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Appearing at the beautiful MiModDa Dance Theater on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, C. Eule Dance made its west coast debut in Summer Soirée: An Evening of Dance and Live Music. C. Eule Dance relocated to Los Angeles in 2014 after being based in New York City for 13 years. It is billed as a contemporary dance company fusing classical modern dance, ballet, gymnastics and traditional dance from all over the globe. It was refreshing to see dance performed to live music, and to have the musicians integrated into the choreography. There was some recorded music, but most of the works presented were accompanied onstage by musicians.

Dance%20of%20the%20Penguins%20Photographer%20Steven%20Shea
Photo: Steven Shea

Instead of an intermission or lengthy pauses between dances, the hour long concert included two musical interludes. The first was a wonderful performance by violinist Annette Homann and pianist Dmitri Koval of Shigeru Umebayash’s Yumeji’s Theme. The second piece was A Summer’s Spell composed and performed by cellist Noah Hoffeld. This latter work involved an electronic device that instantly recorded Hoffeld’s music, played it back and by the end made it seem like we were listening to three or four cellists performing. It was a moving and somewhat haunting work.

I think that it is safe to say that Caron Eule is a romantic. Her work is filled with lyrical movement, love, flirtation and romance. It was never unclear what each piece was about and involved very little abstract movement. Nocturne (2005) opened with pianist Koval and three dancers, Rachele Donofrio, Jessica Gadzinski and Annalee Traylor sitting on the piano bench together. As he performed, the women moved around Koval on the bench and then danced away from the piano with lovely lyrical movements that reflected Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne No.13 in C Minor, Op. 48, No.1. It was good to see three strong dancers reacting with a musician, but other than that, the dance brought nothing new.

Jazz Tunes of the 20’s (2006) was a Broadway/revue-like work about three men vying for the affection of one woman. It was well danced by Rachele Donofrio, Luis Martinez, William Clayton and Adam Zivkovic to recorded music of different tunes but this work was sophomoric and totally unmemorable. Turning Tides (LA Premier) is a pretty dance with Christopher Bordenave, Jessica Gadzinski and Kate Coleman. They are joined onstage by violist Annette Homann and cellist Hoffeld performing Homann’s composition Moonshine Feelings. The highlight of this work is when Homann is surrounded by three dancers and continues to play and move sharply towards and around the dancers. Skyfall (Los Angeles Premier) is an interesting work by Adam Zivkovic for dancer and musician. Ms. Homann deserves special mention for her performing and partnering moves with Zivkovic while never missing a single note of music on her violin.

Dance of the Penguins (2014), costumed in black and white by Designer Arturo Vera reflects the “social life of penguins”. It opens with a strong solo performed beautifully by Jessica Gadzinski and then expands into a group dance that includes a “trio” between a loving pair of penguins and their un-hatched egg. The egg never hatches, but is simply carried offstage.  I did recognize various groupings of dancers that reflected videos of penguins living in the wild.   Annalee Traylor stands out in this section.  She is a very powerful dancer and performer whose dancing I have enjoyed in works by other L.A. choreographers.

Arturo Vera is an excellent designer of costumes for dance. His designs complement and enhance each dance work; they fit the dancers’ bodies and, when required, the material moves beautifully. Eule is lucky to have found him.

Nocturn Photographer Rachel Neville
Photo: Rachel Neville

I can not say the same of Ariana Burrell’s lighting. I have performed in and seen lighting designs for small, intimate spaces for many years and I fully realize the challenge in lighting such spaces. It is tricky, but it can be done and done well. Often during this performance dancers were dancing in the dark when it was not necessary or instructed by the choreographer. Also, there was a horribly loud buzzing that occurred during the entire evening when a particular light cue began. Stating that it was distracting is putting it mildly. Was it not possible to fix this before the evening began?

I went to this concert with an open mind and wanting to welcome C. Eule Dance to Los Angeles with a glowing review. I must be honest; however, and state that the work is mediocre at best. The majority of the dancers are excellent and the live music is a plus, but the choreography is unmemorable. It is not horrible or embarrassing, but after running a company for more than 14 years, this choreographer should be further along. Eule’s work does not go beyond being well constructed. Perhaps by expanding into other subject matters or focusing on fewer dance styles, Eule would challenge herself in becoming a stronger artist.

Cover photo:  Steven Shea

Information about Jeff Slayton available at www.jeffslayton.org.

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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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