BWW Review: BLUE13 DANCE COMPANY PRESENTS TERPSICHORE IN GHUNGROOS & CONTEMPORARY/BOLLYWOOD WORKS at Wallis Annenberg
February 21 & 22, 2020
BLUE13 Dance Company is a contemporary Indian dance theatre ensemble based in Los Angeles, with a mission to connect diverse audiences through the power of live, aesthetically and culturally daring dance. For over a decade, Blue13 has performed in the U.S. and abroad in it's highly energetic and theatrical modern dance style that is inspired by the classical and cultural art forms of the Indian subcontinent. A first-generation South Asian American, Blue13's Artistic director, Achinta S. McDaniel pulls precision, humor, and deep emotion from her ensemble to create work as rebellious and unconventional as its architect. Storytelling through dance is central to the company, as is a continual exploration of technique with its diverse cast of dancers. The work is moody, rhythmic, and charged, presenting the audience with an intelligent experience of performance that turns the cultural stereotype of Indian dance on its head.
The amazingly capable, adventurous dancers performing the interesting choreography were Jacquelyn Buckmaster-Wright, Omar Israel Canedo, Alisa Carreras, Robert Christopher Gomez, Kirby Harrell, Kistina Pressler, Nateli M. Ruiz, Myra Joy Veluz and Adrianna Vieux.
The West Coast premiere of F*CK FUSION was the bold statement made in the opening number, with phenomenally colorful, resplendent and intricate costuming to highlight the Bollywood movements, incorporated with a few other styles of dance, with a multitude of rhythms created either by clapping, stomping or moving to drumbeats. An interesting style evolves based on the entire title of the piece, "F*ck "Fusion" (version 2) or, "How to/not to be Adequately Indian." It gives them license to dance outside the box, so to speak, to embellish their basic movements with other forms or styles of movement. Hindu overtones and customs are woven into the fabric of the wardrobe and the movement. The use of ghungroo ankle bells highlights the dancers movements to certain accents in the music. It is very grounded in Indian customs and meaning.
The entire company is joyous and effervescent as they perform, which in turn makes for a happy, entertained audience, which seemed the ambiance I felt. A nice reciprocation.
Originating Blues13 in New York, Achinta S. McDaniel, the Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer of Blue13 Dance Company, has been in existence for 15 years, and is now based in Los Angeles. Her background of Kathak dancing led to her forming the company, adding Bhangra and Bollywood styles to the choreographic repertoire, constantly adding to the diversity of the material and expanding beyond boundaries, willing to take chances and explore the entire realm. The result is a beautiful and very colorful mixture of expression. Wanting further to diversify, Ms. McDaniel brought on Jon Paul, who is now Associate Artistic Director of Blue13. His collaboration adds greatly to their uniqueness and enthusiasm and his ten-year association has broadened the spectrum of possibilities.
Each piece was beautifully presented. "Diya aur Toofan" the second piece, was equally enjoyable, although a bit too long, and could be tightened up a bit. The performers were all very together when doing a combination or pass across the floor, and the technical training was obvious and exact. The use of the stage, the different formations constantly evolving gave the piece more depth.
The World Premiere of "Terpsichore in Ghungroos," presented in three chapters, was a perfect example of their blend of cultural styles and experimentation. Tackling issues of equality and feminism while celebrating joy and connection, while moving through poses and hitting angular positions, with flexed feet sometimes, keeping you guessing what type of movement they will go into next, they eke out a unique and vivacious dance form. I did think, though, the choreography, not the story, got to be repetitive, and might benefit from some additional tweaking of creativity to broaden the encompassing message.
Blue13 offers the longest running Bollywood dance classes in Los Angeles at studios all over the city. The company offers choreography services for schools, professional dancers and ensembles, and for special events and weddings. To translate dance into lasting societal contributions is in Blue13's very DNA, as is the desire to empower and unite people, and to spread joy and understanding through its work.
Visit Blue13Dance.com, follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @blue13dance.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Parry