Sometimes dance can spin reality in new ways, or even convincingly put up imagined ones that seem real. In the Jessica Lang Dance performances this week at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Lang mostly mirrored realities rather than expand them. The one exception was her excellent short black and white film “White: Dance on Film” for six dancers. It made something new with its distorted hyper-real visual appeal, and editing techniques, which stitched both slow and double time motion into many of the film’s real-time sequences. Projected on a screen at the rear of the stage, it also looked like something halfway between a movie and a concert work that might suddenly jump off the screen and spill out onto the stage. All he choreography and direction was by Jessica Lang. The filming and effects were by Shinichi Maruyama with Tetsushi Wakasugi and Jackson Notier.
The program led with three works of pure dance before intermission and closed with two mixed media works, and an excerpted solo, “The Calling”. Ms. Lang designs well-made work, often spare, but informed with beautifully crafted movement and clean lines. Theatricality and visual appeal are her constant companions. Of the
two large ensemble works, “Lines Cubed”, color coded with its clear but unspoken debt to the visual world of Mondrian, developed more internal interest than “i.n.k.”. Both works referenced visual content. “i.n.k.” played against a continuous backdrop of filmed projections of exploding droplets and flooding ink patterns. “Lines Cubed “ proved least convincing when it made simple movement plays on Mondrian’s boxy designs. The forth section in blue, which opened in a lengthy adagio for two dancers, seemed the heart of the work and also its least derivative dance making.
“Mendelssohn/Incomplete” matched in movement the romantic salon appeal of its music, the andante from the D minor Piano Trio. The six dancers in the ensemble form opposing trios, one with a man and two women, the other, a woman with two men. You could imagine them as a Mendelssohnian equivalent of Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering”. They later return in various combinations and as a trio of couples. Alternately dreamy and searching, the dancing remained focused and concentrated around a beautifully sustained mood before its quiet closing. The title suggests that there is more to come.
Lang has used new music for her work, but some of it reprises music/dance connections already well established. The clanging, hard edged sounds for some of the music from “Lines Cubed” reminds you of Forsythe and Willems, while the spare arpeggios and solo piano lines of the music for the duo “Among the Stars” (Ryuichi Sakamoto/ “Snowy Village and the Girl”) glosses Arvo Pärt. Excellent performances by Kana Kimura in “The Calling”, and Laura Mead in “Among the Stars” were high points and a testimony to the quality and strength of Lang’s company.
(The reviewed performance took place on Saturday May 31, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. Jessica Lang, a prolific freelance choreographer for major ballet companies, founded her company in 2011. The Wallis Annenberg is in its inaugural season. The theater, with its large well positioned stage and small house is a terrific venue for dance.The accompanying photos are from “Lines Cubed, “The Calling” and “Mendelssohn/Incomplete”. You can see excerpts of these works and others, along with photos at the company’s website: http://www.jessicalangdance.com/media/videos.php )