by Spot LA

The Broad Stage presents


World premiere of Death Defying Dances plus

3 Preludes and Private Games: Chapter One (preview)

Dancer Joseph Kudra.  Photo credit: Joshua Sugiyama

Dancer Joseph Kudra.  Photo credit: Joshua Sugiyama

On Thursday, October 27th, I went to see BODYTRAFFIC at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica.  I was running to get inside the theater before the curtain call. Even in this hurry, I couldn’t miss the handsome geometric charisma of The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage building–an attractive and inviting mesh up of wood, grey stone and glass. Luckily, the grand building is set within a humbling sea of cars and finding parking only took a few minutes.

Inside, the wooden walls of the theater welcomed my guest and I into a sublimely intimate yet strikingly grand space. We were about to see BODYTRAFFIC, one of America’s most compelling dance companies, performing three works from their new repertory: Death Defying Dances (world premiere), 3 Preludes, and Private Games: Chapter One (preview). Jane Dekanel, Director of the Performing Arts Center, welcomed the audience with a quote by Neitzche: “We have art so that we may not perish by the truth.” A great personal touch and an interesting thought to start the show with.

The first piece, 3 Preludes, was nostalgic and involved a couple dancing in what felt to be a moonlit cityscape next to a grand concert piano. This piece by illustrious choreographer Richard Siegal, founder and artistic director of The Baker Paris-Berlin, captured the essence of Gershwin’s sophistication and BODYTRAFFIC’s vivaciousness. Ukrainian born pianist Inna Falkis’ energy filled the room and my guest for the evening rightfully pointed out that the piece had the atmosphere and feel of a Ginger Rogers movie. Although I enjoyed the music, the light design by Burke Wilmore and the choreography, the dance execution felt rather mechanical and I felt a slight disconnect among the performers. Something, that unfortunately prevailed throughout the show. This work uses high octane movement and penetrating imagery to bring the audience into a mysterious and explosive world.

Private Games: Chapter One was a playful mesh up of dance, monologue and utter weirdness. Sudden shifts of mood within the piece, kept me on my toes and Guzman Rosado’s exaggerated grimaces, made me giggle. The story seemed incoherent but, as far as I understood, there was a man who was casting spells on people, turning them into monkeys, pigs, lemons and avocadoes. His wife was part of the story too and she was hysterically explaining to the audience why she is so in love with her husband. Both my guest and I really enjoyed the music, which was an interesting blend of tribal drums and classical violin scores featuring music by: Joseph Haydn, N.J. Zivkovic, B. Biskupstungna, Johann S.Bach and Drums of the World. However, there was a part where I didn’t feel it was necessary to terrorize the audience with five adults screaming like mad monkeys after an enjoyable Bach violin score. All in all, I felt it was a little too explosive for my liking.

Dancers Tina Berkett and Joseph Davis. Photo credit: Joshua Sugiyama.  

Dancers Tina Berkett and Joseph Davis. Photo credit: Joshua Sugiyama.  

Death Defying Dances, a world premiere by Arthur Pita, was my favorite work of the evening. It was a vibrant and colorful piece inspired by the persona and lyrics of Judy Henske “Queen of the Beatniks” who, with her big voice and a bold personality was a mainstay of the sixties American folk revival. The piece featured not only her songs but also the mystical and satirical recitations and monologues she performed during her concerts. Pita wonderfully captured and translated her eclectic style into movement. In addition to this, I thoroughly enjoyed Yann Seabra’s bold and vivacious set and costume design. Smart props, such as a bubble machine and snorkels, in combination with a “swimming” choreography, were wonderfully used to convey an underwater sensation. The simple yellow backdrop and the bright pinks and greens of the costumes, truly resurrected the magic of Judy Henske.

I've been loving you too long to stop now  

You are tired and you want to be free

My love is growing stronger, as you become a habit to me

Ohh, I've been loving you too long

I don't wanna stop now

With you my life has been so wonderful

I can't stop now

You are tired and your love is growing cold

My love is growing stronger as our affair, affair grows old

I've been loving you oh, too long

I don't want to stop now, ohh, ohh, ohh

(Lyrics from Judy Henske’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long)

It got me thinking about visual effects in my own performances and how, when approached with an open mind and endless creativity, tributes to artists can be incredibly educational and inspiring. I left the theater grateful for discovering Judy Henske and wondering who I could make a tribute to through my art.

Dancer Joseph Kudra. Photo credit: Joshua Sugiyama

Dancer Joseph Kudra. Photo credit: Joshua Sugiyama