Mette Towley, Dancer
BY : KHALILA DOUZE | PHOTOS BY : NICK WALKER
Mette Towley, better known to some as @mettenarrative, moves with the full force of spirit. Her spellbinding twerks, fast-footed hops, and sinuous body rolls mesmerize in the 2017 video for N.E.R.D. and Rihanna’s “Lemon”, a performance that launched the L.A.-based dancer into pop culture consciousness. But behind her fiery stage presence is a critical thinker—Mette considers herself an intellectual dancer, one who constantly considers the art form’s potential to engage with politics and collapse barriers.
Today, years after her notorious Rihanna-executed big chop, Mette is a global brand ambassador for Revlon and she is working on her next act. A true student of performance, her sights are set on Hollywood, where she’s reportedly been cast in a feature film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.
How old are you, and where were you born and raised?
I’m 27, born in Owatonna Minnesota, raised in Severn MD and Alexandria MN.
What was it like growing up in those places?
In Maryland I was surrounded by my Mother’s family. I was exposed to [the] arts by my grandmother who used to take me to see Baltimore School for the Arts’ student recitals. Minnesota was rural and I spent a lot of time on the lakes around my house.
When did you start dancing, and when did you know it would become your career?
I’ve always danced since I can remember. I knew at 17 that it was something I wanted to pursue professionally.
What would you say is the most important thing you learned in dance school?
I went to the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. The dance program was keen on theorizing dance and performance. Having the sensibilities of an intellectual dancer has become very important to me.
You’ve been dancing in Pharrell’s group The Baes since 2014. What has working with him been like?
Pharrell is a mentor and supporting force unlike any other.
What does dance make you feel and allow you to do?
Dance, and particularly dance in the “live” performance space, is a powerful exhibition of human potential. It’s a space where we can find common ground without the barriers of language. Dancers and choreographers in the commercial industry have the ability to reach so many people around the world. I’d love to see them use their platform to engage with more social and political themes.
What’s a dream space to dance in, or stage to dance on?
For me, it’s less about the prestigious stage and more about the content of the work and the people I’m surrounded by.
You’ve said that one of your goals is to be an action film star. What is it about action films that resonate with you?
I’ve always enjoyed action films, the physical rigor of it and how it has the potential to challenge stereotypical female archetypes. An actress like Michelle Rodriguez inspires me because she’s too busy kicking ass to be a smirking damsel in distress.
What do you think it is that’s urging you to explore a big new challenge like acting in action movies? Do you feel you’ve hit a wall or accomplished what you wanted to as a dancer?
As we age, as we get older, and we take on more experiences, we have to get a bigger plate. Every increment of my career, I see more and more of what’s possible. As I get older, I garner more self-confidence in my professional abilities. I see more of my strengths and this starts to color my work.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
One challenge I’ve dealt with is asking [for] permission too much. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become very aware of my own shortcomings, my own self-induced pressures. I’m honest with myself and when personal challenges arise, I come up with a plan.
What are you most excited to be working on right now?
My first movie.