Innovation at the Music Center - By Ashlee Blosser

by Spot LA


Sculptures. Video Projection. Gowns. Time.

Jessica Lang Dance performed five works from their repertoire that monopolized my attention of the whole two hours at The Music Center on Feb. 18. Jessica Lang has such an innovative approach to choreography with set designs, video projections, and costumes that the theatre was full awaiting the start of the show when I got to my seat. The whole evening I was consistently engaged oo-ing and aw-ing at the surprises Lang’s choreography gave us. 

 Photo Credit Todd Rosenberg

Photo Credit Todd Rosenberg

Opening the show was Tesseracts of Time with its daring partnering and many dimensions of space. Lang’s use of floor work as an instrument in conjunction with John Cage’s composition and the performer’s impeccable timing had me leaning forward in my seat. After a video projection, the choreography was playful and I could see the dancers smile as they worked through the obstacles of the white sculptures on stage. The last section felt sacred as Lang’s movement mirrored images of what seemed to me as time-turners, clocks, and hour glasses. One moment that stood out was a group partnering moment where they were laying flat on the floor; and slowly in a continuous canon, rolled backwards into handstands or supported positions. This gave me the image of the number panels on an old school alarm clock flipping when the hour or minute changed. Performers Patrick Coker, Eve Jacobs, and Kana Kimura stood out to me in Tesseracts of Time and its abstract approach to an already abstract concept. 

 Photo Credit Takao Komaru

Photo Credit Takao Komaru

The Calling in a couple words was just perfect. Just the right length with a beautiful performance by Kana Kimura. It is always intriguing to see what choreographer’s will do when they work with extravagant gowns that drape across almost the whole stage floor. Lang’s choreography was fulfilling as Kimura purely moved through the choreography. I felt like she was almost trying to communicate with the audience as her performance seemed for us only. 

With a new more open change in set design, Thousand Yard Stare, had a bare stage with all the curtains and scrims up. The group partnering in this thoughtful tribute to american soldiers was innovative. One moment that stood out was when they all formed a line where they did sequential and simultaneous movements down the line. At one point a performer was separated from the group, and the group worked as a team to pull her back in over their bodies placing her in a spot that appeared at the perfect time. John Harnage and Jammie Walker had a seamless male duet has they moved with control and strength. The use of lighting to imitate explosions was radical in its own way and kept me on my toes. 

Lang’s dance video, White, kept my attention as it juxtaposed slow motion, “normal speed,” and fast forward. The editing in the video to superimpose two different filmings so that one duet was going at a “normal speed” and another in slow motion was astounding. 

 Photo Credit Takao Komaru

Photo Credit Takao Komaru

Ending the performance was, i.n.k., with its complementing video projection that kept the audience in awe. Clifton Brown’s solo was utterly satiating to watch as he beautifully suspended within the physicality of Lang’s choreography. Correlation of the video projection with the quartet was fun and explicit as the ink drops on the screen danced with the performers. The duet’s were captivating as the movement joined with the sloshing of the music or slow motion of the projection. 

Overall throughout the performance, the company members had an incredible range of dynamics but also a consistent lightness in weight too. Their technique was incredible and performances inviting. One thing I found different from Lang’s work than most of the performances I attend was the slight break of the fourth wall with the audience. The dancers acknowledged us through their smiles and projection of energy, whereas a lot of works today are in their own world on stage and we are merely the observers. Jessica Lang Dance gave a captivating performance that kept me on my toes and leaning forward in my seat, and I cannot wait to see them again when they come back to LA.