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The final night at the Los Angeles Dance Festival 2017 featured cutting edge/avant-garde dance, and showcased some of this city’s most promising talent. The entire festival spanned over four weekends, included 50 companies performing in two venues, while hosting 40 master classes and company auditions in several different studios. The final night demonstrated even further that the future of dance in Los Angeles is in very capable hands. A huge shout out to Deborah Brockus and Pierre Leloup, for presenting four nights of Los Angeles contemporary dance at the beautiful and intimate Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz.

SZALT – Photo by Becca Green

Stephanie Zaletel is the Artistic Director of szalt (dance co.). She is an artist with a unique choreographic voice, creating work that is meditative, introspective, haunting, and in the case of Mechanism (from Marshmallow Sea), dream-like. A woman (Jordan Saenz) kneels, looks around and blows out the light. As it comes up again, a world of dreams begins. Whose dream is up to the viewer, but for me it is a peaceful exploration through an underwater world with varying speeds of flowing currents. The six women move independently or as one. They sometimes simply walk out as if woken up. Similar one’s dreams, a woman sits and observes what is transpiring around her before the shifting currents sweep her up and carry her off. The beautiful members of Mechanism are Rebecah Goldstone, Lindsey Lollie Sarah Prinz, Amir Rappaport, Jordan Saenz and Stephanie Zaletel. Composer Jonathan Snipes created the original score which becomes part of this very seductive realm. The striking shell colored costumes are by Amabelle Aguiluz.

Rosanna Tavarez of La Dansa Dansa – Photo by David Tenenbaum

Rosanna Tavarez is the Artistic Director of La Dansa Dansa. Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts is a loving and moving tribute to her grandmother Nidia Lopez, who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. An interview between Rosanna and her aunt, Lelia Tavarez is heard intermittently throughout the work, as well a few of Lopez’s favorite Latino songs. The work is not solemn, but a celebration of this woman’s life and the how her memories slowly fade. Tavarez demonstrates this through subtle shifts between herself and Jen Hong. Tavarez is a beautiful dancer and she and Hong are captivating performers.  Their movements are vibrant at first, but slowly begin to diminish as memories disappear. The closing image is incredibly powerful by the method Tavarez brings reality to the unraveling of a person’s mind during the time it takes for Alzheimer’s to erase one’s past. I will not give away the beauty and shock of it.

The TL Collective in “BrokenBONES” – Photo by David Tenenbaum

Brok3nBONES is by Micaela Taylor, Artistic Director/Choreographer of TL Collective. It is a trio for two women and one man, each wearing slip-like dresses. The women are in white and the man in black. Taylor’s movement vocabulary is an amazing fusion of popping and contemporary dance and she gets her dancers to speak and communicate with their bodies in such a manner that one can almost hear the words. Brok3nBONES is as the title suggests, moving through life that brings disappointments and broken dreams. Performing to an electronic score, the dancers begin moving in unison before their path is disrupted and almost destroyed. Taylor is, I believe, an optimist because the three get back in line and life continues. The three very fine dance artists are Micaela Taylor, Charissa Kroeger and Sam McReynolds.

Carlon + Lollie in “Reconstruction” – Photo by David Tenenbaum

As in previous nights, the performance moved outside into the theater’s courtyard. Jay Carlon and Lindsey Lollie are co-founders of Carlon + Lollie and their work Reconstruction was one of the highlights of the evening. A large rectangular area is covered with flattened out cardboard boxes taped together with masking tape. Mikes have been placed just underneath the edge at three separate points to amplify the sound made by the dancers. Composer Alex Wand is seated nearby with his electric equipment to transform those sounds, a la John Cage, into live electronic music. The dancers roll, kneel, brush their hands in angular patterns and Carlon slaps his long hair against the cardboard to feed sounds into Wand’s electronic synthesizer. After a series of on-the-ground phrases, the dancers rise and perform phrases partially designed to cause audible results. The movement is very contemporary, appearing to originate out of contact improvisation. Reconstruction is a wonderful and entertaining work that reflects back to pioneers such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, David Tudor and Pauline Oliveros. The gifted cast of Reconstruction are Jay Carlon, Lindsey Lollie and Alyson Van.

Palm Dance Collective LA in “kənˈfôrmədē” – Photo by David Tenenbaum

kənˈfôrmədē is the pronunciation form of the word conformity, meaning the compliance with standards, rules or laws. Choreographed by Carisa Carroll, the Artistic Director/Choreographer of Palm Dance Collective LA, the dance opens with performers walking, each seeming to have a destination in mind. One man, however, begins to twitch and change course which sets off a chain of events for lead dancer, Jestoni DagDag, who tries to conform, but cannot. Carroll has a strong sense of composition and the movement is tinged with loose athleticism. She uses physical contact to re-route her characters into nonconformity, and straight lines to demonstrate the lure of conformity. There is a beautiful duet with DagDag and Leah Hamel at the close of kənˈfôrmədē which highlights how many are resistance to change. The rest of the talented cast includes Kozue Kasahara, Elise Matthews, Lyla Palmer, Samantha Rose and Nicholas Shopoff.

Kevin Williamson is the founder of Kevin Williamson + Company. He is a tall, handsome and physically fit man, but in his haunting solo titled Still, Williamson transforms himself to look small, old, somewhat deranged, and, he is never completely still. He begins crouched upstage left, moving a shoulder or an elbow ever so slightly. A twitch in his face leads to an accumulation of movement that slowly bring him to his feet. Williamson travels in a straight line across the stage, never facing front, but his agony, pain and/or torment is clearly visible via his never quiet stillness. I am inclined to label Still as minimal art, but it is so much more. With this brief solo, Williamson manages to evoke a multitude of images inside one’s mind.

WYTHEBERG in “As occurred, as recalled” – Photo by David Tenenbaum

The final performance of the festival was by WHYTEBERG, co-founded by Artistic Directors/choreographers Gracie Whyte and Laura Berg. As occurred, as recalled (excerpt) travels through one of the theater aisles, up onto the stage and back up into the audience. It is filled with scenes of performers dressed in black and wearing sunglasses, while lurking about observing others move through and recall memories. A red balloon is passed on as a symbol of a memory, be it accurate recollections or not. Each performer has a solo that explores elements of one’s ability to remember things with clarity. Jobel Medina wanders down the theater’s aisle with haltering movements as if uncertain as to where to go. Laura Berg’s solo is more open and expansive, but the others loiter nearby in judgement. Gracie Whyte dances through a series of movements, pauses and then repeats what looks familiar, but is clearly different. Sam McReynolds beautifully performs a humorous solo appearing to be stoned or inebriated. At one moment, a burst of multicolored confetti acts as part of his happy memories of a recent celebration. As occurred, as recalled was a cheerful finale to a stunning evening of dance.

Special shout outs to Lighting Designer Evan Nie who created different environments for all 50 dances and to Sound Engineer Mike Grim. Also, thanks go out to the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz stage and house crew, as well as to the many volunteers who helped make the festival a success.

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