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This is the fifth season for the Los Angeles Dance Festival which began this week at the Diavolo Dance Theatre, located in the Artist Brewery complex on Moulton Avenue in Los Angeles. Produced by Deborah Brockus, the festival opened with works from local college and university choreographers. I was unable to attend, but according to Brockus, “The future of dance is in good hands”. The next two nights are under the heading of FRINGE and the first evening’s program included works by eight Los Angeles area choreographers. Most of these dances were complete works, but a few were excerpts of longer ones. Reviewing the excerpts presents a challenge because it feels like trying to tell a friend about a new novel after reading just two chapters.

Chad Michael Hall is the Artistic Director of Multiplex Dance. His work Flux is a beautifully constructed and performed dance for four women; two dressed in mauve and two in black. The movement is athletic and laced with challenging, but organic floor work. The two duets work separately and together; sometimes in unison, other times in opposition. Skye Schmidt is stunning in this work. She has a eye-drawing presence and manages to move through Hall’s choreography with ease. The other very talented performers are Leslie Duner, Heather Francis and Charlotte Smith. The elegant costumes are designed by Charlotte Smith and the driving score, also titled FLUX, is by David Karagianis.

Celtic Raag is a lovely and very tactile duet choreographed by Donna Sternberg, Artistic Director of Donna Sternberg & Dancers. Performed with great affection and attention by Christian Fajardo and Jun Lee, this work stands out like a small gem. It is beautifully choreographed, rehearsed and performed to the wonderful music by violinist/composer Colm O’Riani and Poetry by Sri Lanka born Pireeni Sundaralingam. The vibrant colored costumes are by Diana MacNeil.

Three tasks for five minutes each, once a day, 25 days is a long title for a solo performed by Jenn Logan to the music by Ezio Bosso. Choreographed by Rebecca R. Levy for the Nancy Evans Dance Theatre, it is an introspective work that appears to exam an inner struggle to endure. Performed strongly by Logan, we see her self-doubt and its effects. I have seen this solo before and Logan has greatly matured in interpretation of the work. The dance suffers from a lack of connectivity in movement, but Logan covers that beautifully.

Nannette Brodie is the Artistic Director and principle choreographer for the Long Beach based Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre. Excerpt from STRENGTH IN SORROW, choreographed by Stephanie Maxim, is a nice example of what looks to be a powerful work. Lead by the very musical and strong performer Jennie Sustaita, a group of women are in mourning and consoling each other. Through their grief, or because of it, they join to become stronger. It was not clear from this one section exactly what or whom they were mourning or what the approaching challenges might be. The other strong cast members for this performance included Priya Chisti, Rebecca Kinzler, Stephanie Maxim and Teresa Rios. The music is composed by Vivaldi as arranged by Max Richter. Costumes are by Stephanie Maxim.

Regina Klenjoski, Artistic Director of the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company writes that The Lily and the Scorpion was inspired by an elderly couple and observing the “old world” values. The work was well performed and the tension between the two characters was admirable, but the choreography did not retain my attention. The costumes by Denise Lichter hinted that Max Mayerie, in yellow, was the scorpion and Elleigh McClelland, in red, was the lily. The Lily enticed the Scorpion into her world only to surrender her independence to him. The music was by Mark Fitchett.

I have reviewed Sean Greene’s Betrayals twice before, but I will say that the cast has matured in their roles and Greene’s work has strengthened because of their talents. It is the age-old tale of a love triangle between two women and one man. Everyone is hurt by his betrayal, but it is the women who prevail and become stronger. Leslie Duner excels as the betrayed lover/wife. She is a strong actor and a fearless performer. The two other dancers are Charlotte Katherine Smith and Jake Waiblinger. The costumes are by Diana MacNeil and the music is composed by Brian Wood.

Portrait of a Living Beauty was choreographed by Hilary Thomas, founder of the Lineage Dance Company based in Pasadena. Thomas writes that her inspiration comes from having seen the photography of Cynthia Perez which “highlighted women that had recently had mastectomies”. The work rambles about without clearly stating this idea or image.  It is well performed by Michelle Kolb and Ericalynn Priolo, who are enjoyable to watch, but the choreography does not linger in one’s memory.

Matter of Time Part I is too short and undefined to determine its validity as a dance work. Choreographed by Maura Townsend of Project21 Dance, her characters are simply introduced but she does not clarify their roles. This could be a pure movement piece, but from what was presented, I cannot be certain. Overall, the cast is not strong, but the two dancers who stood out were Charise Pinkston and Shenandoah Harris. The remaining cast include Chris Jones, Hilary Sbei and Alyssa Thompson. The music is Zinc by Zoe Keating Remix and the costumes are by Maura Townsend.

The program ended with another section from a longer work, excerpt from “The Last Supper” “Judas’ Regret”, choreographed for Luminario Ballet by Judith FLEX Helle. Judas, performed by Adrian Hoffman, lifts who I assume is his faith or his love of God, up onto an aerial ring. Here Amber Porter spins and contorts while Judas emotes his pain and ‘regret’ below. The movement is a jazz/contemporary dance mix coated with struggle and angst. Having the Holy Spirit/God/Christ/Faith suspended above is a nice image and Porter executes her movement with ease. Hoffman dances well, but he needs coaching on his acting. The two performers were looking at each other and smirking during their bow. This is not very professional, especially while standing directly in front of the reviewer. The music was by Radiohead and costumes by Luminario Ballet.

Deborah Brockus, Lighting Designer Evan Nie, Sound person Mike Grimm, the stage crew and all the volunteers all deserve a shout out for helping to run a very smooth program. The LA Dance Festival 2017 continues through May 21 with performances, master classes and auditions. For information and tickets, click here.

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