The Los Angeles Music Center opened the second year of Moves After Dark with performances by Decadancetheatre, Invertigo Dance Theatre, Viver Brasil Dance Company and Blue13 Dance Company. The areas that were performed in this summer included The Grand Park Fountain Splashpad, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Stern Grand Hall inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and The Music Center Plaza. The audience was separated into three groups with each group moving from one performance area to the next by very gracious ushers. The groups then converged at 10 PM in The Music Center Plaza for the final performance of the evening. The opening night audience was larger than last year, which shows that there is definitely an increasing interest in this series; The Music Center should be commended for its continuing support for site-specific dance.

LOS ANGELES, Decadancetheatre performing "The Firebird" - Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho
LOS ANGELES, Decadancetheatre performing “The Firebird” – Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho for The Music Center

The first performance that Group A saw was Decadancetheatre’s The Firebird to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird. The Firebird was first performed in 1910 by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with choreography by Michel Fokine. It was based on Russian tales of a magical glowing bird that could be both a blessing and a curse for its owners. Other choreographers who have taken on this Russian fairy tale include George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins (co-choreographers), Graeme Murphy, Alexei Ratmansky, and Yuri Possokhov. So, Jennifer Weber (in collaboration with the company) was very brave to put herself in the company of such esteemed masters. Weber should, however, be proud of her creation. It stands on its own merits because she created an original and inventive version of the story, and performing it in the Grand Park Fountain Splashpad aided in putting a new twist on a very familiar ballet.

Company members first appeared underneath the very large fountain just above the park’s Splashpad, soon becoming intrigued by the appearance of the magical creature, the Firebird. Another woman appeared, struck up an intimate relationship with the Firebird and a battle ensues when they were attacked by the original four women. The choreography is a blend of Break Dancing and Locking, with a touch of Modern Dance. The costumes are primarily black and dark gray, but the Firebird has markings in vibrant red/orange with a feature of the same color in her hair. The program doesn’t list a Costume Designer, but the Firebird’s costume was a wonderful abstraction from the more familiar ballet version’s.  The powerful and sometimes fierce dancers in this very intriguing piece were SHEstreet, Yorelis Apolinario, Lindiwe McClinton Rose, Maria Malmstrom, Rebekah “Bekah” Denegyal and Randi “Rascal” Fleckenstine.

Invertigo Dance Theatre in "House Lights Up" - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Invertigo Dance Theatre in “House Lights Up” – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

The hit of the evening was the sometimes whimsical House Lights Up performed by Invertigo Dance Theatre in the orchestra seats of The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Choreographer Laura Karlin (with Jonathan Bryant) turns the tables on us by placing the audience in the theater’s pit area adjacent to the stage. Karlin’s choreography is kinetic, highly athletic and beautifully crafted.  The theater is constructed in what is known as a Continental style; a theater seating plan in which there is no center aisle, but with wide spacing between each row of seats. Karlin takes full advantage of every inch of this area with its red velvet seats. The performers appear and disappear transforming the seating into a red ocean. One almost sees and feels the waves washing over swimmers. The dance artists walk over the seats, dive into the areas between the seats and at one point literally somersault over the tops of them; traveling from “downstage” to “upstage”. There are lifts and supported partnering on, in and around, on top of and behind the house seats. It is admirable that The Music Center trusted this company and allowed their work to take place in its pristine theater; it was clear that the performers were extremely mindful of the care this setting deserved.

Invertigo Dance Theatre in "House Lights Up" - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Invertigo Dance Theatre in “House Lights Up” – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Near the beginning of House Lights Up the performers sat near the front row of seats, observing us and acting as if anticipating our performance that was about to start. This happened again near the end of the dance depicting an up-close view of how we respond with confusion, laughter, enthusiasm and anger to performances as individual members in an audience. These fearless and highly talented dance artists were Heidi Buehler, Jonathan Bryant, Hyosun Choi, Jessica Dunn, Christian Farjado, Beau Foley, Corina Kinnear, Sofia Klass, Irene Kleinbauer and Chris Smith. The truly beautiful and stylized costumes were by Rosalida Media. No music credits were included on the program, but it was a collage of popular songs and other musical arrangements.  House Lights Up concluded with one of the longest exits and satin-like trains in the history of modern dance. It was a touch of overkill, but very visually pleasing.

