create compositional soundscapes for dance pieces and steadily releases tracks via Spotify and Soundcloud.

When asked about how his life has changed as the result of the ongoing pandemic, Ptar says

“I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends who are artists—their inspiration and their creativity is a little but muted right now, like everyone’s holding their breath in some way. It’s still there, it just feels different. But the dance community has stayed strong and is still doing things and being COVID safe, so the resilience is really there and I’m proud of how everyone’s come through.”

Much of Ptar’s work and online presence is very honest about the prevalence of anxiety and depression in his life and the lives of many creators. It’s something that he says inspires him to create.

“I think the art is almost...a coping mechanism and a means of entering a different state of mind - when you get in that creative zone where everything just seems to sparkle, you can forget about the troubles in your own head and overthinking and anxieties, depression, things like that. So in that sense it’s sort of a sanctuary.”

Ptar is also inspired by his fellow collaborators and would like to shout out Nathan Griswold who he is working with in Fly on a Wall’s upcoming 2021 Excuse the Art event, April 17-21st

Though Ptar says he has “no mega skills” and is “not entirely remarkable,” he also described his sound as “like ice skating on frozen plants with antlers, a telescope, and an amethyst crystal,” which does not sound like something an unremarkable person would say. If you, like me, would like to know what that antlery amethyst sounds like (and you should), check out Rogue Jury on Spotify for house tracks or Ptar for compositional works.

Riley Cooper

Nominated for pioneering a dance company in a space lacking dance, and inspiring others to take the leap of faith in starting their own company

Riley Cooper is the Betty White of the Atlanta dance community. Full of witty determination, loyal optimism, and a seemingly endless stream of energy, Riley is involved in many facets of the wider Atlanta dance community. When she isn’t directing her recently created dance company Gwinnett Dance Project, she’s slinging lattes, cross-training, scrapbooking, participating at her church and doing graphic design. In her personal life, she strives to be involved in as many facets as possible while also studying exercise science.

In order to keep up with this busy schedule, Riley is motivated and inspired by many things - including her fellow dancers, her fiancé, and the human ability to feel feelings.

“I think that’s one of the most beautiful things that we have the capacity to do as human beings. Forgive and have empathy, because I think that’s what drives connection. I’m also inspired by other people’s creativity. Whenever I see anybody get super pumped about their art and super passionate about what they’re doing, that motivates me to hustle too. I see the beauty that they’re bringing into this world and it’s their own unique energy and their own unique expression which reminds me that I have one too.”

We can easily see this excitement when she discusses Gwinnett Dance Project, an inclusive and collaborative dance theater company. The reception has been positive, although she notes that

“Since we are still a relatively new company, a lot of the challenges we’re having pertain to COVID, and like any non-profit dance company, finances are a big issue. Especially when you are not in a position where you can regularly pay dancers and put them on payroll, you can't demand all of their time. I wish that I was able to pay my dancers what I feel like their time is worth and that aspect of the project as a director is the hardest thing for me to recon with. There’s a lot of underfunding of arts organizations, and the funding that is available isn’t necessarily super accessible [to those without an understanding of grant-writing or access to someone familiar with the process].”

If you’d like to experience the brainchild of a compassionate creator in the form of a performance company with a focus on collaborative, inclusive expression, keep your eyes peeled for Gwinnett Dance Project’s upcoming dance showcases. Until then, you can follow Riley’s adventures on her website and Instagram.

(These interviews have been edited for content and clarity)

Hayley Grassler is a recent Georgia transplant following small artists and their journeys across the South.

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