LA CONTEMPORARY DANCE PROJECT - FORCE MAJEURE A Guest Post by Ashlee Blosser

by Spot LA


 Photo Credit Ruben Contreras

Photo Credit Ruben Contreras

Atwater Village Theatre's small, intimate black box theatre, overfilled with audience members Nov. 11 for LA contemporary Dance Company's world premiere of their fall repertory concert, "FORCE MAJEURE."  The room was foggy with mysterious down pools of light illuminating the stage.  With a sold out show audience members had to resort to sitting on the stairs, standing, or crouching by the seats.  Out of courtesy to older audience members, I gave my seat away and joined those crouching by seats.

As time went on the theatre became more crammed with excitement bubbling to the ceiling.  Announcers took the floor to welcome the guest and and asked everyone to squeeze in tight na get cozy.  This allowed for an opening on the stairs, which I was grateful for because my legs were falling asleep.

LACDC's Fall Repertory Concert, "FORCE MAJEURE," featured new works by LA choreographers Christian Denice, Micaela Taylor, and Artistic Director Genevieve Carson.  The company also welcomed NY choreographer Gregory Dolbashian, along with LA composer Robert Amjarv whose original music was featured in this premiere.  

"EBBA" choreographed by Genevieve Carson opened the concert with a driving beat originally composed by Robert Amjarv.  Immediately the audience was immersed into a world of stron, dynamic women whose physicality was almost primal.. Carson's choreography was powerfully unstable as the performers were united but individual.

"EBBA" was an intimate, bold, and unapologetic investigation of hte many layers that exist in the psyche of girls and women, and how they can ultimately find strength and ownership in that.  The performers took the audience on a journey through feeling alone, criticized, violated, and vulnerable.

During the final atmosphere change the women guided each other through parterning and unison of sustained, gestural movement, released spirals and sporadic breakouts.  "EBBA," a work in progress, did feel unfinished, but left me eater to see the full product in the future.

Choreographer Gregory Dolbashian debuted a quartet in "Beautyfear," who set an enviornment with pulsing music and an essence of struggle.  Focusing on four character in the didst of discover, Beautyfear" explores the moment of realization in a person's life where they come face to face with the habits and behaviors that stand in the way of their progress.

The quartet flowed through manipulated, arching movement, and moved in and out of static and momentous moments.  Dolbashian's use of mirroring, progression, and regression was successful as the performers were hypnotized and burdened by one another.  "Beautyfear" ended like a gust of wind without any resolution, which speaks to the truth of how old habits die hard.

When asking fellow audience members katelyn Black and Ana Cardenas about the concert, they had a difficult time finding words to describe their admiration for LACDC's performance.

"If you could get our [opinion] physically it would be great," laughs Cardenas as her and Black squirmed and fidgeted from excitement and astoundment.

"It was beautiful.  I loved it," continues Black.  "Even during the five-minute break I couldn't talk because I was so taken aback at how beautiful it was."

Staticky, buzzing music revealed another quartet in "Sporty" choreographed by Micaela Taylor.  Decked out in all white attire the performers had dynamic timing with pulsing, staccato movement.  Their determined focus was constant throughout the sudden environment changes.

"Sporty," was a loot at a group of hip, young millennials fighting to stay relevant in a society defined by quickly changing trends.  Through back and core initiation the dancers executed chunky, sequential movement.  Never breaking character the performers ended on a strong, dramatic note.

Closing the show Christian Denice's "Delicate Skins" captivated the audience with the performer's tactility and full embodiment.  The performers explored the sensations of touch, intimacy, and sensitivity within the physical and emotional realms.  Witnessing each other as they itched with sensory overload, the performers seamlessly transitioned from individual moments to momentous, trusting partner work.

"Touch and connectivity were very important [themes] and the driving force to f the piece," says Denice.  "I wanted to remain authentic from the beginning with natural responses to touch and connectivity and speaking to the vulnerability of connecting to someone.  [the piece] also speaks to the painful process of bringing yourself back to that point after you've closed yourself off again."

Each dancer had a purpose with each partner interchange and every unpredictable redirection.  The performers were breathtaking with their expressive limbs and expanding spance throughout their bodies.

Denice's use of repetition was successful as the dancers molded, felt, and manipulated a male soloist.  With his heart on his sleeve, the male soloist ended "Delicate Skins" by removing his shirt and baring himself physically and emotionally to the ensemble and audience.

Concluding the show Carson, the performers and Denice gave their gratitude to the audience with a humbling bow and introduction of names.  Carson thanked the audience and the art donors for all they do for LACDC.

 Photo Credit Ruben Contreras

Photo Credit Ruben Contreras

"FORCE MAJEURE" won the admiration for the Friday night audience as they stormed the performance space to engage with Carson, Denice, and the performers.  As I walked around Atwater Village Theatre's courtyard, I observed applause, engrossing conversations and congratulatory embraces.    

"The fluidity of the dancers was encapsulating." says audience member Megan Seagren.  "The way that [the performers] moved and their transition were enthralling to me."

After this past week of the aftermath of the presidential election results, it was refreshing to witness the unity, happiness, and acceptance that the LA dance community has to offer.  A striking comment of Carson's left me feeling inspired and hopeful, "We create in these empty spaces to share with you.  This is what we live for."  There is no art without humanity and those who live for it.

 


Lucinda Childs A Portrait (1963-2016) - A Guest Post by Sara Debevec

by Spot LA


On Saturday November 5th, I went to see Lucinda Childs’ A Portrait (1963-2016) at UCLA Royce Hall. The twin towered brick and tile building in a Lombard Romanesque style, gracefully welcomed me as I made my way to the outdoor Royce Hall balcony, where I joined the early crowd for a glass of wine overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Anticipation was in the air. I was thrilled to see the work of a remarkable artist and choreographer, who altered the way we perceive performance and generated material that continues to influence artists to this day.

Lucinda Childs’s is a unique choreographer whose early start came from the now legendary art Judson Church movement. This was an avant-garde artistic collective who experimented with basic movement, found objects and non-theatre spaces. Together with Deborah Hay and and Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs founded the Judson Dance Theater in New York in the late 1960s.  This was a space where they all forged their early explorations, developed their practices an performed in front of their artist peers in the hotbed of the downtown New York art scene.  These three women were at the center of the emerging post modern dance movement.  

Inspired by John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, Lucinda Child’s compositions are often described as conceptual and minimalist. She has collaborated with musicians, artists and architects to create luminous, intricate and endlessly fascinating work. She is widely known for her groundbreaking works both in the US and abroad; notably the Robert Wilson/Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach(1976, co-choreographed with Andy DeGroat), and Dance (1979, with Glass and Sol LeWitt).

Lucinda Childs: A Portrait (1963-2016) was a diverse retrospective arc across her evolving sensibilities and explorations through a selection of choreographies in a chronological order. Starting with Pastime (1963) through Radial Courses (1976) through Lollapalooza (2010) to her world premiere of Into View (2016).

