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Andrea Gise and Rebecca Lemme joined forces to present T2THERING at the Live Arts Los Angeles in Eagle Rock to mark the first year anniversary of their two LA based companies. Gise is the Artistic Director of Dance Aegis and Lemme is the Artistic Director of Acts of Matter. That is where what these two choreographers have in common ended because their work could not have been more different. While both portrayed a sense of community, one work was filled with chaos, the other was focused and serene.

There was a brief welcoming speech by Rebecca Lemme, which I mention simply because of the unique segue into Gise’s dance Warning: This Piece Contains Dark Themes. Lemme was pointing out exits to use in case of an emergency when a performer from Dance Aegis suddenly began shouting out his own warnings. It was so effective that I did not see Lemme leave the space. The dancer was soon joined by the entire cast members shouting out “in case of” warnings that covered a host of subjects and situations. The set for Warning: was a tall orange scaffolding that provided a place of refuse and surveillance for the inhabitants of this community. The lighting for one section included different sized flashlights that were held or attached to dancers. For example, one woman had a small flashlight attached to the back of her head so that the beam of light was directed behind her as she performed. The other situation that stood out for me involved a dancer on top of the scaffolding using her flashlight to patrol the surrounding area. The searchlight roamed back and forth between two couples who moved only when they were lit.

DANCE AEGIS – WARNING: – Photo: Andrea Gise Dancers: Ashley Allen, Chelsea Conwright, Wesley Ensminger, Mamie Green, Dina Lasso, Tariq Mitri

Warning: This Piece Contains Dark Themes took me back forty years to the improvisational dance group, the Grand Union which included such notable modern dance figures as Trisha Brown, David Gordon, Barbara Dilly, Douglas Dunn and Yvonne Rainer. The flashlights reminded me of works by choreographers Dan Wagoner and Remy Charlip from that same time period. Not to take away from Gise’s talent as a choreographer, but this particular work did not match up to the rebellious and innovative dance era of the 1970s.

Warning: included some beautiful images and poignant moments with strong performances by her cast Ashley Allen, Estee Carrizosa, Chelsea Conwright, Wesley Ensminger, Mamie Green, Dina Lasso and Tariq Mitri. The work did not, however, hold together throughout. There were two or three beautiful duets and a touch of humor during the “I’m hot” “I’m cold” section. Scenes of pending disaster came and went, but they were weakened by sections that felt random or unconnected. It was during these moments where I felt that Gise was acting more as a director than that of the choreographer of a cohesive work. The electronic score by J.C. Scheid was driving and powerful, but for that space there were times when the volume reached painful levels. Bryanna Brock did a very nice job of creating the different environments for this dance.

With her work The Fragments, Rebecca Lemme escorted us into a very different, almost commune-like environment where everyone appeared welcoming and focused on the good of the whole. Her movement vocabulary and the structure of her choreography are more classical than her colleague’s, but she molds them into complex and intriguing patterns that provide rewarding results. Lemme knows how to direct the audience’s eye to follow what she wants seen. She weaves together movement ideas and yes, at times one has to make choices as to where to look, but this only adds to those moments when the focus hones in on a particular situation or individual. Lemme is not afraid of stillness or to give us subtle moments of human tenderness. She knows how to have a dancer simply walk across the stage and make that very mundane, pedestrian action have purpose and meaning. Her gestures are clean and inherent to her vision, and her choice of chairs contributed to the sense of serenity and communality. These black, straight back chairs were chosen to represent a specific group of people.

Acts of Matter in rehearsal for The Fragments - Photo: Rebecca Lemme Dancers: Megan Guise, Laura Berg, Jobel Medina, Tariq Mitri, Megan McCarthy, Charissa Kroeger, Joe Badalamenti, Wesley Ensminger, Gracie White
Acts of Matter in rehearsal for The Fragments – Photo: Rebecca Lemme
Dancers: Megan Guise, Laura Berg, Jobel Medina, Tariq Mitri, Megan McCarthy, Charissa Kroeger, Joe Badalamenti, Wesley Ensminger, Gracie White

Dancers Joe Badalamenti and Megan McCarthy stood out in The Fragments because of their commanding presence and movement clarity, but the entire cast gave strong performances. They were Laura Berg, Wesley Ensminger, Megan Guise, Charissa Kroeger, Jobel Medina, Tariq Mitri, and Gracie Whyte. The lighting design by Joey Navarrete added to the sense of calmness and openness of Lemme’s community and the muted colors that Emily Morna chose for her costumes aided in unifying the group.

 Joe Badalamenti, Gracie White in The Fragments - Photo: Rebecca Lemme
Joe Badalamenti, Gracie White in The Fragments – Photo: Rebecca Lemme

I hope to see The Fragments on a proscenium stage. The Live Arts Los Angeles is a wonderful venue for emerging companies and experimental artists to perform at, but if one is not seated in the first two rows or up on a higher level, any floor work that takes place downstage, close to the audience is totally lost.

A nice addition to the evening was the performance by musical guest Cuñao who performed during the intermission and after the show.

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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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