“invertigo: we live in the dizzy spaces, the tipping points, the moments where indecision decides, the places where balance turns upside-down.” This statement immediately caught my eye on Invertigo Dance Theatre’s website. When I asked Laura Karlin how she arrived at the title of her company, she said that it came from a brain-storming session around the kitchen table. “I like word-play very much and one of the things that I was thinking about was those spaces in-between decision and indecision. I like that moment when you don’t know which way something is going to go; and the gray areas.”

Formed in 2007, Invertigo Dance Theatre is about to embark on its first self-produced regional tour that includes San Diego, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Laura Karlin is the Artistic Director of the company and told me that when she moved to Los Angeles from London, England that there was room in Los Angeles for her company to exist. “And, I didn’t want to make work on other people’s terms. I wanted to make the work that I wanted to make.” Karlin said that nine years ago Los Angeles felt like the Wild West in that there wasn’t much infrastructure. “It felt like there was space for me to start a company and within a few years have it actually mean something to people.”

Since it was founded, Karlin has expanded Invertigo Dance Theatre into an organization with three different programs. There is, of course, the concert program. A company of eight or nine dancers who perform her very kinetic, high energy choreography that includes live music and “bold theatricality”. “I like people who say, ‘Yes, and ….?” Karlin isn’t interested in working with people who simply said yes to her choreographic requests, but dancers who say yes and then ask for more or who, regarding a particular lift, might say, “Yes, and what if we also do this or try that?”

“On a theatrical level, my dancers take kernels of the characters that I give them, and they take it upon themselves to develop multi-dimensional, rich characters that aren’t based on lazy stereotypes or easy one-dimensional archetypes.” Karlin stated, and from what I’ve seen, her dancers are fearless as well as technically strong and able to fulfill Karlin’s artistic vision.

Second, there is the Dancing Through Parkinson’s program which was formed in 2011 and offers classes designed for people living with Parkinson’s disease. The classes are also open to friends and family members of those affected by this disease. And third is the Invert/ED education program that “emphasizes creative ownership and interdisciplinary learning.”

Karlin said of this very important program, “With Invert/ED we work with community organizations and schools, and the heart of that is the empowerment through the creative process, which plays right down into the roots of what we want to accomplish as a company.”

After spending time with Laura Karlin and a couple of the dancers, I can only imagine how fortunate the people taking the company’s classes in Dancing Through Parkinson’s and Invert/Ed must feel. How wonderful that someone with a disease or disability can experience the joy of dancing or simply moving through space with others. What a gift of creative learning and discipline Invertigo Dance Theatre members are passing along to our youth. Even if they don’t continue with dancing, these young people will be able to utilize what they are learning in all areas of their lives and careers.

When it comes to rehearsals, Invertigo Dance Theatre is migratory, meaning that they rent or barter for spaces throughout the LA area. Right now, the company mainly rehearses at Brockus Project Space owned and operated by dancer/choreography/teacher Deborah Brockus. When I asked Karlin if she would like to have her own studio, she said. “The nomadic thing is good and well to a point, but I think that a little more consistency is becoming crucial for us. It’s not like I need a space, one space consistently, [but] I need to have some confidence as a creator that I’m not shut out from a space based simply on availability.” Studios in Los Angeles can be very expensive to rent and so, like other companies, Invertigo Dance Theatre is often forced to barter for rehearsal space; offering master classes or other services for discounts on rental fees.

Laura Karlin’s vision is that one day her company will be touring both nationally and internationally, and she wants to expand both the Dancing Through Parkinson’s and the Invert/ED programs in order to reach and touch more lives. She hopes, like many of us, that the Los Angeles presenters will begin booking more local dance companies. She wants to self-produce less and to be presented by theaters and other venues more. She realizes, however, that her company will most likely have to do both. “I think that the biggest thing that’s happening right now is that as artists, you have to be flexible enough to keep your own center artistically, but in terms of the different models of how you make work, show work, engage communities, you have to be flexible to do things in a bunch of different ways. There is no right or wrong [way].” She added. “That’s one of the great things about Invertigo and a lot of Los Angeles companies. We’re able to adapt quickly and rather than considering that flexibility a necessary evil, it is an exciting opportunity and an engrained quality.”

Invertigo Dance Theatre is performing Reeling on October 9-10, 2015 at 8pm and October 11th at 6pm in the Moss Theater at the Herb Alpert Educational Village, New Roads School in Santa Monica, CA. “Reeling is a blend of dance, theatre, music, precisely choreographed tequila shots, opulent karaoke fantasies, and goldfish. Reeling is an hour-long dance theatre work set in a bar. Eight lonely hearts search for connection through the hazy sea of a night out. Where the dive bar acts as a literal platform for dancers to hurl themselves off, Reeling examines blurred boundaries between fun and violence, spectator and performer, longing and sensuality.”

Photo Credit: Joe Lambie

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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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