Joshua Romero is a young and very talented choreographer who founded the FUSE Dance Company in February of 2010 and, as he stated numerous times throughout the evening, received his undergraduate degree at California State University, Fullerton. Billed as The Start, The Present and the Road Ahead, eight Romero’s works were “showcased” at the MiMoDa Studio in Los Angeles without intermission. Romero understands how to structure a dance, he knows how to deliver variety in movement and tempo, and he is wonderful at directing the audience’s eye to look at what is important to him. He makes excellent musical choices and, he has brought together a cast of sixteen very talented dancers.
Originally choreographed for an all-male cast, Alpha was performed by four women; Leann Alduenda, Tracy Bernardo, Rebecca Levy, and Krista Rotondo. The dance depicts these four vying for dominance. Each one demonstrates her prowess, flexes her muscles and they each struggle to win leadership. As in the animal world, only one prevails to lead the others. Seeing gender roles switched is always interesting and these women proved that it is not just a man’s world.
Part is a pretty dance, but not one of Romero’s best. It is a romantic story of a couple parting ways that has been told repeatedly throughout the ages, and Romero brings nothing new to this narrative. Olivia Hamilton gave a stunning performance in spite of the fact that she had to constantly search for enough light to perform in. She was partnered by guest artist Austin Crumley.
Three of Romero’s strongest works presented were Limitless, Panel and In The Absence of Light. In these we experience his excellence at expressing tension, strength, and different emotions through movement. In Limitless Romero beautifully blends together recognizable ballet positions, supported promenades and port de bras (movement of the upper body and arms) with his own unique movement style. Panel is a large group work filled with tension, ever-changing geometric configurations and powerful dancing. The costumes are all black with different angled hemlines; helping to unifying the dancers. Romero should consider fixing the poor editing job at the end of the brilliant score by kangding ray.
The lighting (Assisted by Francesa Lee) for this performance was one of the weakest this reviewer has experienced in a very long time. Some areas of the space were never lit, and some of the lighting instruments were never incorporated into the design. Romero’s very strong work, In The Absence of Light, however, took advantage of “the absence of light” through the use of nine dancers with small LED flashlights. These provided the entire lighting for the dance until near the end when light specials acted as motion detectors set off by dancers moving past them. It is a dynamic and dramatic work inspired by Romero’s fear of the dark. The cast for In The Absence of Light was Ilia Acosta, Tracy Bernardo, Cosmo D’Aquila, Andy Lawson and Krista Rotondo. The driving score was by Zoe Keating.
Other works on the program included Vessels: Section I, Pictorial Maxim and the very high energy Beyond the Body Section III performed with great precision by Ellen Akashi, Emily Duncan, Kathy Duran, Andy Lawson, Rebecca Levy, Rebeca Montecino, Shirine Rehmani, Krista Rotondo and Katherine Shepersky.
Joshua Romero spoke between each work. He explained the meaning of each dance, what inspired them and who was in the original cast. He even related the whereabouts of dancers who are no longer working with the FUSE Dance Company. Was this to allow time for the dancers to change costumes or was it there to literally inform us of the meaning of his choreography? Although it was a nice personal touch, this reviewer believes that Romero should challenge audiences to figure that out on their own. If desired, program notes can be provided for the audience to read during pauses between dances. It is time for Romero to trust his artistic gifts. His choreography needs no verbal explanation.