HNYPT LA is a wonderful space in downtown Los Angeles and Stephanie Zaletel took full advantage of it in her hour long work F L W R S on May 23 & 24, 2015.  Zaletel and her amazing all female company of dancers took us through a range of charged, tense and tender emotions that left this viewer on the edge of his seat, thoroughly engaged and somewhat exhausted in the best possible way.  As a dancer, I felt that I had not only viewed but experienced every movement and ventured through every emotion as it was performed.

Zaletel completed her BFA in Dance Performance/Choreography at California Institute of the Arts in 2012 and went on to perform with several groups including Ate9 dANCEcOMPANY.  She has had an extensive choreographic career for someone so young, presenting her creative work at REDCAT, ARC (Pasadena), Highways and many other venues in the Los Angeles area.  Her work has also been performed in the Benicassim Festival in Spain.

Alex Gaines’ Lighting and Set Design for F L W R S is stark, yet adds a strong sense of architecture, ambience and familiarity.  It is minimal, yet somehow lush.  There’s a television showing mainly static in one corner of the performance space; the frame only of a dressing room in another, and windows in the remaining two corners.  The dancers view the TV, dress and undress in the room, and sit and view the world passing in front of them through the Colonial style like windows.  The music by Louis Lopez, Ariel Pink and Gal Costa helps guide us through Ms. Zaletel’s condensed and “not-so-chronological feminine development”.  

F L W R S is divided into five sections, g r w t h, l v, s x, d t h, and c l b r t n.  As with the work’s title, one only has to insert the vowels for the words to appear as one normally sees them written, i.e. F L W R S = FLOWERS, etc.  Each section features a different dancer, yet the entire ensemble is actively included.  The opening section g r w t h features the strong, yet vulnerable Lindsey Lollie who my eyes insisted on following the entire evening. l v features the shy but forceful Jordan Saenz; s x the somewhat withdrawn by sensual Julia Planine-Troiani; d t h the very feminine, yet demanding-to-be-heard Stephanie Zaletel and the voluptuous and playful Alyssa Alden in c l b r t n.  There was a brief appearance by two male stage crew who wheeled in an oversized cable spool to act as the performance platform Ms. Planine-Troiani in s x.

Each section of F L W R S is different in feeling, yet similar in the use of every single body part of each dancer; including eyes, mouth, tongue and voice.  The control these five women demonstrate in isolating each one of these parts is extraordinary. One does not, however, see their technique.  One feels the movement and the emotions behind it.  These women are capable of undulating like octopi as well as holding an extension or arabesque with the best of them.  They move as individuals and execute amazing unison ability; unison which is only used in the best way choreographically.  Zaletel only uses this choreographic element when she wants to bring the audience’s attention where she demands it to be.  

One criticism of Stephanie Zaletel’s choreography is that some of it borders on becoming self-indulgent.  In F L W R S this aspect is most apparent in the final section c l b r t n.  At first I was amused, but in the end I was relieved when it was over.  I’m hopeful that Ms. Zaletel will learn to reign in the over-state message.  She is a very talented choreographer and I am sure that if she listens to her muses, she will triumph. 

I confess that I have not seen many choreographic works which are influenced by the gaga movement language, but from the creations that I have seen presented by Stephanie Zaletel and Danielle Agami, I certainly hope to see more.  Dance and Theater are brought together to provide those of us in the audience with an intelligent and moving experience.

Learn more about Jeff Slayton at www.jeffslayton.org.

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