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Review: Luminario Ballet and Judith Flex Helle Premiere Dance Film L' INVALIDE at Madrid Theatre


Review: Luminario Ballet and Judith Flex Helle Premiere Dance Film L' INVALIDE at Madrid Theatre

We see some very tall, spindly trees above that we are surrounded by, as a cover of "White Rabbit," circa late '60s by Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick is heard. Next a voiceover begins to tell the story of Alice in Wonderland, and some wild camerawork mixed with psychedelic images occurs. Cut to a different scene altogether. From this moment on, I knew this was going to be a trippy, artistic and somewhat psychedelic journey into someone's subconsciousness.

That someone is Judith FLEX Helle, the Director and Choreographer of this unique piece of film. It blends together altered states, symbolism, beautiful movement, and passionate emotion. It's loosely autobiographical, in that it portrays how she imagines she felt at a certain time in her life. Review: Luminario Ballet and Judith Flex Helle Premiere Dance Film L' INVALIDE at Madrid Theatre

Produced by Judith FLEX Helle, Allen Walls and Luminario Ballet, this 12-minute content-packed film will leave you gasping at what just transpired.

Beautifully danced and executed by five incredibly strong, capable dancers: Sadie Black, Jasmine Perry, Alexander Stabler and Miguel Reyes Santiago, and lead dancer playing main character Juliette; the emotive, technically amazing and effortlessly limber Shannon Beach.

Juliette, described as a "young invalid," is admitted to the hospital by her parents, who believe she is desperately ill, consenting to experimental medications to hopefully cure her.

She first enters, descending dreamily from above, on a strand of white silk, in a satin white slip to a surface below. Everyone is sparsely clothed in white in this scene, scenic dressing included, representing her drug-induced coma and dream beginning in the hospital. As the drugs take effect she begins to writhe, becoming disoriented and spaced out. This dream makes several transformations, three separately themed phases, if you will.

Review: Luminario Ballet and Judith Flex Helle Premiere Dance Film L' INVALIDE at Madrid Theatre During stages of the dream, which switches from Juliette's initial joyful drug-induced love fest with the hospital staff to a menacing out-of-control medical procedure where she spins, contorts, and does some amazing aerial work, expressing through movement her inner feelings.

It is a masterfully choreographed piece that few performers would even attempt. The only other dancer/actress/aerialist I have seen of this caliber, is also a soloist with Luminario Ballet, Dreya Weber. The art demands extraordinary agility and strength, not to mention impeccable timing, preciseness and fearlessness. She is smooth, lithe and unbelievably precise in every moment. Her whole body weaves the story and if you pay close attention to her complex movements I'll guarantee you'll really "get into it," ...since there's a hippie vibe happenin' here... There are quite a few gorgeous lifts executed by all the dancers as well, highlighting the partnering of the two striking male dancers Alexander Stabler and Miguel Reyes Santiago with the luscious Shannon Beach.

Seamlessly switching to the uber-sensual vampires lair, the whole set and costuming now bathed in black: she is petrified, while being fondled by ravaging vampires, definitely entering a manic mode, and emotionally stunned all at once.

Review: Luminario Ballet and Judith Flex Helle Premiere Dance Film L' INVALIDE at Madrid Theatre These blood draining vampires get so carried away they cause her to die.

The intricate aerial work performed is acrobatic and gymnastic in nature, mixed with beautiful balletic technique, making this absolutely entrancing to watch. The dancers are all eye-catching, throughout, each, individually and add so much to the richness of this fantastical vision.

The last section is Juliette's resurrection as a ghost, and how she is ultimately guided toward light and eternal peace. Review: Luminario Ballet and Judith Flex Helle Premiere Dance Film L' INVALIDE at Madrid Theatre

The blending of the camera angles between front or side shots and beautifully choreographed overhead shots and patterns, the subtle distinctions and attention to detail of the costuming, the lighting and musical and vocal choices filled in a very complete and riveting tale.

Well done! Especially since this was conceived, rehearsed and shot during Covid, adhering to strict guidelines, and in just a sliver of time. A little back-story: The film closely adhered to the LA City Film and TV Covid Compliance Regulations, which include having a Covid compliance officer on staff during the entire pre-production, rehearsal, production, and screenings. In spite of these stringent precautions, five cast members out of the 25 cast and crew had to be replaced due to either Covid sickness, positive tests, or close contact. They shared ideas, choreography and built routines through what our lives now consist of, Zoom, setting the choreography in three days, staying in small bubbles in isolation, until just five days of rehearsal, then shot the film in one day, only three months ago!

Conceived, Directed and Choreographed by Judith FLEX Helle; with very apropos Musical /Vocal Selections: "Black Rabbit," by Prince Fatty and Shniece; "Angelica in Delirium," by G.O.L.; and "I Lie," composed by David Lang; nimble Editing by Zak Byrd, Rough Editors Allen Walls and Judith FLEX Helle, and terrific camerawork, not missing a movement or gesture in the choreography, which is something of an art form itself, capturing dance sufficiently. The fastidious Director of Photography was Ted Hayash.

L'INVALIDE is a semi-autobiographical story taken from Judith FLEX Helle's soon to be published memoir, "Wild Animals I Have Known", written during COVID, now in its second draft. The memoir describes her "odd, sickly New England childhood, wacky adventures at a San Francisco art school, hobnobbing with London's aristos, becoming a professional dancer/trapeze artist in Germany."

This is the first film Judith FLEX Helle has directed, and will be submitting it to dance film festivals in 2021 and 2022. L' INVALIDE should garner much acclaim!

The film was funded in part by grants from the US CARES ACT, LA County Arts and Culture, LA City Department of Cultural Affairs, and individual donors.

Take time to visit their website: where you can see a lot of their extensive repertoire and information about their company.

Photo Credit: Ted Soqui

"L' INVALIDE" Viewable ON LINE @:

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