Night two of the Los Angeles Dance Festival 2017 at the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz was labeled Urban/Eclectic Contemporary Dance. The program included performances by Entity Contemporary Dance, BrockusRED, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Pony Box Dance Theatre, LUX Aeterna Dance Company, Akomi Dance and CATASTROPHE. The energy was high and the work, for the most part, strong. It is encouraging to see the festival expand into the formal setting of a theater while still presenting experimental works by independent choreographers at the Diavolo Performance Space. Co-producers Deborah Brockus and Pierre LeLoup have also included outdoor, site specific performances and works by visual artists William Clayton, Aaron Mostow and Cheryl Mann in the theater’s courtyard area.
Entity Contemporary Dance was founded in 2009 by artistic directors Will Johnston and Marissa Osato. Peel is an intense work with a fusion of hip hop, jazz, contemporary dance and theater. The dance had a ritualistic overtone, beginning with a woman, Emily Crouch, dipping her hands into a glass bowl of “some imagined liquid”. When she tapped her fingers on her forehead, the movement shifted into a lengthy and dynamic unison section. There was a beautiful duet of indoctrination between Crouch and Johnston before the touching of “imagined liquid” on his forehead catapults the entire cast into a series of duets and fast moving phrases. This is a strong company of dancers and Peel is a well-made work that could be made stronger with some fine tuning. The cast included Kent Boyd, Karen Chuang, Emily Crouch, Will Johnston, Shiori Kamijo, Angel Mammoliti, Grayson McGuire, Marissa Osato, Diana Schoenfield and Derek Tabada.
As Ancient and Young as Spring, choreographed by Deborah Brockus of BrockusRED , was a work that examines the relationship between two men and the reactions of those around them. Before the two discovered each other, the entire cast was introduced with lifts and attractive movement phrases that united contemporary and jazz dance styles. As the title suggests, same-sex relationships have forever been part of humanity, but they have not received full acceptance still. The two men, danced sensitively by Raymond Ejiofor and Will Clayton, acknowledged their attraction, turned from it, only to find that their love was stronger than society’s judgment. The others moved in and out of the perimeter observing the two men as they traveled through their emotions. Those other cast members were Liz Bustle, Cersha Burns, Moises Josue Michel and the beautiful Jessica Dunn. As Ancient and Young as Spring is one of Brockus’s finest.
Lula Washington is an established choreographer in Los Angeles and her 10 X 10 Work In Progress proved that she maintains her prominence in the dance community. A taped off 10-foot square area created an arena to introduce and showcase four different types from modern society. A flamboyant gay man (Christopher Frazier), a strong, proud woman (Krystal Hicks), a sophisticated beauty (Haniyyah Tahirah) and a patriotic serviceman (Michael Tomlin, III) each entered the square and, through movement, showed who they were. Striking tableaux rotated like objects in a display case before each person then took a turn performing amazing solos. The work culminated with brief, poignant political statements read aloud reflecting equal rights, women’s rights, honesty and full disclosure, and protecting the free press. The performers were stunning, with each one demonstrating their own unique strengths. The up-tempo music titled The Message was by Kamasi Washington.
After intermission, the audience remained outside in the courtyard for the performance of Aetos Dios (Eagle of Zeus), choreographed by Jamie Carbetta Hammond of Pony Box Dance Theatre. The work revolved around a very colorful sculpture and included amazing creature or demon-like headdresses (some that lit up) and ornate costumes for an all-male cast. There are two schools of thought regarding the origin of the eagle of Zeus, but it was not clear which of these Hammond chose to portray. The work resembled a parade for the elaborate masks and costumes, rather than the telling of a mythological tale. The beautifully costumed men moved around the courtyard, changed from one incredible costume into another, destroyed the set and eventually walked slowly into a darkened passage. Christian Beasley, Junji Dezaki, Raymond Ejiofor, Adrian Hoffman, and Malachi Middleton did what was asked of them in a very professional manner. The rhythmic score was by Doug Hammond.
Lux Aeterna Dance Company was founded in April 2006 by Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, who in 2008 earned a Lester Horton Dance Award for Best Male Dancer and Best Choreographer. In his solo Speech is the Small Change of Silence Lyons seemed to defy gravity. What started with small accumulative gestures, the work smoothly expanded into amazing breaking moves, seamlessly woven into strong moments of introspection. The acrobatic feats that Lyons accomplished were but tools for this quiet and powerful work. How he moved through them into stark, thoughtful stillness was breathtaking.
Choreographed by Leann Alduenda, Crossing the Double Yellow depicted a complex and troubled relationship. Performed nicely by the co-Artistic Directors of AkomiDance, Marie Hoffman and Anthony Aceves, the couple experienced moments of tenderness, but were unable to reconcile their differences. Someone had crossed a forbidden line and the transgression could not, or would not, be forgiven. The work appeared rough around the edges, but this can be remedied with time.
Cat Cogliandro is a member of Clear Talent Group and the founder of CATASTROPHE. Her work titled Rainbow, Kitten, Surprise was filled with beautifully timed humor, organized chaos and high powered dancing by a cast of 14 well-trained dancers. Cogliandro managed to show a dancer moving inside a bee hive atmosphere with expert precision. Bodies rapidly mixed and mingled while a central figure struggled inside, was lifted overhead and finally ejected. Again, the movement was a fusion of styles, but the choreography was pure Cogliandro! The cast included Tristan Braboy, Brigid Benson, Erica Cohen, Maci Culver, Crystal Curcie, Mali Dea, Emma Grosjean, Leah Grosjean, Hannah Hawkins, Gina Menichino, Chiaki Ogawa, Ashley Rudy, Ashley Welch and Destynee Witzel.
This festival is proof of the richness of dance in Los Angeles, and the partnership between the Los Angeles Dance Festival and the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz is a welcomed one.