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VOICES: THE FIRST 100 DAYS is a showcase for works-in-progress produced by Deborah Brockus at Brockus Project Studios in Los Angeles, with Jamie Carbetta of Pony Box Dance Theatre as co-Producer. It is a wonderful, safe and relaxed environment for choreographers to present their works-in-progress and afterwards interact with the audience. On this night, the studio was filled to capacity. It was nice to see the show of support for these dance artists and for live performance. Brockus, who is the Artistic Director/Choreographer of BrockusRed, also produces Dance Back, dancers giving back to the community, and the LA Dance Festival which will open its fifth season in May. For her role in promoting dance in Los Angeles, Brockus was the recipient of the 2016 Los Angeles Pony Award.

The title VOICES: THE FIRST 100 DAYS represents the first days of creating new work; days which are generally considered to be the most difficult. Six companies presented works, but only five agreed to be reviewed. They were Robyn O’Dell, BrockusRed, Bernard Brown/bbmoves, Ballet d’Hommes and Ballet Contempo. The sixth choreographer felt that her work was too new to be reviewed, and I respect that decision. The showcase was very inclusive in that the dance styles included Contemporary Dance, Ballet and a blend of Tango and Ballet.

The Hypocrites was choreographed and performed by Kristen Holleyman and Robyn O’Dell to music by Japanese composer Jun Miyake. For this work, Holleyman and O’Dell referred to the ancient Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” They were costumed in solid black unitards that resembled speed skating outfits, with Italian style Mardi Gras masks that had extended noses or beaks. One mask was gold, the other silver. The Hypocrites felt like a finished work. The two mysterious figures moved across the floor like malicious creatures in one’s nightmares, first in unison and then briefly apart. When they did stand, the two appeared as omens of tragedy. The work was wonderfully ominous and beautifully performed.

Deborah Brockus presented Gold Duet, an excerpt from a longer work that she is creating for BrockusRed titled As Old and Young as Spring. She explained the duet’s title meaning as representing the glow that a person feels during the first days of a budding relationship. Here, two men meet, become attracted to each other, resist or fear the relationship, but finally unite. The movement is strong and at times athletic, with wonderful lifts, falls and supported turns. Will Clayton and Raymond Ejiofor performed to music by American composer of modern classical music Peter Askim.

Bernard Brown is a beautiful dancer who began his career with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre and he has performed in the works of numerous well-known choreographers. He is the Artistic Director of Bernard Brown/bbmoves and a gifted choreographer. In his work-in-progress B. Me or Leaning In, Brown looks at and inhabits the grief that he feels about what is currently transpiring in our country and around the world. We see a man in turmoil and pain. We watch him struggle with this pain, almost defeated by it, but he chooses to face it and confront it head on no matter what the cost. This is not an easy solo to watch, but one that should be seen. Brown performed to music by Steve T. Gordon, a Los Angeles jazz pianist and composer who leads the Steven Gordon Quartet.

Ballet d’Hommes is a new company headed by Damien Diaz. It is a group of male dancers who enjoy dancing Ballet en pointe. The work that Diaz showcased for Voices was titled Swan Variations (Work in Progress), with credit to choreographer Marius Petipa for his first swan solo. Costumed in all white unitards, full white Swan Lake make-up and wearing white pointe shoes, Diaz was joined by Jack Vigra Hall and Zareh Makarian in solos, trios and duets to Pyotr IIyich Tchaikovsky’s music for Swan Lake. Dancing en pointe is difficult, I know; I studied pointe and performed a duet with Viola Farber wearing pointe shoes. These three men danced admirably, but as the piece progresses, one could see the results of fatigue in their pointe work. The choreography had moments, but I feel that Diaz would be better served creating an original concept rather than taking on such a famous ballet as Swan Lake; even if it is a variation on that story. The work that was presented had none of the plot elements that Diaz talked about prior to dancing.

Ballet Contempo is headed by Artistic Director/Choreographer Jose Costas. Here, he presented three duets titled Excerpt from Tango Interlude to songs titled El Choclo, Luciernaga and No Preguntos Cuanto. The first and third duets were performed by Sadie Black and Enrique Herrara Jr., and the middle duet by Herrara and Richard Vazquez.  All three duets blended together the social dance form Tango with ballet lifts, arabesques and partnering. The choreography was strong, but what was so obviously missing was the proud physical stance and ‘attitude’ of the Tango. These duets would be greatly enhanced if the dancers could bring that well-known quality into Costas’ work.

For information on the upcoming LA Dance Festival, click here.

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