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The Assembly launched its From the Source series at the new Howl Event Space in downtown Long Beach. Two of the spaces that the company performed in were very confined once the audience was included, but the company managed to make it work. The third space, although not huge, was quite adequate for the six member cast to perform in. The program included three works by three different choreographers. Listed as “new works”, it was unclear if any of the works were premieres, however. According to the program, From the Source is a series “in which we give an existing work new exposure by learning it via the digital resources at hand – video, Skype, etc. –and performing it live.”  The choreographers whose work was presented were Los Angeles’ Andrea Gise, New York based Marissa Brown and co-founder of LED in Boise, Lauren Edson.

HER - Photo by Michael Townsend
HER – Photo by Michael Townsend

Andrea Gise’s HER is a work for four women, and for much of the dance it appeared that three of those women were conspiring to exclude the fourth. Performed beautifully by Delyer Anderson, Sarandon Cassidy, Hannah Frankel and Kalynn Marin, the dance suffered partly from the cramped space these women had to perform the energetic, sometimes aggressive and very large movement required of them. It is a strong work, but there was no space in-between the dancers for the audience to truly see or experience the choreographer’s intent. Unfortunately, one or two of the performers decided to use facial emoting rather than to allow the movement to speak for itself. Hopefully Gise’s HER will survive to be performed in a larger space where the personality of each individual character can have a chance to develop. The music for HER was by composer Andreas Levisianos with text by Simone de Beauvoir.

Wherever You Are, This One's For You - Photo by Michael Townsend
Wherever You Are, This One’s For You – Photo by Michael Townsend

WHEREVER YOU ARE, THIS ONE’S FOR YOU was performed in a slightly larger room, but it was the different configuration of the performance area that made the difference. Choreographed by Marissa Brown to music by Elvis Presley, Dirty Beaches, Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline, this work also explored individual personalities and relationships. The individuals did not directly relate to each other, however, and at times a dancer stood on a wooden crate to merely observe what was going on around her or him. The dance artists were Hannah Frankel, Kalynn Marin, David McMahan and Lara Wilson. Each had their moment to shine, but the work seemed to lose its focus or direction; ending with each individual simply walking off the performance area. Was it individuals briefly intersecting with others, but never to form a lasting relationship? If so, the work succeeded, but no clear statement was made, nor any solution provided.

The strongest work on the program and the one that was performed in the more adequate space was BARBARIAN PRINCESS featuring the amazing Lara Wilson. The entire cast performed this interesting dance work with great distinction and technical prowess. The other five artists included Delyer Anderson, Sarandon Cassidy, Lenin Fernandez, David McMahan, and Jobel Medina.  The choreography in BARBARIAN PRINCESS allowed the dancers to express choreographer Lauren Edson’s intent without overacting. Edson’s vision was built firmly into the movement. At first it looked like the work was going to be a “pure movement” piece, but it soon took on an expression of a woman’s strength and ability to maneuver through the world on her own. Edson’s choreography provided very nice partner work, including a breathtaking movement with Lenin Fernandez standing and spinning on his head supported by McMahan and Medina. There was a men’s section and a women’s section. The women’s section was the most developed choreographically and therefore the more interesting to watch. The men’s trio was the weakest part of this otherwise powerful work. Edson depended far too much on male energy without providing a us with a clear statement.

Barbarian Princess - Photo by Michael Townsend
Barbarian Princess – Photo by Michael Townsend

If Edson’s work needs anything, it is a bit of editing to cut out the parts that make it a tad too long. Also, the space at the Howl did not allow the audience to see the projections by Kyle Morck very clearly. The wall was not smooth and the lighting not dark enough. The music by composer Andrew Stensaas was an outstanding addition to BARBARIAN PRINCESS.

Established in 2014 and based in Orange County, CA, The Assembly is moving forward quite strongly. The Artistic Directors have hired beautiful dance artists, and their work is always well produced; even in the alternate spaces they sometimes choose to perform in.  Now, the company needs to be a bit more selective when choosing choreographers. The Assembly is a wonderful addition to dance in southern California, and this performance makes it even clearer that Los Angeles is in great need of its own dance theater. We need to get these companies out of alternative spaces and into a venue designed specifically for dance.

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Jeff Slayton

Jeff Slayton has had a long and influential career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. Born in Virginia in 1945, Slayton began dancing as a child in order to correct his condition of hip dysplasia. He enjoyed a performance career in New York dancing for Merce Cunningham, Viola Farber and others. In 1978 he moved to Long Beach, CA. where began teaching at California State University, Long Beach as a part time faculty member. He became a full time faculty member in 1986 and continued to teach at CSULB until 1999. Jeff Slayton was one of the faculty members that helped design the Dance Center at CSULB as well as develop and implement the BFA, MFA and MA degree programs. While in Long Beach, he formed his own company, Jeff Slayton & Dancers, that operated from 1978 to 1983. He continues to stage works in the Southern California area. He is also the author of two books, “The Prickly Rose: A Biography of Viola Farber” and “Dancing Toward Sanity”. For more information on Jeff Slayton please go to www.jeffslayton.org.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you kindly for the review! We would like to clarify the spellings of the following names: Lara Wilson, Jobel Medina, and Lenin Fernandez. Would it be possible to update within the body of this post? All the best!

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