California State University, Long Beach - College of the Arts & the Department of Dance – A Guest post by Sara Debevec

by Spot LA


Variance

2016 Fall BFA Dance Concert featuring premiere choreographic works by

Guest Artist Robert Moses, Faculty Keith Johnson, and BFA choreographers

A Guest Blog Post by LA-Based Artist Sara Debevec

 Photography by: Gregory R.R. Crosbby

Photography by: Gregory R.R. Crosbby

On Saturday October 15 th , I had the pleasure of witnessing a unique blend of dance performances by California State University, Long Beach, Undergraduate BFA choreographers in collaboration with composers from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music. Variance took place at the intimate yet bold Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater, with excellent stadium seating, making it a great venue to view dance, even if, like me, you were sitting at the back row. This eclectic evening of dance explored varying viewpoints on issues of social justice, politics, technology, family and performance itself.

Setting off with As the Shoreline Recedes, So Do They Vanish, choreographed by Jasmine Mosher, with a haunting score by Cristina Lord, the stage turned into a space to explore world of suffering and detachment that calls into question the capacity of human compassion. Using black bin bags as props, and inviting us into the shifting viewpoints of the inside and outside, the piece explored societies detachment and engagement with the impoverished. The black bags, hauntingly turned into walls of exclusion, representing our detachment from the ones who are suffering and in need of our help.

Decay On Us, by Madison Clark with original composition by Oscar Santos-Carillo, is a beautiful collage of solemn dance and interactions around a dining table, exploring love, support and tragedy in an intimate setting. Like a renaissance painting that has come alive, Decay On Us, invited the audience to bear witness to family dealing with loss and shifting paradigms. Seeing embodied desperation and shifting energies around a dining table really resonated with me as the process of grieving comes in waves and everyone deals with trauma in different ways. The use of orange light also created a kind of urban setting, placing the family, as if under street lights, with no shelter and no place to call home.  

With archive footage of news reports projected on the screen, dancers lining up and geometrically shifting from one corner of the stage to the other and a timeline of events slowly dropping from the ceiling, We Adapt Quickly, felt like an evolutionary journey through media discourse. This piece by Maili Schlosser, with music composition by Cristina Lord; was rooted in major social and historical events, shining a light on how response to tragedy evolves over time, as a result of shifting media, concluding in a memorable line: We Scream, We Shrug and We Forget!

Folly, was a playful solo by Faculty Keith Johnson with music by Marcel Grandjany, originally commissioned by Patrick Damon Rago of Loyola Marymount University.  Waves of laughter from the audience, quickly filled the room. Subtle thumbs up and a quick glimpse of unicorn-like horn prop, really tickled the audience. The smirk on dancer, Robert Well's face added to Johnson's exploration of whimsy and romanticism in the life of a man. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Great Expectations due to its combination of spoken word, narrative and the exploration of duality between the front and the back of the stage. Projected on the screen in front of us was a live footage of the backstage. The dancers moved to and from the backstage as directed by the voice of the choreographer (with a lethargic character somewhere in the corner of the backstage, sitting down on the floor, seldom moving and not taking their eyes off their phone). In this piece, Bradford Chin collaborated with composer Zachary Kenefick to explore humor and the absurd in the process and performance. Inviting the audience to witness a dance rehearsal featuring an overly ambitious choreographer (played by Bradford Chin himself) and demotivated dancers, Chin playfully illuminates and satirizes the world of performing arts.  Tech, of course was involved and kept messing up.

Kassia, I need you to be a strong powerful woman, pushing the air aside!

More intention! Strong women, and not tired women!

I can’t have you being dead on stage!

Guest Artist and CSULB Distinguished Alumnus Robert Moses, Artistic Director of Robert Moses’ Kin, is known for his physically intense and nuanced vocabulary. Moses states that his work "expresses my concern with the honor, dignity, truth and potential of real people. Moses's premiere of How Does One Approach a Short Story Technique?; couldn't have been a better close for this wonderfully diverse and bold show. While showing influence from the Afro-Carribean roots of his training, the work blended classical and contemporary structures that allowed for a collision of styles mirroring a human connection that was explored on stage. Moses plays with rhythm, texture, juxtaposition, and contact to reveal the individual spirit within the collective. Let me also add that the diversity of expression through the dancers involved was impeccable. Expressing their individual styles and uniqueness yet blending in with the unity of choreography worked brilliantly.

Leaving the auditorium with a full moon on my side, the performance left me with many social issues to contemplate on.