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For the first time Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY presented an evening of works that were not choreographed by the Artistic Director Danielle Agami. Instead she presented The Niners at the Live Arts LA Studio a program that included seven works choreographed by company members. Even though a couple of the pieces felt unfinished, and maybe they were, these gifted dancers proved that their talents include admirable choreographic skills.

The set for 1AMI, choreographed by Genna Moroni, consisted of a table, four chairs, and a white cloth underneath that helped to place it in its own environment. Thibaut Eiferman sat at the table slowly building a structure using different shaped wooden blocks. A very seductive solo by Jasmin Mahmoud was soon followed by Danielle Agami, Rebecah Goldstone and David Maurice. Maurice, dressed in all black, performed primarily apart from the other before lifting Agami and placing her on top of the table. Agami destroys the structure that had been built, causing grief to the builder. The dance continues to unite and then separate the group with Eiferman never really joining them. There were two short but amazing duets with Agami and Goldstone. Not only their timing, but the chemistry between them was totally engaging. The dance ends with all four seated at the table; together but uninvolved. Perhaps this is where the title 1AMI was taken. The work is intense and beautifully constructed. Moroni did an excellent job of mixing the music of Flying Lotus, Pole, The Knife, Brian Eno, Wynonie Harris, The Black Dog, Freeform and Flume.

Judy Maddison Mark was choreographed by Samuel McReynolds, and I believe the names in the title represent the three characters in the dance; Sarah Butler, Ariana Daub, and Gary Reagan. The dance shifted from examining love and loneliness, to making a satirical jab at the body language and facial expressions of people dancing in discoes or night clubs. The work seemed to end without ending or making a complete statement, but it was wonderful to watch these three work their disco contortions. McReynolds used the music of numerous artists and a strobe-like lighting effect to help travel back to the disco era.

After each work, members of the company became the stage crew; changing the set, shifting curtains, etc. Each time the “stage crew” appeared, one person wore a numbered white t-shirt, beginning with the number 1. As the evening progressed, the shifting of sets and props developed personalities of their own; from the straight forward, to the humorous, to the downright silly. The first sign that humor was going to be part of these shifts was when Thibaut Eiferman (wearing shirt number 2) walking onstage and dryly dropped a handful of paper shredded chaff onto the stage.  He was followed by David Maurice who carefully sweeps them up and underneath one of the side curtains; as if doing so underneath a rug.

for the hands was choreographed and performed by Rebecah Goldstone and Yasmine Mahmoud. These women are not old enough to remember The Ernie Kovacs Show with Edie Adams, but there were moments their actions and timings reminded me of the Blackout vignettes on that program. The dance had a wonderful comedic quality without ever becoming silly or inane, and the one quick blackout was perfectly timed to bring the desired effect from the audience; laughter. The choreography was beautifully direct and the performances were stunning. The music by Mambo Mambo Mambo, Jon Hopkins and Gameface helped give the work its edge.

Ariana Daub, wearing the number 3, had a little trouble mounting hooks to hang the paintings that were part of the set for the next dance, but she made light of the situation and soon had the audience fully on her side.

Muir was another dance that felt like it should have gone on longer to complete its statement. Choreographed by Ariana Daub, Muir opened with two women Sarah Butler and Genna Moroni sitting in two straight back chairs looking like one of Norman Rockwell paintings. The dance was on the darker side and the relationships between the characters unclear. Although Muir was beautifully danced by Butler, Moroni and David Maurice to the music of Andrea Young and Nicolas Jarr, it did not stay in my mind following the performance.

White shirt number 4, was a great showcase for Thibaut Eiferman’s comedic talent. Walking all the way across the performance space to remove one item at a time, Eiferman (wearing sunglasses) portrayed a man bored with his duties. The signs of his frustrations were very subtle, however, as he evoked more and louder laughter with an arched eyebrow, a slight change in his walk, or the one almost inaudible sigh.

Choreographed by David Maurice, Sweet Celebrity Fraulein opened with a wonderful solo for Danielle Agami that poked fun at celebrity. Agami made her entrance ala Bette Davis by discarding a fur coat and strutting into the room wearing a backless apron and black trunks. Her solo proved that Agami is the master of her Gaga technique training. On her, it looks natural. Following a very dramatic exit by Agami, the dance takes a complete turn as Sarah Butler, Ariana Daub and Genna Moroni proceed to move about the space, working together but separate. Daub gave a strong performance of a woman, stressed by her celebrity, committing suicide. The use of the Persian rug being rolled out and it turning blood red was excellent.

Sarah Butler is amazing. There were times when her body appears boneless and then suddenly she looks to possess the strongest spine in the business. One breathtaking moment Butler slowly melts into the floor and somehow reversed the process in a fashion that I have never seen. Sweet Celebrity Fraulein was somewhat disjointed due to its uneven transitions between scenes, but the performers helped save it. The music was by Neil Sedaka, Tim Buckley and Van Morrison.

The set change with Rebecah Goldstone wearing number 5 was swift and straight forward.

Fueled by the lyrics of a song by The Brothers Four and music by Los Angeles Negros, Sarah Butler’s prints looks at how humans are not always great lovers with Mother Earth, leaving destructive carbon prints behind. Thibaut Eiferman sits on the floor wearing a head piece representing Earth with large brown areas that were once green. The work is stark and aptly depicts the loss of treasures never to be replaced. This dance had a clear and well-made message.

Finally David Maurice finds that he has nothing to do to prepare the dance, and he makes us laugh as he looks around, picks up a single piece of dirt off the floor, and exits.

Closing the program was Thibaut Eiferman’s energetic and powerfully danced Tramadol. Tramadol is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. There was nothing numbing, however, about this dance. Beautifully costumed, Tramadol showed off the unique talents of Sarah Butler, Yasmin Mahmoud, Danielle Agami, Rebecah Goldstone and Genna Moroni. I literally gasped as Moroni executed a super-fast, one-armed hand stand where her left leg whips past center and back again. Dressed in abstract “ladies of the evening” costumes, the purple and green lighting and music of Perfume Genius enhances the sensual duet with Mahmoud and Goldstone. The piece ends with a dramatic section performed to the wonderful music of Johnny Cash by Butler, Agami and Moroni.

The Niners was a great debut showcase for these Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY artists. Matthew Johns deserves a big thank you from them for his rich and varied lighting designs, and they are very fortunate to have an Artistic Director like Danielle Agami who is willing to support and encourage them with this concert.

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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.

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