The 2016 LAX Festival ended this week end, and on the palate of performances was the re-staging of F L W R S by Stephanie Zaletel at the Bootleg Theater. I first saw F L W R S performed by the szalt dance company at HNYPT (Honey Pot LA) in May of 2015, and the two spaces could not be more different. HNYPT is a huge open space with high, beamed ceilings, brick walls and a cement floor. The Bootleg is a small black box-type theater located inside a renovated warehouse.

F L W R S - Photo Rafael Hernandez
F L W R S – Photo Rafael Hernandez

F L W R S has been stripped bare of the majority of props used at HNYPT, but if anything, the dance has been enhanced by Zaletel putting all her focus into the movement. Both versions are brilliant, but the work has matured, as have the dancers grown as performers. These five women have always felt like a close knit family, but now they are a total unit, a company.  szalt has created their own movement vocabulary, style and method of communicating. They are not afraid of stillness; nor are they scared off by awkwardness or movement that others might find ugly. If anything, they have embraced and absorbed these qualities to bring forward the best of those attributes.

F L W R S is structured into five sections: G R W T H, L V, S X, D T H and C L B R T N. Zaletel examined movements, images and ideas from each stage of a woman’s life and wove them together into movement visuals that are both familiar and distant. A child crossing the room hiding her eyes with her hand hoping that she won’t be seen develops into abstract encounters or abrupt stops with distortions of emotions. A young woman begins to discover her body and the urges of maturity. She blossoms into womanhood with the showering of flowers. Sex is explored. The process of aging is revealed with hands roaming her body and new life beginning. Death approaches and the next generation that she has helped produce restarts the cycle. In C L B R T N we see the pain and joy of discovery and the open celebration of the naked female body.

Stephanie Zaletel in F L W R S - Photo by Rafael Hernandez
Zaletel in F L W R S – Photo by Rafael Hernandez

The work has grown through Zaletel’s taking a new and deeper look into its meaning. The five dance artists have grown and each commanded the stage equally.  They were Lindsey Lollie, Sarah Prinz, Julia Planine-Troiani, Amir Rappaport and Stephanie Zaletel. Composer Louis Lopez has also taken new leaps forward artistically. His music for F L W R S has deepened into more layers of dynamic, almost harsh edges. While Lighting Designer Pablo Santiago-Brandwein did not have the spacious HNYPT to mold and shape, he managed quite well to realize Zaletel’s work.

Let’s hope that F L W R S continues to blossom for a long time.

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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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