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Night three of the Los Angeles Dance Festival at the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz was the weakest line up thus far. The heading of Technical Modern Contemporary lead me to expect companies of a much higher caliber, which was clearly a mistake on my part. Of the seven groups featured on the program, the ones that stood out were Jazzantiqua Dance Ensemble, Arrogant Elbow, Kybele Dance Theater and Backhausdance.

JAZZANTIQUA – Photo courtesy of the artist

Jazzantiqua consists of dancers with varying levels of expertise, but what the company has is an passion, spirit and an excellent choreographer. In a Heartbeat, choreographed by Director Pat Taylor, is filled with beautiful movement, seamless transitions and dancers who enjoy what they are doing. It was also great to see jazz danced to authentic jazz music. The work is a combination of straight out dancing and a beautiful story of forbidden love. In the closing duet, lovers dance very close to one another without touching. They circle, attempt to touch, but resist. Finally love wins and they unite as the lights fade. This striking duet is performed with excellence by Shari Rhone and Jason Poullard. The other talented cast of In a Heartbeat, who each have moments where they shine, include Keisha Clark-Booth, Latrice Postell, Sarah Platte and Stacey Strickland.

Victoria Brown is one of the Artistic Directors of Mashup Contemporary Dance Company, an all-female company that combines contemporary, jazz and hip hop dance styles. What came across in Ruins is four women performing power dance that is completely dependent upon a mindless pop music pulse. The movement is performed primarily in unison and much of it could be performed as a solo. The dancers are strong and they present their best. They are Emily Andrews, Leah LaGrange, Megan Kenson and Kasey Helfenstine.

Mashup Contemporary Dance Company – Photo by David Tenenbaum

Bop was created by Los Angeles based artist and choreographer Ania Catherine. It is a work created for six very young women, all dressed in shiny black unitards. It revolves through a starkly lit stage, moving in and out of robotic movement that occasionally has the feel of precision machinery, overlaid with social comment. Performed to a techno score, Bop has moments of clarity, but too often slips into organized chaos and predictability. The talented dancers who performed with heartfelt intention were Victoria Battle, Kendall Carney, Natalie Clement, Savanna Kubat, Kaylia Pham, Evie White.

Arrogant Elbow – Photo by Roger Martin Holman

Sarah Elgart has been a major force in the Los Angeles dance community for many years. I am not quite sure why she was on this program as she is best known for her site-specific work, her beautiful dance films and her close connection with Dance Camera West. She is also the founder and Artistic Director of Arrogant Elbow. Others, performed in the theater’s courtyard, was a segment from Elgart’s evening length work titled Others: A Study in Black, White, Brown, Yellow, and Red. It began before the house was open and during intermission. Lenin Fernandez moved with somewhat tortured jerks through the theater’s patio and into the courtyard and before approaching a solitary figure encased in knitted black wool. Using the end of the yarn, he slowly began to unravel the cocoon that covered performer Claire Upton. Fernandez was continuing to encircle and unravel the living sculpture as the audience entered to see the first half of the program.

At Intermission, Fernandez had unraveled all but what was covering Upton’s head and upper shoulders. As the music began, he broke the string of yarn and a powerful duet between the two commenced. Because we never saw Upton’s face, Others appeared to be a statement on the subjugation of women in several religious cultures; as in Afghanistan where women of some Islamic faiths are required to wear burqas that cover them from head to toe, or the hijabs worn by some Muslim women in public. In this case, the man became entangled in his own effort to suppress and was dragged away by his captor. The Wearable Sculpture was created by Tanja Skala and the commanding score by composer Paul Chavez/Feltlike. Others was the gem of the evening!

Kybele Dance Theater was founded in 2003 by Turkish born Artistic Director Seda Aybay. Kina is a powerful and intense work inspired by the injustice to women by Islamic fundamentalists and the turmoil taking place in Turkey under its present government. There are gestures throughout the work that relate to the henna (kina is Turkish for henna) that is painted on the hands and feet of a bride-to-be to symbolize her leaving her father’s home forever. The struggle and the resistance is clear, as is the wedding ritual. Dressed in all black against a white scrim, the wedding takes on a non-celebratory meaning. Words spoken in her native language by Aybay at the end of Kina, sound like a battle cry or urgent words of protest. All the performers in this strong cast are very talented. Those who stand out are lead dancer Seda Aybay, Genevieve Zander and David Matthew Rodriguez. The others include Junji Dezaki, Clinton Kyles, and Olivia Bollfrass.

FUSE Dance Company – Photo by David Tenenbaum

In past reviews, I have written glowingly of FUSE Dance Company, but Pictorial Maxim is not one of Joshua D. Estrada-Romero’s strongest works. Performed to the sounds of whispers and drum beats, three women with painted masks resembling those worn by buglers, move through a series of angst-filled phrases that lead nowhere. One definition of the word maxim is a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct. Estrada-Romero never clearly communicates which truth or rule he is referring to. Strong performances were given by Kathy Duran, Rebecca Levy and Rebeca Montecino.

BackhausDance – Photo by David Tenenbaum

Jennifer Backhaus is the Founder and Artistic Director of Backhausdance and the recipient of several choreography awards. Hive is a lively, celebratory and pleasing work performed with clarity and inspiring energy by its cast. The opening resembles a hive as dancers swarm around a central figure danced beautifully by Tawny Chapman. Hive is choreographed in a way that the structure is unseen; a welcomed quality. Dancers flow in and out of sections without interruption. This group feels and looks like a company, not just a group of dancers sharing the same stage. The artist that continuously drew my attention was Chihiro Sano. She is captivating and exudes a love for and need to move. Hive is not a masterpiece, but it is a very strong and memorable dance work. The other very talented dancers were Samuel DeAngelo, Amie Kilgore, Andy Lawson, Kaitlin Regan and Amanda Kay White.

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