In geometry, a Hexagon is a six-sided polygon. Presenting their debut performance, LAUNCH, Hexagon Dance Collective consists of six very talented women who have found a way to work as one. Per the press information, these young artists joined forces while working toward their degrees in Dance at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Their collective efforts produced an evening of outstanding work at the Thomas P. Kelly Student Art Gallery.

I first saw this group perform on a program with other choreographers at the ARC and was I truly impressed by the work (see my review Megill & Company Presents: Tethered, October 31, 2016). After attending LAUNCH, I am even more encouraged by their potential. The work is intelligent, well crafted, and thought provoking. I liked that I could not put a label on their movement style. It was not Cunningham, Graham, or Gaga, etc. Perhaps this is because they work as a collective. Wearing simple black dresses for LAUNCH, their names are Brigitte Axelrode, Sam Blaz, Anna Chorneyko, Tina Dossa, Kathleen Kenny and Gigi Todisco.

Lighting for LAUNCH by Johhny Garofalo - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Lighting for LAUNCH by Johhny Garofalo – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

LAUNCH was one hour long, without intermission, and the program consisted of three group works linked together by several short solos, duets and trios. The lighting by Johhny Garofalo was minimal due to the limited available equipment, but it was quite elegant and presented an inviting environment for this debut. Before the performance began, there was a beautiful golden, multi-layered hexagon against a blue lit back wall.

Hexagon Dance Collective - Photo by Hayden Blaz
Hexagon Dance Collective – Photo by Hayden Blaz

The two dances that I previously reviewed were Proxemics and Excerpt 1.  Both now look stronger than I remember. Choreographed to music by German-born British and post-minimalist composer, Max Richter, Excerpt 1 is a thoughtful work that makes use of gestures; one person carefully manipulating another, and stillness. For me, this is a work that examines humans trying to conform others to what they consider normal, but points out that we are a species who also have a strong need to be unique.

Proxemics was an excellent choice to end LAUNCH. It is a high-energy dance, driven by the music of someone else + miskate. There is a substantial amount of unison work in Proxemics, which helps illustrate the definition of proxemics; “the branch of knowledge that deals with the amount of space that people feel it necessary to set between themselves and others.” The unison is precise without becoming stale, and I like how they chose different methods of breaking up the unison movement. It points to a choreographic maturity not usually found in artists this young.

Hexagon Dance Collective - Photo by the Los Angeles LOYOLAN
Hexagon Dance Collective – Photo by the Los Angeles LOYOLAN

The title of the work that brought these women together is what lead to the company’s name. Hexagon opened the program, and it is clear why LMU faculty member Rosalynde Loo planted the idea in their heads to form a company. For a university student work, Hexagon is very sophisticated. It is raw and at times seductive. Canon phrases melt seamlessly into duets, quartets and sextets. The score by Locust adds to the atmosphere and provides a solid base for these talented artists to weave their own rhythms in and around those of the composer. Hexagon doesn’t reach the artistic level of Proxemics, but it is a good first work.

Hexagon Dance Collective - Photo by Hayden Paz
Hexagon Dance Collective – Photo by Hayden Paz

Between Hexagon and Excerpt 1 there were two short works that made a well-thought-out shift from the driving unison to a more somber mood. Chorneyko and Todisco performed an energetic duet to another song by Locust. It felt like the end of Hexagon, but soon shifted to a more thoughtful theme. These two were well suited physically. As they exited, Kenny entered to give an outstanding solo performance to music by German composer, Niles Frahm.

Following Excerpt 1, Sam Blaz performed a solo to music by an English rock group called Alt-j. Blaz stood out as a strong performer throughout the evening and this solo nicely showcased her talents as a dance artist. I was not provided with titles for these smaller works, so I am thinking that they were choreographed to connect the three group works.

Gigi Todisco - Photo by Hayden Paz
Gigi Todisco – Photo by Hayden Paz

Blaz was followed by a duet performed by Axelrode and Blaz to the music of a New York based group called The Books. It’s a nice dance which shows two close friends enjoying time together before parting ways. The duet is not the strongest work on the concert, but it did provide a shift in style and mood. It was followed by four additional short pieces; a wonderful trio with Dossa, Chorneyko and Todisco to a song by Dr. Dre; a tongue in cheek trio danced by Kenny, Blaz and Axelrode to Brick House by the Commodores, which led directly into two very short solos and a trio by Dossa, Axelrode, Todisco and Chorneyko; all to the music by German composer Frank Bretschneider. This final dance was an excellent segue into the driving program-closer Proxemics. David Karagianis deserves mentioning for his excellent job of editing together the numerous sound tracks included in this program.

LAUNCH has given us a glimpse into what this talented group of women can create. Building on this momentum means a lot more hard work, but if they keep it up, we can look forward to seeing a lot more of the Hexagon Dance Collective.

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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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