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MULITIPLEX DANCE, founded by Chad Michael Hall in 2013, presented its second season of the West Hollywood Dance Festival (WHDF), featuring a diverse line-up of Los Angeles based companies. Hall and company transformed the West Hollywood Park Auditorium into a theater with seating on four sides and launched their new experimental C2M-E cell phone app that allowed the audience to take photographs and text comments during the show. The week-long festival also included master classes and community workshops taught by artists representing each of the companies involved; culminating in three performances in two days.

West Hollywood Park Auditorium – Photo by Matt Lara

Chad Michael Hall created three very different works for WHDF. His aptly named Dangerous Moves to the music of David Karagianis was set on Ballet d’Hommes, an all-male ballet company who perform on pointe. Dangerous Moves was a good showcase for this newly formed company. It was athletic and involved movements that challenged these men because they were on pointe, adding a new and high level of risk. The performers included Damien Diaz, Cameron Schwarz and Jack Virga-Hall.

Ballet d’Hommes in Dangerous Moves by Chad Michael Hall – Photo by Matt Lara

Hall’s Perihelion was an emotionally filled work performed by Candy Jimenez, the Artistic Director of Dulce Dance Company. Perihelion is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is closest to the sun. The dance, however, was rout with dramatic emoting. Beginning and ending with Jimenez running in a large circle, the gravitational pull became Hall’s excuse for the angst-filled struggle of Jimenez’s unseen forces. Hall’s choreography style for Perihelion showed elements from very early modern dance styles.

Between Earth and Heaven was Hall’s exploration into the realm of spirituality. It began with a beautiful solo performed by Adrianna Audoma who roused the dead or sleeping Adam Ziv. As he awoke, the strange world of souls lost in Purgatory evolved. Ziv was dressed in green street clothes while the remaining cast appeared in ethereal whites and beiges. A young couple struggled with a love-hate relationship and other wandering souls enacting a variety of human memories or transgressions. Eventually all but Ziv took on angel form and he soon joined them in whatever celestial realm they were in. The work had an isolated quality; souls inhabiting the same realm; unable to connect. I will not give away the ending, but it is a happy one. The strong cast included Adrianna Audoma, Leslie Duner, Nicole Osbon, Charlotte Smith, Jose Luis Trujillo and Adam Ziv. The score by David Karagianis helped add an unworldly quality to the work.

Antics – Photo by Matt Lara

Antics is a diverse group of young dancers with varying levels of talent. Their work on this program was straight forward and refreshingly honest. Souls of Soles, KnowYourStatus (a video) and House of Funk were all choreographed by Amy “Catfox” Campion in collaboration with Antics company members Emeroy Bernardo, Bliss, Donnie “BBoy Crumbs” Counts, Liezel Marie, Ebonee Arielle Le’Triece, John “Magick” Liggins, Michael “Menace” Rebong, Cyrian Reed, and Stephen Velazquez.

Souls of Soles opened with a narration by Liggins relating the tale of a family’s 4000 year-long history of making shoes and how automation had affected the business. The dance worked its way through a series of manufacturing assembly lines as Campion incorporated hip-hop dance elements into the factory style environment. The machinery breaks down and then resumes until a pair of vibrant red sneakers with glowing soles is left center stage. The work ends with a lively stylistic tap/hip-hop dance performed by Cyrian Reed. Whether intentional or not, this final solo was a subtle tip-of-the-hat to the 1948 ballet The Red Shoes. After putting on the vibrant LED lit shoes, Reed was compelled to dance.

KnowYourStatus was an entertaining short video produced by Antics. The choreography uncomplicated, but what made the video interesting was the camera work and editing. Dancers appeared to slide across a white surface like skaters on ice, and to float through space. Like the company members, it is open and honest.

House of Funk was just that. Here we saw Campion’s clear knowledge of dance making. She highlights each dancer as well as weaves them through complex movement patterns. I felt that I was watching the abstract highlights of a hip-hop battle with music by Akrazia Project that made me want to get up join in the fun.

Hexagon Dance Collective – Photo by Matt Lara

Hexagon Dance Collective is one of the best examples of collective choreography that I have seen in a very long time. I first saw them when they launched their company at Loyola Marymount University in December of 2016. These six young artists met while earning their degrees in dance at LMU. Here, they presented two works previously reviewed by me at SeeDance. Proxemics visualizes the rhythmic and driving music by someone else + miskate. The movement is first as rhythmic and robotic as the score, but soon splinters into very sophisticated patterns and groupings. The unison phrases help to highlight 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.” As I observed in my last review, “The unison is precise without becoming stale.” That is still very much the case.

Hexagon Dance Collective – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Excerpt 1 is the opposite of Proxemics. It is thoughtful, provocative and laced with moments of stillness, demonstrating the range of the talents of Hexagon Dance Collective. A dancer manipulates a lone figure lying on the floor which causes a rippling effect on others. Excerpt 1 explores how people are strong individuals who both need and reject others. This talented all-woman collective of very strong dancers includes Gigi Todisco, Gigi Axelrode, Tina Dossa, Kathleen Kenny, Anna Chorneyko, and Sam Blaz.

Ballet d’Hommes returned, and unlike Hall’s Dangerous Moves, Swan Variations blatantly exposes the group’s weaknesses. The ballet classics are known by many and when they are performed badly, it is easily recognized. Swan Variations was marred by the appearance being under-rehearsed, poor musicality, weak pointe work and out of sync unison phrases. Until the men strengthen these very necessary techniques, they would be advised to stick to original works.

Jib Kidder is an energetic performer, but his talents as a choreographer have not yet matured. Happy Little Dance was an attempt at being humorous, but unfortunately it fell flat. Kidder unsuccessfully tries to get his story within a story across by butchering the music of Norah Jones; and interrupting it with disco style pop music and rotating spot lights. The effects did not help!

Flaming Bells by Charlotte Katherine Smith – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Flaming Bells was performed to the amazing music of Shih-wei Wu, played live on Taiko drums. Choreographed by Charlotte Katherine Smith, it opened with a brief solo by the extraordinary dancer, Sarah Butler, who moves like no one else in LA. One at a time, more solo figures appear, performing alone to help create an environment of isolation. Hyosun Choi excels in her static solo with moments of hysteria; never losing control of subtle details. The work awkwardly loses its direction as it suddenly veers into a statement on women taking back their power from men. There  seems to be a chapter missing. Flaming Bells is full of powerful performances by Butler, Choi, Heather Francis, Leslie Duner, Jess Harper, Moises Michel and Charlotte Katherine Smith.

The evening finished with Brighter, choreographed by Jess harper & Dancers. This commercial style dance was high energy, over-stuffed with deadpan, stylized unison. Before the dance truly developed, however, it was interrupted when everyone was called onstage for a dance party. The cast of Brighter included Gunta Liepina, Katie Natwick, Twyla Malchow-Hay, Quinn Foster, Maddie Robertson, Bailey Johnson, Katelyn martin, Kelsey Ang, Mckell Lemon, Elijah Richardson, Lexi DiFillippo, Anthony Languren, Kaylee Richards, and Aki Adabale.

The Lighting Designer for WHDF was the very talented John A. Garofalo and the C2M=E app, that would not work on my smart phone, was designed by John Toenjes. It was uneven, but a good beginning for Chad Michael Hall’s long-time dream of a West Hollywood Dance Festival. Los Angeles has a wealth of dance artists that need a place to show their work. WHDF is a welcomed addition.

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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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