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Deborah Brockus is the Founder, Artistic Director and Choreographer of BrockusRed, and she enjoys producing dance. She has produced Dance in LA showcases which include the Los Angeles Dance Festival, Dance/back, Spectrum, Split, Why We Dance and others. She has now added another series to her long list of achievements titled VOICES of LA As she stated during her opening talk, Los Angeles has its own a unique artistic voice and Brockus rightly believes that it is important to provide a venue for those voices to speak. The low-tech debut of “Voices of LA” took place this past weekend at the Brockus Project Dance Studios, presenting the work of solo artists as well as several dance companies. VOICES of LA featured two performances with different programs. This review focuses only on the opening night with a separate review to follow.

Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Seda Aybay is the Artistic Director of Kybele Dance Theater. Costumed in a lovely burgundy dress, Aybay, who also choreographed this work, performed Kina with great passion and clarity to the beautiful music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.  Kina is a strong dramatic work which clearly highlights Aybay’s strong musicality, technique and stage presence.

Micaela Taylor in Molecular Fuel – Photo by Jobel Medina

Taylor is the Artistic Director/Choreographer of TL Collective. I wrote about Taylor’s extraordinary talents in a previous review for her concert titled Molecular Fuel at Highways. On VOICES of LA she presented Molecular Fuel Excerpt, choreographed and performed by Taylor and Orlando Agawin. Performed to the music of Pan Sonic, it is a duet that requires precision, physical stamina and a commitment to details of non-verbal communication. Taylor and Orlando are wonderfully paired and each performed these requirements brilliantly and it was great to see it performed in a larger space.

“Bending Forward” by Charlotte K. Smith

Bending Inward is an athletic and angst filled duet choreographed by Charlotte Katherine Smith. She and Leslie Duner performed this work with great strength and passion, but the choreography lacked a clear statement. I was never convinced on what was causing the drama or what exactly was the relationship between these two women: friends, lovers, combatants? The music was Sin for a Sin by Zac Greenberg and the costumes of neutral colors were designed by Dora Novak and Charlotte Katherine Smith.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Time for Thorazine was a quirky, but serious dance that takes place “in the recreation room of a mental asylum in the early 1960s before deinstitutionalization”. Choreographed by Hazel Clarke, Founder and Artistic Director of Kairos Dance Company, this work featured four women faced with mental or emotional challenges. Performed quite well by Jess harper, Katelyn Martin, Carole Biers and Gunta Liepina, these four women portray the before and after effects of taking the medication, Thorazine. I was especially impressed with the performance of Katelyn Martin who never dropped character and whose physicality of an ill woman was truly convincing. This work has a lot of potential. It gives a clear, but incomplete glimpse into the lives of four disturbed souls.

Choreographed by Deborah Brockus and performed beautifully by Micaela dePauli, Femme is a sexy and seductive solo danced to the iconic song Fever as sung by Peggy Lee. The dance is jazzy and meant to entertain. Brockus succeeds in both areas with Femme.

Vex is a contemporary ballet choreographed by Kelly Alvarez. Set to music by Hilary Hahn, Christos Hatzis, David Lang, and Cory Smythe, this smart and “pure movement” oriented trio was a good choice to end the first half of the concert. Vex is performed quite well by Charlotte Ahlstrom, Kelly Alvarez and Ava Gordy. Alvarez stands out in this work, however. Her body is comfortable merging its ballet training with other dance styles and it felt natural when she transitioned from a modern dance contraction into a classical brisé, whereas with Ahlstom and Gordy it did not always.

Sheild Wall – Photo courtesy of the artist

Sean Greene is the Artistic Director/Choreographer of Shieldwall Dance Company. His work is often dramatic and very physical; sometimes pushing his dancers to their physical limits. In And the Muse Gave Me Vision and To the Eye of the Storm, both excerpts from his work The Muse, Greene once again tests those boundaries. In And the Muse Gave Me Vision, Greene explores the muse’s influence or role in the artist’s creation. Here, the artist’s creation takes the form of a newborn child that eventually takes on a life of her own and heads off in directions not foreseen by the artist.

To the Eye of the Storm is not as clear in its meaning. The love/hate duet left me confused as to its connection to the first part of the dance. I could tell that the other characters, including the artist, were observing, studying and perhaps learning from the action, but it was not clear to me what that action represented. The performances by company members Leslie Duner, Laura Eldred, Kaycee Jannino, Norma Phillips, Nicholas Shopoff and Charlotte Katherine Smith were good, but uneven. The music was by Iceland born Ólafur Amalds and American composer Zac Greenberg.

Rosanna Tavarez’s Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts frankly left me confused. This work appeared at times like it was trying to be a performance piece, but it never came into focus exactly which genre it wanted to inhabit. The performers, Emily Baumann and Alisa Guardiola aptly went about their duties of placing sacs of flour across the front of the stage, intently walking in square-shaped patterns while gesturing and vocalizing, but it was never clear what their objective was. The title, Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts did nothing to help clarify the meaning behind this work. Perhaps that meaning was hidden in the lyrics of the songs by Iris Chacon and Juan Bautista.

Brockus has outdone herself with the beautiful duet titled Soul. Danced to the music of Arvo Part, Soul is a gem that reaches its goal through the beautiful dancing by Micaela dePauli and Luis Martinez, a dark stage and hand-held flashlights. The movement is unadorned, introspective and touches on being spiritual; spiritual in the universal definition of the word: “of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”. The flashlights accent and highlight different parts of the dancers’ bodies, cast them in silhouette and shadow, and delivers a focus onto the universal mystery: what or where is the human soul?

Voices of LA is a wonderful opportunity for these emerging artists. I look forward to attending the second night performance and to the continuation of this series.

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Next articleVOICES of LA – Program Two
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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