Written by Jordan Randall
Photography by Cole Adams 

Local Motive, a growing dance community invites Lakelanders from all walks of life to experience Central Florida’s dance scene and express themselves through rhythmic movement. 

Dancing is in our blood. It’s an expression through movement that can put us in our most vulnerable and our most freeing state. 

Everybody has a little dance in them. It’s the reason we tap our foot to that song on the overhead speakers while in line at the grocery store. It’s the reason we bob our heads to our favorite hits in the car. It’s the reason why cleaning the kitchen is so much easier with that playlist you made. Dancing is in our blood. It’s an expression through movement that can put us in our most vulnerable and our most freeing state. If words are how our minds and hearts speak, then dance is how our bodies get a word in. Dancing is communal, and Local Motive is here to shine a light on it in Lakeland.

Local Motive is a collection of dancers here in Lakeland, Florida, who want to see a thriving dance community in Polk County. Self-proclaimed ambassadors of dance, Local Motive exists to form a bridge between dancers and non-dancers alike, exposing Lakeland to the dance culture that already exists here in Central Florida. “At its core, Local Motive is a space where people can experience the dance scene of Florida,” said Freddie Taylor, a member of Local Motive. “We want to bring the talent from the surrounding areas like Tampa and Orlando to Lakeland and expose the dancers and non-dancers alike to the culture.”

Exposing everyone to the culture of dance has been on Local Motive’s collective mind for a few years now. Still, things didn’t really start to take off until July 2021, after attending a summer night block party put on by Buena Market in Lakeland. “It was our first time attending a Buena Market event, and when we showed up, this local DJ, T. Couture, was playing hit after hit- we couldn’t help ourselves,” said Taylor. “We all started to dance, and before we knew it, the sun was down, a few hours had passed, and it felt like we were dancing with the whole city. After that, the team behind Buena Market approached us about coming back and being an official part of future events.” And Local Motive, a play on the word locomotive (referencing the train that runs through Lakeland to surrounding cities), was born. 

Local Motive is all about bringing people together, right here in Lakeland, to celebrate dance. “We want to bring everything to Lakeland,” Taylor expressed. “Being right between Tampa and Orlando, cities with established dance communities, we want to bring those communities here and show them that this is a city that they are missing, and create a middle ground for surrounding areas to come to and dance with each other.”

Before Local Motive, the dance communities in Tampa and Orlando proved to be major creative outlets for members of the local dance crew, providing dancing inspiration and motivation for years, along with the thought that someday they could build something like that themselves, here in Lakeland. “The dance communities in both Tampa and Orlando have been major inspirations for most of us in Local Motive ever since any of us arrived in Lakeland (however many years ago),” said Caleb Jimenez, a member of Local Motive. “By being exposed to [these Central Florida dance communities] pretty early on, our dance journey sort of took off, and we’ve grown a lot by watching them and attending events in both cities. I don’t think any of us really knew what we were actually capable of before witnessing them do their thing, and we owe a lot to them.”

Well, dreams do come true. Fast forward to February 2022, and Local Motive has officially hosted their very own event, “For The Love of Dance,” right here in Lakeland. The event took place at Union Hall on February 11th and was done in collaboration with the team behind Buena Market. The event was completely free to attend and was Local Motive’s way of officially “dipping their toes” into the dance scene in Lakeland. 

“The mission was always to bring dance to Lakeland,”

“The mission was always to bring dance to Lakeland,” said Taylor. “With our first event, I feel like we did that and then some. But of course, we were nervous. I’d compare it to trying a recipe for the first time and inviting everyone you know and their friends over for dinner. You’re not sure who’s going actually to show up or if they’ll even like what you’ve made. Thankfully, the event was more of a success for our community than I think any of us could have anticipated.”

It’s true. The event was a smash, and Union Hall was packed out with both dancers and non-dancers alike. Even members of the Tampa and Orlando dance communities made the drive to check out what was going on that night here in Lakeland. And really, it’s not often your exact target audience of everyone who shows up to the event you’re putting on, but the stars seemed to align for this one. 

Truthfully, it can be challenging to market an event like this. Most people would not brand themselves “dancers,” and dancing, though it is communal in nature, can strike nerves in a number of people when simply spoken of. But the mission of Local Motive is straightforward: bring everyone to the dance circle. And somehow, it’s working. “ Local Motive’s target audience has always been everyone. We just want to show people there’s more to do in Lakeland besides boutiques. You don’t have to dance to feel at ease [when attending] an event like ours. But also, there are a lot of hidden dancers in the area looking for a low-pressure outlet to express themselves, and I think we’ve provided a space for them to let loose.”

Go ahead and try not to smile while you watch someone dance. It’ll be pretty hard if you’re being honest with yourself. That’s because dance is joyful. It is both performative and honest.

Go ahead and try not to smile while you watch someone dance. It’ll be pretty hard if you’re being honest with yourself. That’s because dance is joyful. It is both performative and honest. And when expressed in a safe and healthy environment, it is life-giving. Local Motive exists to create a genuine connection with people through the expression of dance, and it is truthfully a joy to watch as they bring Lakeland along with them.