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Ate9 Dance Company concluded its Going Solo series at the MiMoDa Dance Studio located behind the Paper or Plastik Café on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. The evening is exactly what the title implies; a collection of solos performed by the company’s very diverse and memorable dancers: Sarah Butler, Ariana Daub, Thibaut Eiferman, Rebecah Goldstone, Yasmin Mahmoud, Genna Moroni, Gary Reagan and Artistic Director Danielle Agami.

Going Solo was not just an evening of short and remarkable solos, but it was a look inside Agami’s creative process and the vision that she has for her company’s future. Each solo was created specifically for the performer, and, as in much of Agami’s work, it was a glimpse into each dancer’s persona. After each solo Agami introduced the dancer and opened the floor to questions from the audience. She explained that she was considering how to connect or incorporate all eight solos into a larger work, and this process was apparent when movement hints from the other solos appeared in her own brief solo.

Agami said that she traveled around the country to find the dancers who were best suited for her work. She definitely chose well. These artists not only perform her movement beautifully, but each has a mystery about them onstage. It is as if they were chosen because of a hidden secret that only Agami was able to recognize and bring to the surface. Like the aloof Sarah Butler who truly commands whatever space she inhabits; the statuesque Rebecah Goldstone who appears to belong in another century, or the wiry Gary Reagan who flirts with appearing arrogant. She explained that daily rehearsal begins with an hour of improvisation during which the dancers express who they are, how they feeling; their joys and frustrations. Perhaps it is during this time that Agami manages to look inside each dancer and grasp exactly who they are.

Agami answered each question from the audience with respect and clarity. The only time her frustration became visible was when someone asked her to help them understand what her work was about. Whatever process she uses, Agami’s choreography inspires the audience to bring their own intelligence to the performance. She is not going to dictate what you should think about her work. I remember another choreographer, who I had the honor to work with, explain during a lecture demonstration that there could be as many meanings to his work as there were people in the audience. That choreographer was Merce Cunningham; one of the pioneers of modern dance who allowed other choreographers the freedom to veer away from the narrative or story dance format.

For Going Solo Agami choreographed all eight solos, selected the elegant beige and gray costumes by Branimira Ivanova and HOI line, and chose the music that included works by Alan Oleartchik, Dalhouse, anbb:alva note & blixa bargeld and Mawal Jamar. In one of her answers to a question from the audience, Agami admitted that finding music was not one of her talents, but that she relied on others to introduce her to different composers. She said that dancer Thibaut Eiferman was good at finding music for her to consider.

It will be interesting to see where Danielle Agami takes Going Solo. Will she incorporate these intriguing solos into an existing work-in-progress, or will she decide to discard them and move on? Ate9 is a young company and Agami is still building up its repertoire. She formed the company in Seattle, Washington just four short years ago and after encouragement from dancer Yasmin Mahmoud Agami moved it here because she saw an artistic void to fill. I disagree with her statement that there was “no good dance in L.A.”. I will say, however, that there is no other choreographer like Danielle Agami in Los Angeles and that she has definitely raised the bar for other choreographers.

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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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