The show opened with Pastime (1963), set in what seemed to be a factory or an old warehouse. The music of Philip Corner, with its induced sounds of dribbling water and old pipes, added to the industrial feel and the haunting, post apocalyptic atmosphere of the set. I recall an image of a woman on the floor, enveloped by a light stretchy material, with only her head sticking out, as if in a cocoon, slowly moving but not trying to get out.  The dances that followed involved groups of men or women mechanically walking through space, dressed in white simple attire; a shimmering play of geometrical explorations. The movement and sound were elegantly stripped to the basics. The dancers were moving to the sound of their feet and although they were not touching, they were precisely and intricately connected.

The silence in the pieces Katema (1978), Radical Courses (1976) and Interior Drama (1977) turns the works into masterpieces of vibration and rhythm carefully and beautifully executed by all the dancers alike. It feels like we are seeing the inside of an antique mechanical clock with dancers turning into different compositional parts. These early silent pieces were originally performed in alternative spaces such as old factories, old churches and basements and I think that the set really brought this experience closer to us. I can only imagine what it was really like to experience such choreographic mastery in abandoned and derelict spaces.

What came after the intermission, starting with Lucinda Childs’s work in the 90s, was a clear and unique development and breakthrough. Perfection of the form exemplified by her work in the 70s and 80s, reached its heights, diversified and merged with vivid colours and music by the likes of Henryk Gorecki, John Adams, Simeon ten Holt and Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld. Seeing her earlier pieces without sound, made me appreciate the beauty of collaboration and how abstract music and abstract dance can come together and form perfect pairings and a unique style.

There is something to be said about watching dance in silence, appreciating the form and then bringing back music and colour. I felt that the earlier silent pieces, prepared me for the wave of what came next. Starved for music, my experience reached its height through a form of meditation.

All the pieces after the intermission were exceptional and I could spend all day writing about how they made me feel, but let me just give you a little glimpse.

Canto Ostinato (2015), “Obstinate Song" (as ostinato) is a wonderful minimal  and repetitive musical composition written by the Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt. Lucinda Child’s choreography that focuses on patterns rather than on pairings beautifully merges with the sound. All throughout the piece, we see a turquoise strip moving and replicating from one part of stage to the other. It has its own life and moves in the rhythm of Canto Ostinato. The music and choreography walk hand in hand with the video décor by Dominique Drillot and the mind simply levitates. The piece feels very intergalactic and contemporary at the same time.

The retrospective comes to an end with the premiere of Lucinda Child’s “Into View (2016)” featuring music by two Arcade Fire collaborators, violinist Sarah Neufeld and saxophonist Colin Stetson.  The piece is danced by an ensemble of 10, paired into five couples and as we saw with her earlier work, Lucinda Childs is challenging herself further by bring physical contact into her work, something her audience had not witnessed before.  As with physical touch, sun comes into view and new forms arise with beautiful play on light, bringing out silhuettes dancing in what feels to be a red sunset. A heart felt ending to a strong retrospective and a beginning to new collaborations of a timeless choreographer.

Lucinda Childs has the ability to turn experimentation and collaboration into a meditative and coherent process.  Lucinda Childs’ A Portrait (1963-2016) at UCLA Royce Hall is a brilliant timeline and celebration of her work at the very peak of her creative power. I was honoured to be part of the history of the work as it moves to BAM in New York and on to many of the world’s most revered stages in Europe and beyond. I cannot wait to see what comes next.


Lights, Camera, Action! CSULB Dance in Concert 2016 - A PREVIEW BY ASHLEE BLOSSER

by Spot LA


  Photo courtesy of Gregory R.R. Crosby | Lost Heart Productions

Photo courtesy of Gregory R.R. Crosby | Lost Heart Productions

These are some of the surprises that Cal State Long Beach’s College of the Arts and Department of Dance's, “CSULB Dance in Concert presents” on Nov. 16-19. The concert offers a diverse and exciting evening with six original compositions by CSULB faculty members.

Among faculty choreographers, Rebecca Bryant, Sophie Monat, Lorin Johnson, and Rebecca Lemme, the CSULB Department of Dance welcomes guest artists Laurel Jenkins and Summer Brown.

Bryant opens the concert with the next installment in her critically acclaimed “Suite Female” series. Collaborating with artists from CSULB's animation program, Bryant creates a unique landscape involving animal imagery with dancers bounding and spiraling across the stage as different situations, steeped in wit and irony, transform.

“Overlook,” choreographed by Concert Director Sophie Monat, is an intimate contemporary duet that explores the shifting nature of a relationship over time. Set to the lush music of cellist composer Julia Kent, the dancers extend, sustain, and manipulate throughout the space. Monat’s work juxtaposes delicacy with strength, as the dancer’s defy gravity in their partnering.

“I think what’s wonderful about the concert is that the six dances being presented draw upon a wide range of dance styles, themes, musical inspirations, and artistic collaborations," says Concert Director Monat, "For myself, it has been such a pleasure working with dancers who contribute so much to the creative process, and in talking with the other choreographers, I know they feel the same way."

  Photo courtesy of Gregory R.R. Crosby | Lost Heart Productions

Photo courtesy of Gregory R.R. Crosby | Lost Heart Productions

Jenkins debuts “OPERA”, set to Handel's 1709 Agrippina: Aria Voi, a work with relentlessly physical dance that reveals a mass of dramatic gestures and emotional relationships. With her fourteen person cast, Jenkins creates a period piece with arching movement and disruption of time giving an inside look to a community and the individuals involved.

“Her vision was for us to have a vision, she wanted us to take artistic license,” says senior transfer student Elana Goodman, “So the process was super collaborative, because she genuinely wanted to hear our input and ideas.”

Brown's “Mainland” offers a poignant ensemble dance work inspired by the life, journey, and passing of the choreographer’s late grandparents. Moments of release shimmer throughout the piece with a motif of deep breaths as the ensemble deals with their emotions together, but separately, resembling the truth of how everyone deals with loss in different ways.

“My process always heavily relies on why we do things, the performance of it and clarity of intention,” says Brown, “Each of them have their own intention map, and it can change, there can be a lot of in-the-moment choices and spontaneity... So they can make it not just about what I think it’s about, but that it means something to them personally [and as a group].”

  Photo courtesy of Gregory R.R. Crosby | Lost Heart Productions

Photo courtesy of Gregory R.R. Crosby | Lost Heart Productions

Lorin Johnson’s “Social Domain,” explores aspects of contemporary identity through representations in social media, investigating truth, lies, and the boundaries between public and private discourse. Created collaboratively with video animator, Gregory R.R. Crosby, Johnson’s work involves projections, and an intertwining of solos and duets as the dancers go through distressed, confused, and unsure situations.

“I really like working with Lorin because he's very understanding and wants to you find your connection with the piece,” shares transfer student Morgan Loomis, “For me, I’m really trying to channel inner emotions of how other people felt in that position. I want to be the part and be the character.”

