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Located near the intersection of Beverly Blvd. and Alvarado Street, the Bootleg Theater is located in what was formerly a 1930’s warehouse. It is a performance space that includes theater, music, dance and film events adjoined by a smaller stage and bar. This is one of the venues for the Home Grown @ Bootleg series hosted by the Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles. Not ideal because of its location, the Bootleg Theater a good space for small, emerging dance companies and/or performance artists. The companies involved pool their resources with the venue and the DRC to help produce their performances. This performance included DANCE AEGIS in WARNING: This Piece Contains Dark Themes, we came by way of loss by Robin Conrad and Troupe Vertigo’s TABLEAUX.

Work by Robin Conrad
Work by Robin Conrad

The strongest dance work on the program was we came by way of loss by Robin Conrad performed to music by The McGuire Sisters, Max Richter, Tom Waits, Butterfly Crash and Madeleine Peyroux. Here Conrad examines social issues with both humor and poetic intensity. Especially memorable was Conrad’s dramatic choreography in the second movement to music by Max Richter. Conrad’s use of stillness, her peaceful yet intense movement phrasing and the dancers’ unified intent is stunning.  Another impressive section included six women wearing woolen ski masks who appeared to be controlled by outside forces. The women were eventually herded into a confined space by another woman walking in a circle around them that became smaller and smaller. Gestures were included in a couple of the sections that, according to program notes, included “the repurposed gestures of Donald Trump and other totalitarians”. Conrad’s choreography is very well structured and her dance artists represented the work very well. They were Chelsea Asman, Megan Fowler-Hurst, Laura Jenkins, Jackie Nii, Sarah Kathryn Olds, Brooklynn Reeves, and Sarri Sanchez.

DANCE AEGIS in "Warning: This Piece Contains Dark Themes" - Photo by Jamie Carr
DANCE AEGIS in “Warning: This Piece Contains Dark Themes” – Photo by Jamie Carr

I covered WARNING: This Piece Contains Dark Themes in an earlier review and was hoping that this work by Andrea Gise had matured. Sadly it has not. It remains disjointed and unclear as to what Gise is trying to say. After a promising opening, the work spirals downward into confusion and self indulgence. The work suddenly comes back into focus near the end as two duets take place in light provided by a single flashlight. It is here too, where J.C. Scheid’s amazingly powerful music can finally be heard without having to compete with the constant talking and shouting out phrases like “I’m hot!” “I’m cold” by the performers, or being drowned out by wind-up emergency radios. The very uneven cast included Ashley Allen, Chelsea Conwright, Samuel DeAngelo, Mamie Green, Dina Lasso, Jesus Mora and Katie Natwick. Bryanna Brock deserves mention for her stark, but inventive lighting design.

Troupe Vertigo in TABLEAUX
Troupe Vertigo in TABLEAUX

The last performance on the evening was TABLEAUX by Aloysia Gavre of Troupe Vertigo. This piece needs to be seen in a larger venue where the smoke that aids in giving it the atmosphere and lighting effects that it requires doesn’t overtake the audience. Gavre and her husband Rex Camphuis have created works for Cirque du Soleil and other similar venues, and TABLEAUX definitely belongs in that category. Performed with great agility and strength by Manon Chaney, Sarah Sporich, Lauren Stark, Lesley Vaughn and Anna Micklea, this work attempted to combine dance with theater and gymnastics. It succeeded with the latter two, but putting point shoes on one of the performers does not make it dance. The acrobatic feats that these five women accomplish, however, is amazing, and Rex Camphuis, Scott Henson and Scott Johnson greatly enhance this work with their Lighting, Music and Set designs.

Home Grown @ Bootleg continues through Saturday, June 25. If you have not been to the Bootleg Theater, there is validated parking behind the church across Beverly Blvd.

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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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