BODYTRAFFIC was founded in 2007 by Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, and has received tremendous support nationally and internationally. It was named “the company of the future” by the Joyce Theater Foundation and Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch in 2013. The dancers in the company are truly amazing and they were working very hard at the Broad Stage to bring to life the creative visions of the choreographers. Their dancing honestly deserved the standing ovation that they received from the audience. The choreography however was not something to celebrate.
The program included three works; each different in quality and intent. Choreographed to the music of George Gershwin by Richard Siegal, 3 Preludes was, in retrospect, the strongest and the most straight forward of the three. Siegal’s choreography was full of accented movements which too often mirrored the accents within Gershwin’s score, but there were nice moments during the second section’s duet when the action was instigated by the tilting of Berkett’s head. The movement in 3 Preludes is often lively and full of quirky jumps that are performed enthusiastically by Tina Finkelman Berkett, Joseph Kudra, Matthew Rich and Guzmán Rosado. Gershwin’s wonderful music was performed onstage by the truly talented Ukrainian-born Inna Faliks. Although Siegal’s work brought a slight smile to one’s mouth, in the end the dance went nowhere.
Choreographed by Slovakia-born Anton Lachky, Private Games: Chapter One (Preview) reminded me of one of those B horror films where travelers check into a hotel only to discover that the owners are psychopaths who turn their visitors into robot-like zombies. Here again, the dancers deserve great kudos for their performances; especially Guzmán Rosado, who had to constantly contort his body into shapes not meant for the human anatomy. Barbeito does a wonderful job of acting in her role as the wife who appears to control the “Private Games” between she and her husband (Rosado), but it is the husband who controls the unfortunate travelers. He makes out-of-date slapstick gestures and sometimes laughs like a mad man. Rosado contorts his face and body and by doing so forces his victims to perform risqué undulations and move at faster and faster speeds. Lachky tries too hard to be bizarre and the dialogue is simply inane.
Death Defying Dances had its moments. Choreographed by South Africa-born Arthur Pita, it is greatly enhanced by the bawdy songs of J.C. Johnson sung by Judy Henske. Henske’s bluesy and raspy voice takes one through a series of ill-fated love affairs that usually end in murder. The work suffered, however, by being two or three songs too long and the volume of the music was, at times, too loud. Pita used a physical narrative to depict Henske’s lyrics. There was the princess (performed wonderfully by Matthew Rich) who murders her cheating lover and tosses him down a well. Pita artfully demonstrates how the royal princess then turns to a life of booze and drugs. There’s the young girl (Berkett) who informs her boyfriend that she is pregnant only to be tossed into a river. Next, an unmarried woman painfully abandons her infant child. Throughout the dance Pita makes use of the “kiss of death” by having one dancer kiss another as he/she supports their limp corpse to the ground. The piece ends with the entire cast dressed as hookers and dancing to another one of Henske’s songs. The dance had its touching and humorous moments, but at its current length, wears out its welcome.
The dark costumes for Private Games: Chapter One were designed by Raquel Barreto, Anton Lachky, and BODYTRAFFIC. The adjustable curtain set and extremely colorful costumes for Death Defying Dances were designed by Yann Seabra and the excellent lighting for all three works was by designer Burke Wilmore.
BODYTRAFFIC has greatly helped to bring the focus on dance back to Los Angeles. The dancers and designers are among the best, and it is commendable how the company seeks to commission works by up-and-coming choreographers. Although the dancing could hardly have been any better, the works presented on this program did not live up to the performers’ talents.
BODYTRAFFIC performs at the Broad Stage through October 27.