BWW Reviews: Clairobscur's BULLY Dominates at Diavolo Performance Space, 1/27


With her company, Clairobscur, choreographer Laurie Sefton hopes to present work that is "morally-charged and socially significant." On Sunday, January 27, she brought to the Diavolo Performance Space in Los Angeles some highlights from her repertory, and a new work examining the struggle to balance our herding instinct with the need to individuate, and how sometimes that clash leads to damaged souls and tormented lives.

Bully, a suite of five pieces, begins with a playful playground romp featuring the entire company (Damien Diaz, Jacqueline Hinton, Alyson Mattoon, Allynne Noelle, Evan Swenson, Aleksandra Wojda), all spring stepping, clasping hands and partner swirls, that inexorably leads to a single dancer separated from the crowd. She doesn't fit in, but it's unclear: is she self-removed? a victim of unmotivated bias? In the second movement, our group, minus the one, is reformed as a gang, but its former insouciance is replaced with something a little more serious. Muscles are more taut, expressions are more set, . Inevitably another dancer is declared apart, and in his third movement solo, he establishes his physical credentials. Evan Swenson is our bully. He leaps and throws himself about the stage, but is most effective when he makes his mark with a full stop, a crouching pose, legs held open, eyes challenging the audience to deny his dominance. Following his exit the group returns, no longer a gang but now his henchmen, sinister in black hoodies, from time to time swinging an arm in rehearsal for a roundhouse punch, all the while gearing up to collaborate on some senseless act, the effect of which we'll see in Bully's final movement. Allyne Noelle, the victim, returns in a vivid solo, synthesizing the lyrical and the agonized, her trauma crystallized in juxtaposition of gesture: one arm extends vertically, hand languidly twirling in an erotic figure, while the other hand violently tremors an inch from her face. It's a stunning image, as is the final moment, a self-imposed end to the pain, her body rigid, inert, suspended from an unseen tether.

Preceding Bully were two works from 2009. This Facility is Being Monitored for Your Protection and Security was a two-part riff on ubiquitous video cameras and their effect on our psychological and emotional well-being. Surveillance slowly reveals a tightly-posed quartet (Jacqueline Hinton, Alyson Mattoon, Allynne Noelle, Aleksandra Wojda) clothed in variations of business grey flannel, quivering to machine-like chirping (bugs?!) They quickly shift into their workday routine, a rush hour accompanied by drums and metal and clockwork chimes ("Monkey Chant" by Glenn Kotche). Sharp turns and frenetic gestures mix with the quotidian; it's just another trek to the office under the watchful eye of Big Brother. Mattoon occasionally breaks into exhibitionistic solos (perhaps not everyone is oppressed by constant scrutiny.) The second section, PanOp, considers the incarcerated, with their unabating lack of privacy. Damien Diaz and Evan Swenson, grim yet quick, strong yet constrained, pepper their constant movement with jabs of finger pointing, at us, at each other, at the watchers who never rest. Again, the details are the substance.

More From This Author

Craig Fleming Craig Fleming is an actor, director, writer, and teacher. Since 2006 he has been

Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at California State University, Long Beach. In the early nineties he was a Disney Imagineer, living in Paris, in charge of the writing

effort for the concept and creation of Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris). After gaining

some clarity and perspective, he resigned from Disney and returned to his first loves,

Theatre and Education. He is also a devoted husband and father, which by definition,

makes him feel more alive than he thought possible.