BWW Review: LA DANCE FESTIVAL- 7 YEARS AND COUNTING at Luckman Fine Arts Complex
Sunday, April 14th concluded the first full weekend of formal performances for the 7th year of the LA Dance Festival. Showcasing twenty dance companies in just three days with support from the DCA and LA County Arts Commission, among many other donors and supporters.
The opening gallery held photography and artwork by Joelle Martinec and the pre show program was performed by Cal State Long Beach Dancers in the intimate black box at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the Cal Arts campus. Some barefoot and others in black socks there were six female and three male dancers with strong bodies and clearly trained modern dancers.The audience then moved to the main stage theater for a showcase of pieces by six LA-based companies. The program began with opening remarks from the Festival's Producer, Deborah Brockus.
An excerpt from Pennington Dance Group's Company of Orbs, choreographed by John Pennington held the stylistic appreciation of Merce Cunningham and the more classical modern techniques. Pennington's choreography demonstrated a mastery of theme and variation with back attitudes, balances, and high releases peppered into the movement phrases. Five large glowing purple orbs filled the upstage with the opening trio. High energy soloist, Li Rothermich, danced with the orbs on her hands, head, and feet. With earthbound syncopation, a quartet concluded the piece with lots of arm phrases and symmetrical turns.
Bryn Cohn + Artists performed Viewpoint with dancers, Kristy Dai and Adrian Hoffman. Sharing a deep connection to one another, this duet was one of the best I've seen in a long time. The dancers were virtually symbiotic as they carried the vibration from one body to another and finished the sentence of one's movement vocabulary through the tips of their fingers. Even when they weren't directly looking at one another, they maintained such a high level of awareness that the dance seemed like a solo in two bodies. A sensual trust assisted their dynamic falls and upside down partnering. The strong lighting design supported the piece like the phases of a sunset. Reflecting the phases of relationship with these two dancers had chemistry that was palpable. And just like that of an audible heartbeat, the passion undeniable and the athleticism invigorating. Bravo Bryn Cohn + Artists!
Rosanna Tavarez/LA DANSA DANSA presented Her Name was Miriam. The only piece of the evening that held narrative significance. Music from the Wizard of Oz began the piece as a pool of light shone down on the shiney platform shoes of the dancer lying down. A warm-blooded dancer/choreographer, Rosanna Tavarez, performed a solo to a recording of her mother's experience as an Dominican Republic immigrant in 1970s NYC. "People come to this country to make a better life, but sometimes they don't make it." Miriam's audio goes on to explain that she saw undocumented workers jump to their death running from authorities. Including NYC ambiance, a recorded interview, and disco of Quincy Jones and Thelma Houston, we were transported to a very specific time and space in US History to capture the essence of an immigrant's experience. The movement quality combined Limone technique, disco grooves, and miming that played with the narrative and lyrics. A thought-provoking, dissonant subject done with impeccable artistry.
During intermission a site-adopted excerpt from a longer work FLEX, "Sayaw sa Bangko" was held on a bench in a quad-type area outside. With live score by grammy-winning, Alex Wand, choreography by LA Dance Project residency choreographer, Jay Carlon, and dancers Spencer Jensen and Ching Ching Wong, the audience gathered in the round for a very surreal experience. The use of suspension in partnering work and smart weight-bearing created magical illusions where dancers appeared to be floating in mid air or walking the walls which were now the floor. At one point dancer, Ching Ching Wong, seemed to be following Spencer Johnson's shadow like Peter Pan. There were moments reminiscent of Fred Astaire's famous ceiling dance. Jay Carlon created a powerful collaboration that needs to be put on camera for the world to witness it's strong performance quality and cinematic feel.
Kevin Williamson + Company performed New Friday Night, an excerpt. The piece began under orange light with two dancers, Amy One and Justin Morris, center stage, side by side, and on their hands and knees. Topless and faceless, this was a combination of quick undulations through the spine, isolations, sparkling pants and almost primarily floor work. Movement themes were thoughtful and developed with strength, especially during the arm section. Ass to audience, the dancers remained faceless and androgynous the whole piece. New Friday Night is like standing in the back of a yoga class while at a gay nightclub; potentially erotic and oh so fun in an homage to the Orlando nightclub shooting.
Emergence choreographed by Rebecca Lemme was certainly evolutionary. The dancers moved like other-worldly beings sometimes as a unit and other times quite separate. Lemme says this piece is an exploration of self "discovery, rejection, and ultimately acceptance." Lemme worked with a trio of strong dancers with disjointed choreography.
Lastly, Coexist, an ensemble by Iris Company choreographed by Sophia Stoller in collaboration with her dancers summed up the evening. With a duet of two male dancers, Cody Brunelle-Potter and Shane Rainford, in yellow tops and a quartet of dancers in gray, the two sets of dancers coexisted in the R&B beats and piano of Composer, Child Actor. The sense the dynamic shift of hope kept our attention on interesting choreographic choices like heads through other dancers legs. I was waiting for the dancers to come downstage and connect with the audience a bit more. Beautiful dancing by Shane Raiford glued the audience and the interaction of the dancers as a whole together.
This Main Stage program shared a choreographic theme of dancer's backs to the audience connecting the audience to shapes instead of selves. When dancers were not turning their backs to us, they were busy with incredibly strong duets. Dance always reflects our life situations. Is this a message of our collective unconscious? We are in some ways turning our backs on ourselves and longing to connect our physical experience with one another.
LA Dance Festival provides a wonderland for dance experience for Los Angeles. Catch what you can of class offerings, events, and the Fringe portion of the Festival April 26, 27, 28 at the Diavolo Space. https://ladancefest.org