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The LIGHTNING SERIES at the Electric Lodge in Venice, California included a three-part work by UCLA’s Victoria Marks, a collaboration between Los Angeles artists Jay Carlon and Lindsey Lollie, and a duet by Barcelona based choreographer, Isabel López. Curated by Josh Berkowitz, this was the third of four-performance series that included dance, puppetry, Clown, music and experimental performance art.

Finn Murphy and Emma Villavecchia are part of Three Planes Collective, based in Barcelona and Bennington, VT., who collaborate with other contemporary dance  choreographers. Here, they worked with Isabel López to present her duet EnConstrucción#3.  Set to music by Benny Goldmintz, it is a low-key look at the relationship between two people. It opens with movement resembling Contact Improvisation, but the two rarely, if ever, touch. Each takes the lead, directing the other around the space, and into and off the floor. Murphy appears primarily in charge, often using an extended arm to alter Villavecchia’s direction. Eventually the two join physically to create an incredibly subtle section where Villavecchia appears to be totally at Murphy’s mercy for support. There is nothing definitive about his control. She does not appear in danger; nor is he openly aggressive. It does, however, have an overtone of silent desperation emanating from Villavecchia. Before peacefully walking off stage, Villavecchia gives her partner’s hip a gentle push that sets off a chain reaction of slow, continuous movements.

The underlining emotion from López’ duet is created primarily by the movement, but in the supportive section, it is Emma Villavecchia’s supple physicality, combined with extremely subtle head wobbles and eye glances, which say volumes about this woman’s situation. Here, she is quietly brilliant.

Alexx Shilling, Willy Souly in “Solar Duplex” – Photo by Jingqiu Guan

the night before the day of (my OH my OH my) includes a dance film and two solos. Victoria Marks has presented work in Los Angeles for many years and her dance films are well known and respected.  We first saw dancers Alexx Shilling and Willy Souly enter dressed in super hero costumes. They open the back curtains to reveal a white surface and sit down center stage to face that direction. The house lights dim and the film Solar Duplex begins.  Co-created with Marks’ UCLA colleague, Jingqiu Guan to the music by Joe Westerlund, Solar Duplex is beautifully performed by Shilling and Souly, but does not make a clear statement. The movement is often percussive and repetitive, using fast contractions and hip thrusts. Then suddenly close-ups of the performers looking angrily at the camera shifts the intention to an act of aggression. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the dancers begin moving provocatively, emanating sexual invitations. It caused laughter from the audience, but I was left wondering how does it relate to the rest of the film’s actions?

Filmed in black and white, Solar Duplex is beautiful to look at. The chemistry between Shilling and Souly is strong and they both give commanding performances. In the final shot, two hands reach for each other and touch. It is both a moving and powerful statement, but because of the disjointed feeling of the film, I do not think that it is one of Marks’ best. What seemed missing was the strength of one voice; one director.

In Low Tech Solutions #5, Marks enters wearing a body suit and hat made of bubble wrap to perform a short, humorous and touching solo. Her comic timing is marvelous and the way she pops the bubbles to drive home her varying statements is very entertaining.

Alexx Shilling’s performance in Floret is stunning. Marks has collected numerous insecurity tics and combined them into a wonderful vehicle for Shilling’s physical and acting abilities. Dressed in a bright red dress, this character looks to be inflicted with an involuntary nervous tic syndrome. Shilling’s control of these repetitive movements is truly admirable and her performance is what gives Floret its strength and importance. The music for Floret is by Jocelyn Pook.

Sometimes I Fall is a beautiful and provocative work by collaborators Jay Carlon and Lindsey Lollie. It is a performance piece presented outside in the venue’s parking lot. The sound score, which included the communications between Neil Armstrong and NASA during which Armstrong made his famous quote “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” during 1969 moon landing, was composed and performed by Alex Wand. Sometimes I Fall evoked images of how technology has controlled, taken over and, in some cases, overrun people in our current society. We see the characters fall, get up, resume, fail and succeed. This is a powerful and beautiful work set in limited lighting, on a rough surface in darkness and, on this night, a gentle rain that lasted about five minutes and could have not been more perfectly timed.

Jay Carlon, Lindsey Lollie in “Sometimes I Fall” – Photo by La Mujer Tranvia Photography

With all four performers dressed in gray jump suits, Jay Carlon begins methodically placing down a long line of masking tape across the parking lot toward Lollie who is lying in a pile of white chalk dust. She sporadically flops and jerks on the ground as he closes in on her. Once the tape is down, Lollie and Carlon are joined by Samantha Mohr and Finn Murphy for a series of physical quartets and duets which involve repetition of similar movements first performed by Lollie. Later, there was one movement that evoked images of sky divers.

To go on describing this work in detail would not do it justice. One should see and experience it to receive its impact. There is a car involved. A woman, Mohr, trying desperately to push it across the parking lot. A man, Carlon, losing control and his friends trying to calm and/or control him. Lollie is beautiful and trusting in the section where she slowly leans and falls repeatedly into the arms of Carlon and Murphy.

At the end of Sometimes I Fall, Carlon is lying on his back, sliding underneath the line of masking tape that he so carefully laid down earlier. It is an action that brings up many images but what came to mind for me was how technology, society or life will sometimes run over us like a car over an object in the road.

Sometimes I Fall will be repeated on Saturday, January 21 along with the international new work The Last One performed by Emily Meister, Anthony Nikolchev and Julian Sandoval; directed by Gema Galiana. These performances will close THE LIGHTNING SERIES at the Electric Lodge. For tickets: Everbite

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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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