Closing the show on a high-spirited note is “Love Letter,” choreographed by Lemme. Set to classic songs from the 1950s and 60s, “Love Letter,” is an homage to the lovelorn, the misfits, and the hopeless romantics.

“It will make everyone want to go home and dance with their partner!” says Jenkins with a smile.

Lemme’s colleague, Bryant, commented that the dancers are an “army of lovelorn” creating a collage of different fractions of what its like to be in love in this concerts big brass band finish.

“It’s interesting because five of the six choreographers' are female. So there's a lot of specifically female perspectives that will be seen in the show," says Lemme, "In ‘Love Letter’ it’s certainly from my perspective but I'm also hoping that its something that a lot of people in the audience men and women alike can relate too."

CSULB Dance in Concert will take place Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 16-19 at 8pm, with an additional matinée Saturday, November 19 at 2pm and 8pm. A reception will follow the Friday performance at 8pm in the theatre Green Room.

Audience members are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy a lobby exhibit of costume designs by Liz Carpenter and photographs by Gregory R.R. Crosby of the choreographers with dancers during the process.

Performances are located in the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater on the CSULB Campus (located near the Pyramid on Atherton Street). Tickets are $20 for general admission and $16 for seniors, students (with valid ID) and Dance Resource Center Members. For tickets and information please call (562) 985-7000 or visit www.csulb.edu/dance


BODYTRAFFIC AT THE BROAD - A GUEST POST BY SARA DEBEVEC

by Spot LA


The Broad Stage presents

BODYTRAFFIC

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


Dance Performances Culminate Month-Long Recognition of Forsythe’s Work by The Music Center,  USC Kaufman School of Dance and LACMA – A Guest post by Sara Debevec

by Spot LA


 

There is something magical about matinees. Part of your day is behind you and yet, as it’s only the afternoon, you still have the whole evening to reflect on what you are about to see.

  San Francisco Ballet in San Francisco Ballet in William Forsythe's "Pas/Parts 2016." Photo by Erik Tomasson.

San Francisco Ballet in San Francisco Ballet in William Forsythe's "Pas/Parts 2016." Photo by Erik Tomasson.

It is late October, weather in LA has started to cool down and there is a cool breeze coming in from the east. The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavillion welcomes you with its stylized columns and a glass façade refracting rays of the autumn sun in an encompassing atmosphere of grandeur. Emancipation is in the air and I have the honor of seeing three of the nation’s top ballet companies, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Houston Ballet, celebrate the work of a visionary choreographer William Forsythe. In Celebrate Forsythe, each ballet company performs one of choreographer’s significant works: Pas/Parts 2016, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Artifact Suite. These are performed together for the first time, as part of the dance engagement and by ballet companies that were personally selected by Forsythe for The Music Center presentation. 

Considered one of the most prolific and influential choreographers of this era, Forsythe is recognized as revolutionizing the practice of ballet by pairing both classical and contemporary movement with contemporary music, transforming traditional ballet into a dynamic 21st century art form. Active in the field of choreography for more than 45 years, Forsythe’s interest in the principles of organization led him to produce a wide range of projects, including installations, films and web-based knowledge creation. He was appointed associate choreographer of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2015 and is also professor of dance and artistic advisor to the Choreographic Institute at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California.

  San Francisco Ballet dancers Carlo Di Lanno and Sofiane Sylve in William Forsythe's "Pas/Parts 2016." Photo by Erik Tomasson.

San Francisco Ballet dancers Carlo Di Lanno and Sofiane Sylve in William Forsythe's "Pas/Parts 2016." Photo by Erik Tomasson.

The show opens with a Pas/Parts 2016, performed by San Francisco Ballet and not only am I struck by Forsythe’s use of syncopation and counterpoint and the tree-dimesionality of his movement, but I am immediately drawn to the symbiosis between Thom Willelms’ instrumental and electronic music and Forsythe’s choreography and lighting. It is here that we see how music and dance, born independently from each other, can depict an integral whole, at the same time retaining their own full autonomy. Dancers seem to be in a large gray, open top box (It’s a cross between a shoe-box and space ship). They are wearing simple designs – black leotards with purple, blue or green blocks of color, a beautiful minimalist aesthetic designed by Stephen Galloway and visually adding simplicity to the complex piece. Simple shapes of color, penetrate the box that changes from grey to golden with subtle light transitions. The ballet’s name suggests a series of parts, through solos, duets, trios and mercurial groupings. The pairings seem random, the groups change and new dancers keep appearing. The structure adds to this intricate experience, as the viewer, enveloped by the meditative musical and visual composition simply gives in to the experience without questioning and trying to find an order.

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, Performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet is set to the final movement from Franz Schubert’s Symphony No.9, thereby making it more traditional in nature than Pas/Parts 2016. Designed by Forsythe himself, the costumes are made of a beautiful shade of Matisse green, with perfectly round tutus and point shoes. We are presented with virtuosity, lyricism and a friendly display of formal manners between the sexes. Performed by three women and two men, and shorter than the first and last piece in Celebrate Forsythe, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude beautifully connects Pas/Parts 2016 and Artifact Suite right before the intermission, allowing us to soak up a breathtaking display of classical technique. This piece beautifully demonstrates how Forsythe sees the ballet vocabulary, as a range of choreographic possibilities, distilled in it’s purest and most brilliant form. The dancers’ ability to make technical difficulty into a triumph of physical mastery becomes a literal representation of ballet’s name – a vertical thrill of exactitude and precision!

  Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers Margaret Mullin, Jonathan Porretta, and Carrie Imler in William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude." Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers Margaret Mullin, Jonathan Porretta, and Carrie Imler in William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude." Photo © Angela Sterling.

Now, as the intermission is taking place, it is important to note that William Forsythe is a visionary choreographer and innovator in dance, who brilliantly “integrates ballet with the visual arts, in ways unprecedented since the era of the Ballet Russe,” (quote: Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center). This pairing of both classical and contemporary movement with very contemporary music has redefined ballet for a new generation and to me, as a performance artist, is exceptionally inspiring and thrilling. Coming back to my seat, I overhear murmurs from the ladies in my row - “I hear this next piece is supposed to be the best one!” During the intermission, my friend Tora and I don’t talk very much, instead we are lavitating on what we have already seen. How can this next piece be the best one, I wonder? My jaw has already dropped and my endorphins are firing left right and center.  

And so, Artifact Suite Performed by Houston Ballet begins. It is an edited version of an evening length ballet, Artifact, created in 1984 for Ballet Frankfurt.

