Invertigo Dance Theatre presented its production of Reeling at the Moss Theatre located on the campus of the New Roads School in Santa Monica. Anyone who has ever visited a single’s bar looking to hook up with someone, met someone but got rejected or who went home alone yet again, will identify with this work. Choreographer Laura Karlin has struck gold with this dance by making it so true to reality. Even if you haven’t been to a bar, you can relate to the searching for, meeting and courting rituals that Reeling portrays so beautifully, honestly, tragically and humorously.

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Photo: Joe Lambie

The Moss Theater has a thrust stage without the usual proscenium or front curtain. As we entered the theater we were greeted with Louie Cornejo sitting on the edge of a bar fishing out of a gold fish bowl. The fish was real but fortunately there was no hook at the end of his line. He was joined by Sadie Yarrington behind the bar preparing the establishment for customers. As the house lights dimmed Jessica Dunn slowly walks onstage holding a wine glass filled with water and a single gold fish swimming inside. Dunn precedes to perform a gorgeous solo with intricate floor work during which she even holds the glass with her feet or legs. It took me awhile to stop being concerned about what would happen to the fish had Dunn made a mistake and dropped the glass.

Reeling suddenly becomes filled with social activity. Dancers enter talking into or texting on their cell phones. We hear conversations relating to people headed for this one specific bar. Once inside, some of the most amazingly complex partnering, lifts and leaps off of the bar, and each other, begins to thrill and astound us. The Invertigo Dance Theatre dancers have to be totally fearless as well as technically strong, because the timing of these lifts is crucial, and I never felt worried that someone might get hurt. The dancers are asked to act, and they do so extremely well. What was most rewarding is that they all performed their roles with such honesty and no one overacted or dropped character during the entire performance. This says a lot about Karlin’s ability as a director.

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Photo: Joe Lambie

As in real life, man meets woman, man meets man and woman meets woman. It is all there; even the inner turmoil of a woman struggling with her sexual identity. We see a wonderful duet between Yarrington and Jonathan Bryant as we hear a recording of the thoughts running through their heads. The duet is humorous and clever, and it clearly demonstrates how we interact with others while trying to impress. Karlin takes us to that moment when someone, in this case Hyosun Choi’s character, has too much to drink and finds herself having a great time until it suddenly turns ugly. Two complicated duets took place with a long, thin rope that are reminiscent of the string game Cat’s Cradle. Karlin manages to use movement and surprising lifts to tell us a story, but an arabesque, an extension or a pirouette is never used without reason or intent.

Irene Kleinbauer is very compelling onstage and her dancing is almost flawless. Sofia Klass is definitely fearless in her risk-taking and she’s a strong dancer. Alex Middleton has a flexibility that all dancers strive for, but he possesses a strength and technique that most men with that elasticity don’t have. He is amazing. Jessica Dunn appears quite delicate, but she has a strength and fire to be envied. Sadie Yarrington is the strong, quiet type of performer who suddenly can take your breath away. Hyosun Choi, Jonathan Bryant and Louie Cornejo are also wonderful dancers, have their own shining moments and contribute greatly to the ensemble. There is a rich lighting design by John Bass and very appropriate costumes by Kate Bishop. The original music composition by Toby Karlin, with the vocals by Kyle Hollingsworth added wonderful texture to the dance.

Reeling has far too many scenes and situations to go into in this article. One has to see, and should see, this dance to fully appreciate its originality. My one criticism would be to say that the audience participation at the end was a little over the top. It has been done many times before and it did little to strengthen the work.

Photographer: Steve Jost

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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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