Sunday’s performance announced the conclusion of the Los Angeles Dance Festival 2016. Spread over four days, the festival involved numerous dance classes taught by company members and directors. There were also evening performances filled with exciting and diverse choreography by 30 Los Angeles based companies. Festival producer Deborah Brockus, Artistic Director of BrockusRED, announced that she is working to find a theater for next year’s festival performances. It would be an enormous step and a wonderful accomplishment if Brockus is successful in her endeavors. These companies rightly deserve to be seen in the best of conditions.
FUSE Dance Company opened the performance with Joshua D. Romero’s powerful and intense Panel. In researching the title of the music, Solens Arc, the press release for Kangding Ray’s album by the same name, stated “what remains after the subtraction of the goal; a simple parabolic curve defined by gravity, impulse and starting angle. No target to hit, no catharsis to wait for, just the beauty of the flight.” Romero’s choreography artfully weaves together lines, circles and other geometric figures. There was a well-structured moment with two dancers performing inside a circle located at one end of a rectangle – all formed by the bodies of his cast. The movement is fierce, athletic and driven. A cast of 14 dancers dressed in all black began by staring down the audience with an uncomfortable look of intimidation and defiance. The choreography was truly impressive, and I felt that the glaring looks were too strong considering that the performers were just a few feet from the audience. It was also unclear to me how these glares connected to the work. Illia Acosta, Ellen Akashi, Leann Alduenda, Cosmo D’Aquila, Emily Duncan, Katy Duran, Olivia Hamilton, Andrew Irwin, Rebecca Levy, Phillip Lu, Rebeca Montecino, Shirine Rehmani, Katherine Shepersky and Emily Upcraft performed with great control and intent.
Lindsey Lollie, of lollieworks, is one of those dancers that possesses a commanding onstage presence. In her duet re-entry this gift held true and she had an equal partner with dancer Jay Carlon. Performed to music by Peter Gonzales, re-entry opens with the sense of two souls spiraling downward toward an unnamed location, with Lollie’s face glowing with a blueish light caused by a small hand-held instrument. Once on the surface, these two figures begin to search the area, and each other with these lights. A few times they joined together in somewhat endangering entanglements. It is an interesting duet for this young choreographer and these two artists perform great together.
Pennington Dance Group presented excerpts from John Pennington’s Company of Orbs. The first section is beautifully performed by Li Chang Rothermich and Annalee Taylor. It is, however, the next two sections that bring Pennington’s strong visualization of orbs spinning and orbiting around each other that represents his beautiful dance Company of Orbs. Those two sections were performed by Edwin Siguenza, Michael Szanyi, Annalee Traylor, Danae McWatt and Tom Tsai.
LA Contemporary Dance Company presented an excerpt from Genevieve Carson’s soon to premiere evening-long work, FAM. Performed to original music composition by Robert Amjarv, dancers Tess Hewlett and Joe Badalamenti set about discovering one another. They then proceed on an intricate and sometimes questioning mating dance. The woman first retreats, only to become interested in this new person. The choreography involves both welcoming and resisting gestures; loving embraces change to one dancer holding the other away at arm’s length with a hand pushing against the other’s head. Hewlett and Badalamenti are both excellent performers and this duet is an enticing introduction to the rest of Carson’s work.
What can be best said of Let Me Explain, choreographed by Rande Dorn for Dorn Dance Company, is that it is a thankfully short solo for dancer Bridget Murano. It is unclear what is to be explained or why. Murano gave a solid performance, but Dorn failed in communicating her vision.
CMDC presented Chelsea Asman’s When Sleeping Women Walk to the music composed and performed live by Craig Shields and Marnia Wirtschafter. After a somewhat weak opening, this work included six strong women showing strength and dominance over their situation and it was great to have live music. They were Carole Biers, Brittany Dugi-Turner, Leslie Duner, Brynn Marie Fehir, Anna Lamonica and Jackie Nil. The proximity of the musicians, however, was at times distracting as the performers never interacted with them.
Sean Greene who for many years performed with the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company, is a one of Los Angeles’s most amazing dancers to grace its stage. Now he is bringing his own choreographic voice with the formation of Sean Greene’s Shieldwall Dance Company. His dance Betrayals gives us an intimate look into the eternal love triangle; one man in love or in lust with two women. We see him love and reject both women only to return to his original partner. We also see their pain and anger. At times the choreography borders on violence and then it is overtly sexual and loving. There were moments when entanglements and lifts came close to injuring the performers whether through excitement or lack of rehearsal. Greene got his point across because I almost cheered when both women summoned the strength and smarts to conquer and expel their common lover. Strong performances were delivered by Leslie Duner, Charlotte Katherine Smith and Jake Waiblinger.
Rebecca Lemme is a wonderful choreographer and her work causes one to think. I like that in an artist. Her dance titled Retrouvaille to the music ISTANBUL created for her company Acts of Matter succeeded in doing just that. The word Retrouvaille (re-tro-vi with a long i.) is a French word meaning rediscovery. Performed beautifully by Joe Badalamenti, Laura Berg, Wesley Ensminger, Charissa Kroeger, Megan McCarthy, Jobel Medina and Gracie Whyte, Retrouvaille is somewhat mysterious. Who are these people? Why the tension in their arms? Why do they interact with each other in this detached manner? Those questions are raised but fortunately one is allowed the privilege of figuring it out. Lemme has a strong individual voice and she has found a very talented group of dance artists to work with.
Ruach (Spirit, Wind) was choreographed by Deborah Rosen and the dancers of Deborah Rosen & Dancers. According to Wikipedia, Genesis 8:1 uses ruach to describe the “wind” God sent over the earth to recede the Flood waters. Danced very competently by Matt Lara, Sarah Rosenkrantz, Roberta Shaw, Marta Valier and Devin Ziel, Ruach opens with two of the dancers singing a song of praise; later joined by the music of the Vitamin String Quartet. As pleasant as it was to hear dancers sing and sing quite well, Ruach never seems to settle on a strong meaning or structure. This dance was not the dynamic finished needed to accent an amazing four days of works presented on the Los Angeles Dance Festival 2016
Deborah Brockus and everyone involved in this festival deserve a rousing applause. Los Angeles should look forward to what this wide ranging style of choreographers will bring to the stage in 2017.