  Houston Ballet dancers Madeline Skelly and Connor Walsh in William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Houston Ballet dancers Madeline Skelly and Connor Walsh in William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Set for the entire ensemble of a ballet company, Artifact Suite contains massive group sections amongst volatile solos and pas de deux. This is Forsythe’s first full - length ballet paying homage to great epochs of ballet. Dancers dissect traditional ballet movements across every corner of the stage, wearing golden leotards and black tights resembling ancient Egyptian emperors, and a single dancer stands out from the crowd. With unique and mystifying hand movements, drastic lighting changes, haunting shadow use and sudden curtain drops, during Bach’s energetic and mesmerizing Chaconne from “Partitia No 2 in D minor,” Forsythe’s meticulous exploration of the performance space is demonstrated. “William Forsythe knock(s) traditional ballet off center by expanding ballet vocabulary to include movement that can be sharp, angular, side to side or multiple tempo,”(quote: Michael Solomon, associate vice president of programming for The Music Center). This is by far one of Forsythe’s stylistic masterpieces for ballet that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

The audience’s standing ovation was a proof that I was not alone in my awe. This was a truly magical matinee in a wonderful venue and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon. Even writing and thinking about it, brings butterflies to my stomach! As I left the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, I had the whole evening ahead of me to contemplate on Forsythe’s mastery of movement and visual representation.


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.


Diavolo “L’espace Du Temps” Soldiers of Dance by Saxon Cote

by Spot LA


On Saturday night September 19th, Diavolo’s Artistic Director, Jacques Heim, began the evening with a personal introduction to the show stating that he intends to make his company the “great destination” in LA for dance and the performing arts. Though he made a joke about not enough people coming because they’re all too “lazy” to make it out to Northridge, he still has full confidence that in the near future they will have flocks coming to them. He sets the bar high for his expectations and goals for what will become of his company and dancers, but his aspirations may not be farfetched.

 Diavolo’s performance is a new way of movement. When watching the dancers it’s easy to want to call it dance, but it’s not quite “dancing”. Maybe Parkour? Gymnastics? Freerunning? Or perhaps acro? But there is no one category, or even two that this style fits into, because it’s all of them. When looking at the bios for the dancers, they all have different skills that you normally don’t see in dancers, such as: bodybuilding, cheerleading, martial arts, and much more. All of these different forms are so well melded together that it has to become a new style of dance which has yet to be named. Not only are all these things mashed together, but then we incorporate enormous set pieces of which the dancers constantly move through the performance. Some of these set pieces weigh from 800-5,000 pounds! What is this new style called?! Give us a name Heim!

 Heim’s inspiration came from his fascination with how we interact with our environment, specifically our architecture. There’s this reality and wisdom exuded from each piece where you can see that Heim’s has spent endless amounts of time studying how these relationships/dynamics. Heim’s way of expression is unique. I would describe the style of storytelling, set design, music, lighting, and choreography as ABT’s classic performances gone into the world of Le Miserable meets Prometheus. All of the pieces have their own story, it may take until halfway through the performance to see them clearly, but when you do, you realize their genius.

The journey started with showing how the dancers were being grabbed, comforted, supported, pulled, pushed, and molded to the architecture, symbolizing that human beings are surrounded by endless objects to which they are controlled by and have a relationship with; humans are formless without the shapes they create. Then it continues on to how we become attached to certain places that we come to claim as our own, even though we have no real evident ownership, merely emotional attachment. When we see that someone else has inhabited or staked claim to our ‘spot’ we become aggressively territorial, but life goes on and endless amounts of people that you will never have awareness of, come and go through this spot. No space is ever yours, for someone has already lived in it, even for just a second, and chances are someone will come after you.

  Photo credit:  Ammerpohl

Photo credit: Ammerpohl


During the next act there was a more corporational view including construction, power, military, and even gender challenge. A piece went from construction workers building which included a supervisor while the other dancers conducted set pieces to fit with each other and move loads of materials from what felt like B2B, to the CEO’s and high power people using skyscrapers as a means to establish dominance and power, competing to be on top, pushing, grabbing, and shoving each other until someone made it to the top and stood like King Kong on top of the Empire State Building, on to the military fighting for more money and to defend what has been built using huge rectangular shaped blocks as tanks to aim at their enemies. To finish there was a gender fight. A dance with men and women being in love, and bonding like couples dating, but soon shifted to the classic, but tastefully subtle depiction of men drinking at a bar, laughing and acting like hot shots only to have a woman catching them in the act and challenge their animalistic behavior pushing them around as if to say ‘who do you think you are? If you want to see strong, I’ll show you strong.’

  Photo credit:  Ammerpohl

Photo credit: Ammerpohl

The third act was different from the last two. It began in Space. Men and women coming from out of a spaceship on to the moon, but the moon sucks them in with a magnet gravitation pull turning them into to these alien like moon creatures that are forced to adapt and live within the moon. They explore a new world which most would say is the traditional dance piece of the whole show. This is the most visually pleasing section of the performance, the costumes were light and easy on the eyes, but form fitting so we could appreciate the artist physic or paintbrush if you will, there lay a mirror on the floor adding an extra dimension on top of the backdrop that has vibrantly displayed the dancer’s shadows the whole show, the moon set piece glows in the dark creating this sense of comfort and relaxation as the dancers showcase their beautiful lines and extensions. In the end they make it back to their spaceship ready to fly home.

  Photo credit:  Ammerpohl

Photo credit: Ammerpohl

The show is dark, inciteful, eery, and hardcore. The dancers never stop moving, in a way however, the set pieces are the main character, so much so that at times it feels frustrating that they are being used so much; there is a great hunger to see dance in it’s simplicity after the eyes are focused on something large, cold, and sharp in continuous movement. It would have been nice if there was a time when the dancers could show us themselves without the blocks, and domes, and various shaped objects, it became slightly tiresome to see them move these props relentlessly. In addition to the sets, designed by McClusky LTDthe backdrop, though it is a nice touch and adds another layer of movement, can be distracting, especially when the dancers are at top speed, it feels like watching large flickering candles hectically dance in the background when you’re trying to focus on the main event.  The lighting done by John E.D. Bass and Evan Merryman Ritterwas fantastic, though further luminosity would have aided and soothed our strained eyes from the darkness and occasional bright LED lights . The live musicians with New West Symphony, and conductor Christpher Rountree, were perfect, they gave that extra support and guidance in what should be felt at each moment. The choreography was gorgeous in detail with some unique partnering and shapes. However, my full admiration, respect, and awe goes to the dancers. These dancers are soldiers, they deserve awards for their strength, stamina, craftsmanship, and performance quality.

Bravi!

 


Oxytocin Improve with Jacob Jonas The Company - A post by Saxon Cote

by Spot LA


Spot LA sent me an email and asked me if I wanted to attend an improv called “Oxytocin” hosted by Jacob Jonas The Company.  Me, being a beginning starved dancer in LA of course I said yes right away. I decided to get there early as I mostly do when going anywhere, I arrived at Los Angeles Ballet Center a half hour early, no one was at the welcome desk and when I asked the woman in charge upstairs where the session would be she gave me directions to studio 3, which was the wrong studio as I quickly found out because no one was there. I looked on the Facebook post and found the very important detail  "enter through the side door on Stoner Ave.". Ops! When I got there, everyone was welcoming. It wasn't the typical hostile, nervous environment where you feel everyone's walls up; there were genuine smiles, chill music already playing people with their shoes on (yes, on the studio floor), cookies, and everyone sprawled out on the floor. I started stretching and warming up. I go over to Jill Wilson (JJTC manager) probably 3 times to ask her questions: 'How late does this go till?' "Whenever. You can just leave whenever you want." 'Can we take pictures and videos?' "Yes! Of course! Please do!" I chat with her for a short second before it starts about how long she's been dancing for (since she was a wee little one around 3, mostly Ballet and Jazz).

  © Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Jacob Jonas and Saxon   Co  té

© Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Jacob Jonas and Saxon Co

  © Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Jacob Jonas and Saxon   Co  té

© Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Jacob Jonas and Saxon Co

‘Is it starting? Did we start? Is it time? Is there an introduction..? What's happening..? I like this song, this is funky, I'm just gonna dance...’ Everyone is stretching and warming up and slowly things progress into dancing, the energy builds and we all slowly migrate towards each other until most of us are intertwined, flipping, balancing, falling, catching, pulling, leaning. We all morphed into what felt like, at moments, a genuine performance piece. Endless layers of movement, we all felt each other as if we were one. The photographer, Carl Shrawder, was our loving audience, the one with the power to solidify the moments forever. He was with us, part of us as he moved in, through, around and out of all of it confidently perusing the moments he saw.

When things started to slow down, some started to stretch and group in soft chatters, I took a moment to introduce myself to my first contact improv partner of the night who set me free with his assertive spirit. I wanted to thank him for giving me the most electric and beautiful improv experience, to my surprise (however, I somehow feel like I already knew) this man was Jacob Jonas.

How long have you been dancing?

I started dancing around 13, but didn't take it seriously until around 16.

How long has the company been around for?

We started last January. We combine contemporary ballet, breakdancing, and circus arts.

What do you like to do in LA?

I skateboard mostly and I go to the beach a lot.

Are you from LA?

Born and raised in Santa Monica. I couldn't go anywhere else as I love the ocean.

Will your company do any traveling?

We premiered our first full length show last year in NY at Alvin Ailey theater. We will be performing at Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out Festival in late July, we have that to look forward to. We will also be traveling to Vancouver and Chicago in the coming months.

The energy died pretty fast from there, we were done after two songs. When the last song stopped, Jacob gathered everyone in a circle. He thanked us all for coming out and asked us to describe how we feel, but instead of doing the usual "let's go clockwise" routine, he let us volunteer who would speak first. Marissa started, which if you met her you would guess she would go first: she's a fun spitfire woman who may be small, but she's muscular, full of energy, and has a beautiful heart. Marissa Labog is one of JJTC dancers, she described the night and how she felt, in how we pretty much all wanted to describe it. She described how everyone's energy level started low, whether from the heat or exhaustion from the week and that she enjoyed that we were all on that same level, that she was able to let go even though she would describe herself as a "control freak", that we all complimented, and supported each other, yet everyone was different.

  © Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Marissa Labog and Saxon   Co  té

© Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Marissa Labog and Saxon Co

  © Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Marissa Labog and Saxon   Co  té

© Photo’s by Carl Shrawder.  Dancers: Marissa Labog and Saxon Co


Clairobscur Dance Company's Spring 2015 Performance - A Guest Blog post by Hannah Inayoshi

by Spot LA


SATURDAY(4/25) - marked the final performance of Clairobscur Dance Company’s “Memory Lapse.” The evening consisted of three works choreographed by artistic director, Laurie Sefton. An amalgam of highly physical dancing and literal gesturing, “Memory Lapse” offered a night brimming with intensity. 

The first piece, “Werk Work,” started the show off on a lighter note. The fast-paced, jazzy piece looks at the constant hustle involved with business. Playing upon the mechanical repetition within the corporate sphere, the dance opened with five, brightly dressed women running in slow motion- ticking through the steps like a time lapse. The proceeding piece then involved them jumping and dropping, running- then stopping. They came together for highly choreographed movements, then broke apart again, moving to the next space. Even in supposed stillness, the dancers fidgeted and fixed themselves, unsatisfied with the moment. They texted, chatted with the audience, then resumed their very uniform dancing. The piece offered an amusing take on the mundane aspects of work life, and definitely peaked the audience’s attention. 

The second work, “Obviam Somes” took a much darker turn. Investigating surgery, slashing arm-work and painstaking control took over the choreographic tone. A moody lighting (Stacie O' Hara) shrouded the dancers as they began the piece sweeping the floor with their legs. Pain and agony were displayed liberally throughout the dancing, while images like the inside of an intestinal tract, pills, and moving cells squirmed and floated in the background. The only break in the somewhat monotonous pace came from a musical change near the middle/end of the piece. The music included text and had a club like feel, which ushered the dancers to the upstage corner. There they swayed and circled to the hypnotic beat. The moment seemed sexual in some ways, yet with dead looks playing upon their faces, we were only meant to feel unease.  

The final piece of the evening, the namesake of the show, "Memory Lapse" dove into the fears and frustrations surrounding memory loss. I had the pleasure of first viewing an excerpt of the work at the LA dance festival, and the continuation proved to be an interesting -if sometimes confused-narrative. Showcasing the more balletic side of Sefton's repertoire, the piece had many beautiful moments. Beginning with softer gestures, the music and movement continued swelling throughout the piece into much grander sounds and more frantic dancing, giving a sense of the ensuing chaos of a dissolving mind. Utilizing Trios, pas de deuxs, solos, and featured dancers, Sefton’s choreographic muscles were flexing full force in this piece, while the dancers themselves shined in this dramatic work. 

Overall, the smartly structured evening gave the audience a different take on several fears, neurosis, and afflictions that we may face in our lives. I look forward to the evolution of Sefton's choreography, though she already has a firm grasp of her own personal style and strengths. 


Los Angeles Dance Festival 2015 - Guest Blogger Hannah Inayoshi Reflects on Day 4 of the Festival

by Spot LA


I arrived just as the last audience members filed into the Diavolo Space. Despite the heat, there was a palpable excitement flowing through the audience. A full house awaited the first piece, of the last evening of the Los Angeles Dance Festival. Fans whirred in the background as a lone dancer took her place onstage. Still somewhat lit by the sun pouring through the windows, she reached her arms in the air. As the music began and the single spot fully illuminated her figure, the first piece of the night was already underway. 

With the pressure of setting the tone for the evening, no)oneArt House’s presentation of Concrete, signaled a night of fairly solid choreography, with a nice platform for both emerging and established choreographers from the southern California region. Choreographed by Roderick George, we were focused immediately on a dancer pulling and grasping the air. With upward cast eyes, she reached for something unattainable. The slow, Gaga-esque, tension-filled stretching and pulling continued as other dancers slowly appeared. Then a shift: A sharp physical and musical change took over the second half of the piece. A beat dropped, and the song started bumping as the dancers, instead of reaching and yearning, began fighting back against these forces. The grounded dancers stuttered, tugged, chugged, and grooved against whatever they had been originally seeking. Perhaps stuck in repetition, or confined to concrete ideals, the dancers took turns breaking out of the patterns and rejoining the pack. 

