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WATER STORIES is a stunning work created through the collaboration of L.A. artists Amabelle Aguiluz, Stephanie Zaletel and Louis Lopez. In residence at the MorYork Gallery for the past several months, the group also included Lindsey Lollie, Julia Planine-Troiani and Jordan Saenz – members of Zaletel’s dance company szalt. Owned and curated by Clare Graham, the MorYork Gallery is a sculptural universe in and of itself, but it has indeed been transformed for this performance.

Amabelle Aguiluz has created an intriguing world for Stephanie Zaletel and her company to weave their magic around. Her textile sculptures and wearable art stand alone in their brilliance. When, however, you add Zaletel’s unique movement style, the depth and layers of Louis Lopez’s music/sound design, and the subtle, but lovely lighting by Pablo Santiago-Brandwein, one is transported into a different place then the world you left outside.

szalt in Water Stories - Photo by Becca Green
szalt in Water Stories – Photo by Becca Green

Upon entering the space one encounters four very large white waterfalls cascading down from the ceiling, running over a couple of Clare Graham’s glass showcases and onto the floor. There is a colorful wall of textile weaving and a beautiful off-white crocheted bedspread that Aguiluz has re-invented or re-cycled into one of her sculptures. As the performance begins, Santiago-Brandwein’s lighting brings all this alive and we can envision the water flowing through this somewhat enchanted world.

szalt in WATER STORIES - Photo by Becca Green
szalt in WATER STORIES – Photo by Becca Green

We are first introduced to the szalt dancers as they crawl into the space one by one. We can’t see their faces which aids in making them appear other worldly and creature-like. Lopez’s music then adds a layer of mystery to this vision as does the slowness in which these beings move.

Stephanie Zaletel is not afraid to have periods of stillness in her choreography. She isn’t bothered by brief moments of an empty performance space, and in WATER STORIES there is a lot to look at when they occur. The stillness draws our attention to the sculptural detail. It accents a choreographic statement and gives depth to the meaning of her work.

WATER STORIES - Photo by Becca Green
WATER STORIES – Photo by Becca Green

We hear someone relating a dream she had involving her brother and the ocean. There are local urban sounds and voices woven into the music. Certain movements hint at waves, swimmers, drownings, and seeing ones reflections in a lake. Zaletel’s choreography never becomes literal, however. There are poignant times where the dancers sharply drop their heads forward or grab their faces. One very dramatic visual occurs when Zaletel removes Lindsey Lollie’s head gear causing her to struggle violently for air. Zaletel moves us from above the water to beneath it. She alters our world and then sets it right again. Sometimes she simply drops an idea, walks offstage only to re-enter and introduce another thought. It is as if she wants us to wonder where she is taking us. Is the story over? How did it end? Zaletel wisely leaves it up to us to figure that out.

WATER STORIES continues for three more weekends, April 29-30, May 6-7/13-14 at 8:30 pm. I strongly recommend that you go see this performance. It is a beautiful meeting of artists’ visions and includes mesmerizing performances by Lindsey Lollie, Julia Planine-Troiani, Jordan Saenz and Stephanie Zaletel.

The MorYork Gallery is located at 4959 York Blvd in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. For more information, go to www.stephaniezaletel.com. Tickets: www.waterstories.brownpapertickets.com.

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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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