Invertigo Dance Theatre in "House Lights Up" - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Invertigo Dance Theatre in “House Lights Up” – Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Viver Brasil Dance Company in "Revealed" - Photo by Lawrence Ho for The Music Center
Viver Brasil Dance Company in “Revealed” – Photo by Lawrence Ho for The Music Center

Group A then moved to the Stern Grand Hall located on the second floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the performance of Viver Brasil Dance Company’s Revealed to live music by Kahlil Cummings. This dramatic and driving original score featured powerful drumming and sometimes haunting vocals. What was difficult to follow was the narrative of Revealed. Without the aid of the program notes, the plot appeared somewhat obscure. What was very clear, however, was the eloquent but powerful choreography by Shelby Williams-Gonzalez, the talent of the performers and the stunning costumes by Maria de Lourdes Silvestre dos Santos, Laura Howe and Rosalba Gama. A few women wore elaborate dresses, with veiled head pieces, of vibrant red, gold, green and lavender. The singers wore beautiful long white dresses and four characters in the work were costumed in black “hoodies” representing black activists. These beautiful performers werre: dancers: Laila Abdullah, Ashley Blanchard, Rachel Hernandez, Natali Micciche, Ajah Muhammad, Haniyyah Tahirah, Vera Passos, Nagode Simpson, Shelby Williams-Gonzalez; singers Katia Moraes & Kana Shimanuki, and musicians Luiz Badaró, Simon Carroll, Kahlil Cummings, Fabio Santana de Souza.

Viver Brasil Dance Company in "Revealed" - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Viver Brasil Dance Company in “Revealed” – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Revealed was performed primarily on the staircase leading up to the third floor against a wall of mirrors and the area just in front of the staircase. At times these mirrors provided a wonderful mystery to exactly where the singers and dancers were and in which direction they were traveling. Founded in 1997, Viver Brasil states that it “honors Brazil’s African legacy” working to help increase the awareness of Afro-Brazilian dance and music. Shelby Williams-Gonzalez’s choreography included wonderful Afro-Brazilian movements with isolations of the dancers backs, arms, shoulders and hips. The three leading characters were the all-powerful wives of Xangô: lansã, Oxum, Oba. Each woman danced, working their mythical power and influence on the activists to show and prove to them that they are beautiful, that they are loved and that they are equal to all.

Blue13 Dance Company in "Among Whispers" - Photo Lawrence Ho for The Music Center
Blue13 Dance Company in “Among Whispers” – Photo Lawrence Ho for The Music Center

The three audience groups came together in The Music Center Plaza for the performance of Among Whispers by the Blue 13 Dance Company. With choreography by Achinta S. McDaniel, this was the weakest dance on the program. Except for brief moments of recognizable classical Indian dance, McDaniel mixed together so many different forms of dance cultures that they blended together into a bland choreographic stew. One moment they were doing modern and then suddenly ballet. The strongest sections were those where McDaniel started from the basic Indian dance form and let it transform without losing this basic form. There were brief, but rarely audible, moments of whispering by the performers.

Blue13 Dance Company in "Among Whispers" - Photo by Roger Martin Holman
Blue13 Dance Company in “Among Whispers” – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Starting on three long runway-like platforms, the dancers then involved the audience to transition to a different area of the plaza. Here they burst into childlike playfulness, giggles for no outwardly apparent reason and very fast unison work on long benches. Among Whispers was not the best choice for a program closer. What power there was came from the live, highly amplified music by Alma Cielo (violin/sarangi), Dave Lewis and Kiran Gandhi (percussion), and DJ Sandeep Kumar.  The dancers who gave it their full energy and dedication were Brittany Davis, Kirby Harrell, Clinton Kyles, Arun Mathai, Shoshana Mozlin, Jon Paul, Kistina Pressler, Matthew Rodriquez, Amanda Simolari, Rieka Toya, Adrianna Vieux and Bridget Wilson.

Moves After Dark 2016 continues through the next week. For dates, tickets and other information go to their website at http://www.musiccenter.org/events/moves/.  I hope that The Music Center will continue this series into the future.

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