 With the lights fading upon the circling group of dancers, we then quickly transitioned to the next two works by Lula Washington. TURN THE PAGE and an excerpt from Healers, offered two different solos from the established choreographer’s repertoire. Despite being previously danced works (TURN THE PAGE 2013, Healers 2010) by referencing Trayvon Martin’s shooting in the first piece, and a man seeking absolution in the second, together both dances still have extremely poignant and relevant subject matter. I would venture a guess that this is Washington’s own societal critique on the inability for society to move past this page in history, and right the wrongs that have occurred and are still happening presently. I found this choice profound, but thought the choreography somewhat safe. Using Horton modern as the technical base, at times we would be taken out of the narrative because the codified steps would become the focal point of the piece, instead of the message. 

The third piece of the evening focused on the beauty of small details within choreography. The Clairobscur Dance Company, danced an excerpt from Laurie Sefton’s soon to premiere full length work Memory Lapse. The piece, originally set to music with the same title by Bryan Curt Kostors, had the happy accident of having their music cutoff a third of the way through the piece. The fans that had been so diligently blowing during the first couple pieces had overheated the sound system, and now we had a silent performance. Sans music the dancers, already too far into the excerpt to stop, continued dancing.  Although I would have loved to have heard the music accompaniment, I found the experience really interesting. With the dancing becoming the only avenue to tell their story, the dancers, poised and still very much working together, really shined in their performances. Featuring three dancers, the excerpt contained small, meticulous hand gestures that evoked a sense of preciousness palpably held within their hands. Two of the women spent the majority of the piece on the outer portions of the stage working in tandem, while one lace clad dancer mostly remained center stage dancing apart. Near the end of the piece, just as the two dancers joined the central dancer in the same movement sequence, the music came blasting back through the speakers. Ending perfectly on time, we all couldn’t help but cheer on the dancers and the well-rehearsed choreography for a seamless performance. 

With all pieces being fairly serious, Rosanna Gamson’s work in progress, Restless, offered an upbeat alternative as the closing dance of the first half of the evening. The movement both had a sweeping as well as technical feel, with fun moments sprinkled within each section. Reminiscent of the stereotypical “Parisian” tune you might hear played in movies, the first portion of Gamson’s and company’s piece had a funky accordion based music setting the tone of the dance. The playful sounds sent dancers hopping and shooting into the center and sides of the stage. Like no)oneArt House, Gamson opted for a musical change in the latter portion of the piece. The music became jazzier, louder and, at times, overwhelmed the movement at hand. This tension of music versus movement created an interesting battle between the dancers and the sounds they were embodying.  Keeping in mind the title of the piece being Restless, seeing the almost complacent beginning, devolve into the more staccato, impatient movements and duet pairings, really solidified the direction in which Gamson and her dancers are heading. I look forward to seeing the culmination of her process in the future. 

After a brief intermission, and the fundraising formalities of revealing of who won which raffle prize, we dove right back into one of the most unique pieces of the evening. Originally created for Home LA, Lollieworks, the company founded by choreographer Lindsey Lollie, brought an excerpt from her twenty-minute site-specific piece, The Takers to the Diavolo space. Working within the confines of a long red mat spanning the length of the stage, but only about four feet wide, we watched entranced as two women began the piece by accidentally, then purposefully breaking hardboiled eggs. A mixture of structured improve and set landmarks, danced to a backdrop of a meticulously thought out soundscape, I found myself entranced with each new evolution of the dancers. Seeing Lollie push herself and her co-dancer, to take these risks in a live setting definitely add some major muscle to the emerging contemporary-meets-post-modern dance scene finally emerging in Los Angeles.

The second to last performance of the evening offered the final solo of the show. A single blue tinted spot appeared stage left, as a figure haunted the peripheral of the light, shrouded in darkness. Making his way in a manner that seemed at once pedestrian with gesturing, but very nuanced due to the usage of motif, Kevin Williamson was able to break past the invisible barrier between the audience and himself, immersing us in his thought process in action. The aptly titled piece, body of ideas, exerted such focus and intention, that we saw seamless transitions between staged portions and spur of the moment decisions. With such an intimate stage setting, I appreciated Williamson's usage of the space, since few companies broke past center stage, and found the direct eye contact refreshing from the current trend of introverted gaze. 

Once the houselights came up, and were asked to exit for the next showing, I thought on the evening as an interesting look into the future of contemporary dance in Los Angeles. It seems as if The Los Angeles contemporary dance scene is on the cusp of becoming the next location for emerging contemporary artists.  Although reminders of LA’s archaic interpretation of contrived modern dance still exist, with performances from Sunday evening still fresh in my mind, I am hopeful that local LA artists will continue pushing the boundaries of dance within our Southern California borders. There are so many possibilities and emerging opportunities for those purposeful and driven enough to seize this moment of new dance happening here. Despite the uneven presentations of the evening, seeing our local dance community bring together so many choreographers for this evening alone, shows that LA wants, and is fighting for, contemporary concert dance’s success. 


A Rite AS IT EXISTS NOW - A Guest Blog Post by Jeremy Hale

by Spot LA


‘Rite of Spring’ exists, inextricably, in a historical context; our relationship to it in time places us closer to its ending than to its beginning” - Leon Ingulsrud (paraphrased)

 Photo Credit Paul B. Goode

Photo Credit Paul B. Goode

Entering the theater, the curtain is already up, haze billowing out into the space. Morning mist in the forest? Dust of a battlefield? Tear gas? I’m not thinking about any of that - yet. Tonight, for “A Rite”, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the SITI Theater Company  are joining forces to tackle one of the most famous and influential dances in the western world in the last century.

The show begins at the end. The iconic “dance to death” which comes at the end of Rite of Spring is thrust upon us at the very beginning, with no context or development leading to it. On the contrary this exhausting finale is the context. Rite of Spring’s finale - including the riots it sparked at its premiere in Paris a hundred years ago - are indeed part of the context in which we, today, experience the work. After the finale, it’s back to the intro, back to the familiar, sort of.

The show progresses through most of the first act in a familiar way.  Familiar movement patterns, familiar music, familiar staging. It’s comfortable; we’ve been here before. A few subtle reminders waft through these early sections - actor Will Bond plays the famous introduction of Stravinsky’s score on a tiny radio, wearing military fatigues (another subtle visual reminder of the world that was outside the Paris theater in 1913 - World War 1) - but mostly, it’s familiar, nostalgic - nostalgia without memory.

