In my last review I had said that there is no art without humanity and those who live for it. LA based company, Acts of Matter, artistically directed by Rebecca Lemme, proved that they live for a raw, visceral interpretation of humanity in their first stand alone show, rep•er•toire, that took place this past weekend at Highway’s Performance Space.
Acts of Matter is a project-based performance group whose mission is “revealing and reveling in our greater humanity through investment in process and collaboration.” Grounded with “unfitted willingness” and “acceptance of possible failure,” Acts of Matter works have a “physical exertion—an act of trying”—that shows their belief that “as a society we are defined by what unites us.”
Ringing true to their mission, Acts of Matter gave the audience an evening of unapologetic emotion and human connection. The company comprised of performers—Laura Berg, Katie Istvan, Charissa Kroeger, Megan McCarthy, Jobel Medina, Joey Navarrete, Joan Holly Padeo, Montay Romero, Gracie Whyte, and Taylor Worden—was accompanied with original scores by River Song Quartet and a live performance by ISTANBUL.
Lemme commented on the process of Acts of Matter’s first stand alone performance, “It’s a much larger beast to bring together a number of pieces even if they already exist, however, it’s really beautiful to look at the evolution of my own work together while seeing new bodies and new artists interpreting roles that were originally created with other artists.”
After this seemingly tumultuous (political) week, rep•er•toire, was the exact dose of compassion, community, and acceptance that I needed. Lemme’s work,Retrouvaille, The Fragments, as may be felt, and Love Letter reaffirmed that empathy and human connection—something I feel is slowly being lost in our country—still exists.
Beginning the show was Retrouvaille with a bare and vulnerable performance. Retrouvaille, a word meaning “coming together again,” had an abstract evolution to it as the performers weaved in and out of duets and solos. The lighting in the beginning felt like a sunrise on a new day as the dancers walked backwards with one hand holding the other wrist symbolizing some type of conflict or restraint. There was never an empty spot on stage as the performer’s created a community together out of their own personal tragedies. From having seen Lemme’s work in the past, I can tell that what was performed was an excerpt of a much longer piece.
The Fragments blessed me with a beautiful sense of warmth, safety, and simplicity. Inspired from the Shaker saying, “Gather up the fragments, let nothing be lost,” derived from John 6:12, the dancers were truly absorbent and gratified by each other’s presence. Joey Navarrete's solo in the beginning was grounded and humble while he and the singing ensemble welcomed the audience into a safe space. Simplicity shines through Lemme’s choreography in The Fragments with a through line of humble virtuosities. The performers never disposed of the movement by quickly moving on, but continued the energy all the way. A work like The Fragments in times like this is very poignant and exposed. At one point in the piece, performer Jobel Medina joined the audience to witness the compassion that filled the room. It brought a sense of community, acceptance, and never taking anything or anyone for granted.
This particular piece of Lemme’s resonates strongly with her and her company members.
“From this show, The Fragments is important to me because with the current political climate it’s a piece that honors diversity amongst a community with people who are willing to accept each other no matter what,” said Lemme.
Becca has been talking about our connections as humans and being there for one another,” comments company member Charissa Kroeger. “The togetherness really comes alive during the performance and the connection between us is palpable.”
Lemme added, “The song that the company sings that leads us into that piece is a song that I first heard right after my father passed away… The song is about knowing what’s important in life and making sure that you use your time wisely.”
as may be felt had a similar feel in the beginning as Retrouvaille, however, it shaped itself into something much more relentless and internal. The dancer's all nude colored costumes erased their genders making them being's composed from emotions and reactions. The pulsating, haunted music complemented the performer’s expression of uncertainty and unpredictability. Lemme’s trademark partnerwork shined in as may be felt with intertwining in an out of unnatural, yet seamless positions. Performers Katie Istvan and Jobel Medina’s reactive duet was risky, dynamic, and intense. I found myself breathing with them as they relentlessly moved through redirection and were taken over by momentum. At first Lemme’s use of the buildings wall confused me, but as the piece evolved it became a symbol for me of the inability to escape human emotions and the need of other’s to move up and past our involuntary reactions.
“I felt like the duet in the third piece was very powerfully performed with a pounding energy.” said audience member Molly Wolfe. “In a way it almost felt like [Medina] had disappeared in it, and even though he was extremely essential to that choreography, it was like [Itsvan] was putting herself through all it. It was showcased in a really beautiful way.”
Ending rep•er•toire was Love Letter a new work in progress for Acts of Matter that is an homage to the lovelorn, the misfits, and the hopeless romantics. Taylor Worden and Istvan’s duet was quirky, fun and thoroughly enjoyable. Their performance was mystifying as they told the audience their love story through strong, dexterous partnering. Jobel Medina’s solo was heartrending as his movement told me a story about violation and the paralyzed hysteria of being in love with someone wrong for you. Ending the piece was a compelling performance by Joan Holly Padeo singing “Love Me Tender,” with a solo by Montay Romero. Padeo’s singing performance sunk deep as it made me relive the distraught involved with heartbreak. I could feel the pain and the almost hopeful defeat as she brought tears to my eyes and surrounding audience members. Romero’s solo was sustained yet collapsing as his movement complemented Padeo’s voice. When he fell to the floor it made me flinch, however, it just reiterated the pain you feel when heartbroken, physically and emotionally.
“[Lemme’s] really good at group choreography with shared weight in floorwork, partnering, and extending movement that gets tied into knots and then slips right through because of the virtuosity of the dancers,” comments audience member Charlie Dando.
Innovative and beautiful, Lemme’s work and her company member’s vivacious performances impressed the whole audience. Other audience members had commented on Acts of Matter’s “athleticism,” “connection and contact” with each other, and “seeing these large group pieces in an intimate space where you’re in the same world as the performers.”
Acts of Matter will be performing again April 21-23rd in their third annual collaborative performance, T3THERING, with colleague Andrea Gise’s company, Dance Aegis. A full version of Love Letter will premiere along with a new work Lemme is setting on the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company. Dance Aegis will be premiering a new work on the company and another work on The Assembly from Orange County.
Location of T3THERING will be announced soon. To keep up to date on Acts of Matter and what they are doing or for open company class information go to their company page https://www.facebook.com/rebeccalemmeartist/.
Especially in times like these the arts are needed… The willing, selfless display of humanity from the company dancers in rep•er•toire gave me hope for what artists will be creating in the future.