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There is something wonderful happening in Orange County and it is called The Assembly, a dance company comprised of six highly skilled female dancers and several very talented choreographers. Co-Directors Delyer Anderson and Lara Wilson have brought together an amazing group of dance, visual and music artists to present works by emerging local choreographers. This past weekend The Assembly presented IV. at the Orange County Center of Contemporary Art in Santa Ana. The OCCCA is a lovely space with open-beamed ceilings and brick walls. White partitions are along the sides for exhibits, but for this performance Set Designer Isaac Bekker grouped four large artworks against the back wall of the performance area. Equally talented artists for this production were Hannah Jenkinson/Costume Designer and Luke Folger (UNIGEN)/Composer, Sound Designer and Percussionist. Delyer Anderson designed the lighting which was elegant, simple and appropriate for that space.

In IV. these four choreographers took on themes of four world elements described as “wood, elusive mirror, seemingly-immovable concrete and ubiquitous light”. Each section was approximately ten minutes in length and seamlessly connected to create a cohesive whole. The performers wore a unifying color of gray and, while the separate themes of each section were apparent, they were connected choreographically to give one the feeling of walking from one room to another in a gallery of contemporary artists. Each artist’s style being different, but connected by their time in history. A powerful solo introduced each element, followed by strong ensemble work.

The Assembly - Photo: Michael Townsend
The Assembly – Photo: Michael Townsend

WOOD was choreographed by the very talented dancer Kalynn Marin, who had a brief solo to open this section. Marin used the other five dancers to represent walls, columns, trees and other wood formations before leaving the space. The movements were at first slow with the dancers continuing the ever-shifting formations. Then, as if a rock were thrown into a pond, the movement rippled out with a burst of energy that swirled around like the age rings of a tree. Marin’s choreography is fluid, sharp and accented with poignant stillness. She has a quiet, almost withdrawn presence onstage, but my eye was drawn to her throughout the evening.

TheAssembly04_final Photo Michael Townsend-resized
The Assembly – Photo: Michael Townsend

MIRROR, choreographed by Joel Medina, has quiet mirror-image duets that transform into quartets and then splinter off into reversed mirror reflections separated by space. These reflections are seen close up, far apart and even distorted as if the reflective surface becomes unstable. Medina, who recently received his BFA from California State University, Long Beach, demonstrates an artistic maturity that is beyond his years.

CONCRETE, choreographed by Christopher Bordenave, is far from being “immovable”. There were hints of solid figures, but no one was stationary long enough to appear as statues or solid masses. The movement was more grounded than in the other sections, but it was just as mobile, involving images of moving foot stones, falling rocks and other objects in nature that are mistakenly thought of as inert.

Delyer Anderson choreographed LIGHT and chose to concentrate the focus of her choreography on a diagonal facing into, repelled by, and finally accepting of a single beam of light. As with the other choreographers, Anderson has a wonderful relationship with the floor and inventive partnering. In LIGHT, however, she demonstrates a more dramatic approach to summon forth vivid emotions of fear, attraction and acceptance. LIGHT called forth images of moths drawn to a flame or souls to an eternal light, and it was Sarandon Cassidy and Hannah Frankel who stood out from the others in this final section.

Luke Folger’s score amplified each section’s theme without giving anything away or getting in the way. His music becomes part of the whole that I mentioned earlier; a necessary part. Hannah Jenkinson’s costumes do the same. They are beautifully crafted, allow the movement to be seen and bring a unified texture to the work.

Founded in 2014, the gifted dance artists in The Assembly are Delyer Anderson, Sarandon Cassidy, Hannah Frankel, Allison Gomes, Kalynn Marin and Lara Wilson. There is not a weak link in this group. Each artist holds the stage as a soloist and each blends into the ensemble work when required. The company’s choices in the other artists to collaborate with are excellent. Powerful music, gorgeous costumes, an artful set and really terrific dancing definitely makes The Assembly a company to watch.

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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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