Slowly this familiar form begins to dissolve. Just as the original Rite of Spring disrupted standards of composition and made many audiences uncomfortable - our comfort is slowly disrupted as the familiar becomes distorted and contorted. Time is discussed, played with, mocked. Up becomes down, forward becomes left - sometimes literally, as performer Akiko Aizawa walks along on chairs that are placed sequentially at her feet by the other performers - at first right side up then held aloft, sideways, or upside down, as if walking in zero gravity and up and down were irrelevant.  If up and down are irrelevant, what about then and now? Repetition comes at unexpected times, at once throwing us the life raft of familiarity and motif as much as destroying flow and making us question the reality of the repeated element. Is it really familiar? Or do we only think it’s familiar?

As the structure peels further open, A Rite begins to expand beyond its own place in history and we are exposed to more of the elements between us and the century-old work. In the midst of the show, the performers begin to have a Q&A session that quickly dissolves into fights and name-calling. Sections of the score are remastered in a big band style, then a lindy style and we see dancing reminiscent of vaudeville and minstrelsy - reminders of the relationship of the original piece to the history of colonial artistic appropriation. And through all this we hear excerpts of Severine Neff’s brilliant - and hilarious - analysis of Rite of Spring performed by Ellen Lauren. Further adding to the context within context in which A Rite exists. Part of watching Rite of Spring now is to view it in the context of a world where the work has been discussed at length for a hundred years. No art takes place in a vacuum, certainly, but “A Rite” is especially dense and crowded with context. If art is essentially about manipulating context to create an experience, this is art at the highest order.

Many companies have attempted to simply restage the original work, recapture the controversy, or reinvent Rite of Spring. Jones aptly referred to this as a choreographic trap - the history of Rite of Spring is so overwhelming, so much bigger than any choreographer, that attempting to tame it is as likely to reveal (or even create the appearance of) the shortcoming of the artist. The BTJ/AZ Dance Company and SITI Company masterfully avoided this trap by attacking not the piece as it was a hundred years ago, but the piece as it exists now - with all of its historical significance, all its Eurocentric self-importance, all its influence, all its staleness, all its nostalgia. Rather than adding to a long list of attempts at reinterpreting Rite of Spring, “A Rite” manages to not simply exist in the context of Rite of Spring but to create an entirely new context in which Rite of Spring exists. In so doing, they have contributed a significant, important, and exquisite work of art to the landscape of performance.  

*Jeremy Hale is a professional dancer in the Los Angeles area.

 

 Photo Credit Paul B. Goode

Photo Credit Paul B. Goode


Work that is Accessible and work that is Disruptingly Good

by Spot LA


A "beautiful piece of work", but not thought-provoking, "highly accessible and for everyone"...  Not certain its worth seeing.  Because work that is too accessible and generalized does not equal great work. 

Here in LA, some presenters routinely present what many would say is "great dance." Companies come in with Grand scale sets and Oscar award-like costumes.  The pieces are very accessible and pretty to look at but too accessible and generalized work doesn't equal great dance. Like life, accessibility in the dance world, and everything else for that matter, isn't for everyone.  Just because we have easy access to something doesn't mean we should always be prone to it.

In contrast, last month, I attended Laurel Jenkins' performance of Wind Hill and Image Action Text at Highways Performance Space & Gallery and this artist's work is extremely thought provoking.  Laurel describes her work "as centering on the multiple languages of the body" and by disrupting categorizations of concert dance and theater, she aims to open up a kinesthetic space for movement imagery to become valid text.  Laurel uses dance, theater, narration and abstraction in a very creative way.  It was my second time seeing Image Action Text and my first time seeing Wind Hill.  (Scroll down to my June 28th post to read about the awesomeness of Image Action Text). While watching Wind Hill that night, I was reminded of different aspects of nature and our global environment.  Laurel's intricate and delicate use of wood within Wind Hill kept me on the edge of my seat and her work is always so polished.  Live music was performed by Miguel Frasconi who specializes in the relationship between acoustic objects and musical form.

Often times, the less accessible packs a better punch and that's a disruptingly good thing to seek out in life.        

 Laurel Jenkins Tentindo.  Photo Credit Taso Papadakis

Laurel Jenkins Tentindo.  Photo Credit Taso Papadakis


Ate9 dance company at Think Tank Gallery

by Spot LA


Ate9 dance company in Los Angeles is already a success, a young, fresh and contemporary group of artists led by Danielle Agami.  They truly engage with a diverse group of Angelenos and many companies can learn from their recent activities.  

Late January, I attended Ate9 and Think Tank Gallery's collaboration, Queen George, in Downtown LA's gritty Fashion District.  The site-specific and multi-disciplinary work featured the dancers performing duets throughout the gallery with private one-on-ones that broke off into tiny rooms in the gallery for one dancer and one viewer.  The collaborating artists included Israeli designer and carpenter Amir Raveh and LA- based abstract expressionist artist Avi Roth.  What was so special about the evening, was how the rather large audience in attendance changed and adapted to how they consumed dance in an untraditional way and beyond that, in a section of LA that most people don't venture out to.  The artists were connecting to the patrons and patrons to the artists. (See the first image below)  Its almost as if the patron is in the work....  The audience was UBER diverse and represented the social look of LA.  Speaking of which, there were two celebrities in attendance.  Kudos to Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Mayim Bialik (Blossom and The Big Bang Theory) for supporting local LA artists.  Check out the images below to see some documentation of the game-changing work.   

 Photo Credit Ann Slattery

Photo Credit Ann Slattery

 Photo Credit Ann Slattery

Photo Credit Ann Slattery

 Photo Credit Ann Slattery

Photo Credit Ann Slattery

 Photo Credit Ann Slattery

Photo Credit Ann Slattery



A Compelling Performance and Compelling Boycott at UCLA

by Spot LA


If you’re reading this post, you probably know how spectacular Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company is. A few weeks ago, I attended the community performance of Sadeh 21 and the work was compelling as expected but what I found most compelling that evening was what went on right outside of Royce Hall post performance - student protesters voicing their concerns over the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I say Kudos to CAP and UCLA for furthering this dialogue through art. (Even though it might not have been intended)  I had a great evening and was really moved by the artists and students.  The experience however has made me think differently about Batsheva's 50th anniversary tour and how exportation of a country's culture impacts world views in both a positive and negative light.  Here in the US, I know companies like Alvin Aliey American Dance Theatre and ABT are often looked to as companies which export american dance culture abroad but does AAADT and ABT really represent the breadth of American culture?  I think the Department of State program DanceMotion USA administered by BAM does a great job of selecting a diverse set of companies to participate in cross cultural exchange.  At any rate, I can go on and on about international exchange but here's what the student protesters at UCLA had to say in an official statement obtained from a group representative regarding the performance run.  

Three Reasons to Boycott Batsheva Dance Company (And Why We Did) 

1. One-third of Batsheva’s funding comes from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
 In order to receive funding from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, artists must sign a contract committing to “promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.” Batsheva is contractually obligated to promote the Brand of Israel— a brand of oppression and subjugation. Certainly it is easier to say “art is art” and that it exists within an apolitical vacuum, however this is simply not the case. Art serves to express, to reveal, to excite— not to perpetuate positive narratives of apartheid. 

