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Los Angeles Dance Festival 2016 opened its four night run at the Diavolo Space with strong performances by four diverse L.A. based dance companies. Produced by Deborah Brockus, this is the 4th year of the festival and it promises to be an exciting one. Los Angeles is filled with talented artists and, as Brockus phrased it during her welcoming talk, “dance is exploding in this town”. Brockus is a true impresario and she has brought together 30 L.A. companies, many of whom have toured nationally and internationally, to provide dance classes and performances for those taking part in the festival. This demonstrates how ready Los Angeles is for a building dedicated solely to dance; like the Dance Gallery that Bella Lewitzky tried for 15 years to have built on Bunker Hill where MOCA sits now.

Represented on the festival’s opening night concert were BrockusRED, Artistic Director Deborah Brockus; The Union Project Dance Company, Artistic Director Mariana Oliveira; Wax/Wane, Artistic Director Andrew Winghart; and ATE9 dANCE cOMPANY, Artistic Director Danielle Agami.

BrockusRED - Photo by Denise Leitner
BrockusRED – Photo by Denise Leitner

It all began with an incredible solo by Raymond Ejiofor which opened the trio Connect choreographed by Deborah Brockus and dancers. Connect showcases Brockus’s blending of modern dance and jazz styles, and she brought together dancers Ejiofor, Isaac Huerta and Holly Leonard in a highly kinetic and emotional triangle. Connect contains beautiful dancing, amazing turns that mysteriously end up on the floor, and stunning lifts. There is one lift where Leonard is tossed through the air a la ice dancing. Ejiofor and Huerta are two very strong performers and Connect needs a woman who matches their strength. Leonard is a lovely dancer, but she is not right for this dance.

The Union Project Dance Company - Photo by Pablo de la Hoya
The Union Project Dance Company – Photo by Pablo de la Hoya

Choreographed by Mariana Oliveira, who is originally from Brazil, Between 4 Walls looks at the troubled relationship between a man (Trevor Downey) and a woman (Micaela De Pauli) trapped in a marriage made worse by years of history binding them together. Costumed in unadorned clothes, Downey and De Pauli gave dramatic portrayals of these two entangled souls. We see their struggles to exist together, their inner turmoil and the facade that they exhibit to those outside their four walls. In Between 4 Walls Oliveira’s choreography reaches back to a more classical era of modern dance and makes use of imaginative gestures to give us a deeper glimpse into her characters’ psyches.

Wax/Wane
Wax/Wane

Andrew Winghart is a two time finalist for the Capezio ACE Awards. In Banga, a slang term often used to denote a really great song, Winghart uses a dynamic mixture of jazz, hip hop and modern dance performed by a wonderful cast of nine dancers. Driven by the music of Baauer and M.I.A. Banga opens with a lengthy solo for the amazingly talented Alyssa Allen. Allen gives a flawless performance and sets a high bar for her colleagues. The remainder of Banga doesn’t quite live up to the opening solo, however. It is filled with fast paced unison movements and very well structured and complex formations that do little more than visualize the music. What saved Banga and made it interesting to watch was the performance of its cast of talented dance artists Alyssa Allen, Maddie Burg, Audrey Case, Tash Crudup, Zack Everhart, Sammie Farber, Hailey Hoffman, Bridget Krouse and George Lawrence.

ATE9 dANCE cOMPANY
Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY

Danielle Agami has a unique movement and choreographic style; one that pulls you in and forces you to take a closer look at each individual person onstage. She examines humanity and the effects we humans have on those around us. something NEW begins with seven dancers, six dressed in black and one in white, moving in concentrated unison before shattering into an array of individual worlds, relationships that appear random, and brief but deeply personal encounters. I found myself studying each dancer’s face, body profile, lower back curve and how precisely each one of them placed a hand or a foot on the floor. Agami’s work is stark, direct and she exposes our imperfections. Her dancers seem to have the ability to isolate any one part of their anatomy and then make a beautiful, or unsettling statement with that part of themselves. Agami’s work is not readily accessible. One needs to crawl inside, think about, digest and revisit her work. It is intelligent and intense. Every member of her company has a commanding presences onstage, but the three who demanded my attention were Sarah Butler, Thibaut Eiferman, and Rebecah Goldstone.

Special mention goes to Lighting Designer Evan Nie who managed to create separate environments for each dance, ChinoSounds and to the entire crew who ran a very smooth show. Brava to Deborah Brockus and to all those who worked to make this festival possible.

There are three more nights of the Los Angeles Dance Festival 2016 (April 15-17) with performances by (in no particular order) Backhausdance, Blue 13 Dance Company, Rebecca Lemme/Acts of Matter, Pennington Dance Group, Mixed eMotion Theatrix, Astra Dance Theatre, Nina McNeely presents The Empusa, CONTRA-TIEMPO Futuro Jr Dance Company, Rhetoracle Dance Company, MashUp Contemporary Dance Company, Akomi Dance, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Clairobscur Dance Company, Nickerson-Rossi Dance Company, Invertigo Dance Theatre, Pony Box Dance Theatre, Kyble Dance Company, lollieworks, Fuse Contemporary Dance, Dorn Dance Company, Sean Greene’s Shield Wall Dance Company, Deborah Rosen & Dancers, LA Contemporary Dance Company, and Contemporary Modern Dance Cooperative.

For more information on Los Angeles Dance Festival 2016 and how to purchase tickets, please go to http://www.ladancefest.org.

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