2. The Lack of Palestinian Dancers in Batsheva 
 Despite Ohad Naharin’s assertions that he “sympathizes” with the Palestinians and their 
plight, Batsheva does not employ a single Palestinian dancer. In fact, it never has. If he truly 
sympathized with the Palestinians, the Dance Company could seek to become a model for 
positive inter-state relations with Naharin at the helm of positive change. Detractors may argue 
that there are simply not enough dancers in Palestine with the technical training to “keep up” 
with Batsheva, which reveals an even greater issue; the lack of resources provided to 
Palestinians, while Israelis are showered with stuff. This includes everything from dance training to water, while the Palestinians are denied all essentials of survival. 

3. The Inability of Palestinians To Travel From— Or To— Their Country                                While members of Batsheva (and of the Israeli population in general) are permitted to freely leave the country, Palestinians are sequestered into two small populations of land— Gaza and the West Bank. There, they are constantly harassed and denied their right to leave, even during periods of war-- meaning that they are quarantined and within these spaces destined to die. Despite the existence of several Palestinian dance companies, Americans have rarely heard of (let alone seen) a single one. This is not a coincidence. The media presented to us has been constantly and consistently “whitewashed” in order to deny Palestinians the right to culturally-- and literally-- exist.

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A Full Weekend of Dance in LA

by Spot LA


 

What an amazing dance weekend it was a few days ago in Los Angeles.  On Friday night, I went Downtown to see the Australian Ballet at the Music Center.  On Saturday evening I was over on the Westside to see Laura Karlin's impressive Invertigo Dance Theatre at the Odyssey and then on Sunday afternoon, I was over in Santa Monica for a lovely Ate9 performance at the New Roads School.

Australian Ballet ----  Did anyone else totally agree with the LA times review by Lewis Segal, in that Graeme Murphy's remake of Swan Lake wasn't about the swans representing "a poetic, supernatural fantasy but, rather, a symptom of mental illness — a deranged hallucination...." In Fact,  in Act II, Scene I, the Santorium, I was reminded of American Horror Story: Asylum (Think Season 2). I still enjoyed the performance however.  Some dance aficionados may call it "Blockbuster Ballet" but the Australian Ballet's Swan Lake was certainly worth seeing.  The production aspects of the work definitely added a modern feel to the classic work and that's what I really enjoyed about this performance.   I wondered however if the children in  the audience understood what was going on during the dark moments of the evening's work.  From the get go, I walked into the music center with a high expectation of artistic excellence and the Australian Ballet met my expectation.  With such a large lavish production like this, one can generally have an idea about what will be presented on the stage.

On the stage at the Odyssey on Saturday night, I saw so many creative ideas and an artistically strong dance theatre company.  Invertigo's After it Happened made me think about my relationship to the environment and personal space.  There were 3 moments in the work that really caught my attention.  The first being how Laura incorporated the musical artists into the work.  Unlike, the Swan Lake production, also with live music,  Invertigo's musical artists weren't secondary to the work on the stage.  Another fresh aspect of the work was a bathtub solo by Cody Wilbourn.  I felt a little voureystic and uncomfortable watching the solo because bathing is such a personal and private thing but it made me realize my views on the personal and private that I didn't know I had....  Speaking of the personal, I ran into an old colleague of mine from my days at Dance/USA.  Julie Carson was in the house that evening.  Julie was the administrator of DUSA's Irvine Dance in California program several years ago.  She was there supporting her students from Culver City high during the pre-performance piece.  It was a nice touch how Laura incorporated a youth performance prior to the show.  This is important on so many levels because not only did the pre-performance show allow young artists to be exposed to professional settings but it also increased accessibility to the arts on so many levels. The work also presented some unique lighting design elements.  At one point there was a trio of artists on the stage and two of the 3 artists were using a small light to spotlight the one dancing artist.  This moment was very pleasing to my eye.  The performance Run of After it Happened still has one more weekend.  Click here to get your tickets.

And finally, my weekend rounded out with Ate9.  I first heard of Ate9 via word-of-mouth about a year ago and on Sunday, the company performed Mouth to Mouth.  The 40 min piece was performed with so much grit and like the last performance I saw by Ate9, the artists and choreography was amazing.  I had a moment to chat with a friend post-performance and I got to think what it is about the company that I like so much.  Obviously, I like Ate9 because of the artistry and Gaga technique but beyond that, I realize that I'm a fan because the work gives me a glimpse into a different culture and I’m able to learn more about Israeli life.  Was the inspiration of  Mouth to Mouth based on Sukkot we asked ourselves? The 7 day Jewish holiday that happened to end just yesterday?   Hmm…  Im curious to know more about this and do some research on my own and see where that takes me next.  Till then, Ill be on the lookout to spot more dance around town.

 

 


New Original Works Festival 2014

by Spot LA


It is good to see the NOW Festival feature a strong and diverse roster of dance artists.  Here's our thoughts about REDCAT's NOW Festival, program 1, from Saturday July, 26.

 Wilfried Souly.  Photo Credit Steven Gunther

Wilfried Souly.  Photo Credit Steven Gunther

The evening's first offering, Saana/The Foreigner by Wilfried Souly, began in the lobby with a processional.  A hallway of people milling about, waiting to be let into the theatre, quickly formed a corridor for Souly, who moved fluidly between ceremonial gestures and intimate emotions.  We felt simultaneously welcomed and voyeuristic.  Once we were situated in our seats, the piece resumed.  Musicians continued the idea of the procession as they gradually descended the stairs to the stage, and Souly continued to play between realms of the formal/public and the private/intimate.  Souly has a rolling, rich physicality and a beautiful command of his quick-changing expressions.  Like the winding and unwinding of his arms, the structure of the piece unfolded and wound around us.  From brief flashes of humor to projections of invasive immigration questions to the fragility of our own stories, Souly brings us into his world, a world we are all part of in some way or another.  He ends by gazing right at the audience.  It is intensely personal, not just to him, but to all of us.

 Rosanna Gamson/World Wide.  Photo Credit Steven Gunther

Rosanna Gamson/World Wide.  Photo Credit Steven Gunther

Rosanna Gamson's World Wide: Still followed.  Her world feels less emotionally personal and more virtuosic, more constructed.  It is a world full of light and shadows and ever-shifting dreamscapes.  Through brilliantly executed lighting design, dancers appear and disappear seamlessly in a world shaped and re-shaped by gauzy curtains.  The musical choices were beautiful and varied, although many of them were over too quickly.  The sensations of being in a dream were vivid and the dancers attacked their lush, gorgeous movement beautifully.  While brilliant in construction, virtuosic on many levels and visually stunning, there was a lot of room for more of an emotional connection.  It was hard to find a reason to care for these dreamers, even as they took our breath away.

We hope you'll be able to check out REDCAT's NOW festival 2014.  The festival runs until August 9.  Click here to get your tickets and maybe we'll see you there.

- Spot LA