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BWW Reviews: L.A. DANCE PROJECT Makes Outstanding NY Debut

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This fall, L.A. Dance Project, founded in 2012 by newly appointed Paris Opera Ballet director and former New York City Ballet principal Benjamin Millepied, made its New York debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as a part of the 2014 Next Wave Festival. With works by Millepied, Justin Peck, and William Forsythe, this west coast collective came in full force, demonstrating incredible creative genius and outstanding performance.

Reflections, a piece choreographed by Millepied in collaboration with the company, opened the evening.The dancers were accompanied by a simple piano score by David Lang and surrounded by a giant billboard-like setby Barbara Krugerthat extended from the backdrop all the way to and across the floor. This led to the creation of slippery sounds as the dancers moved through their extensive floor work, an innovative highlight and motif of the piece.The piece gave off a casual vibe and was sprinkled with familiar characters. It was a daring first piece that set to show off the company's emotional intelligence. The flowing, graceful, and, at times, athletic movement emphasized non-polarizing, non-dramatic everyday emotions, something quite hard to capture artistically.But L.A. Dance Project was able to grasp these emotions subtly yet effectively. Though contained, quiet, and reserved, the dancers were never short of energy and presence.

Murder Balladeswas a magnificent piece that stimulated the senses. The work was choreographed by Justin Peck, soloist and newly appointed Resident Choreographer for the New York City Ballet, a title he most rightfully deserves, and featured a riveting score by Bryce Dessner, performed live by the award-winning band eighth blackbird. The piece was set to a fantastic visual concept by Sterling Ruby, which was understated yet vital in setting the tone for the work.

The execution of the details were deliberately calculated, creating stunning visuallandscapes. Peck has a keen eye for body forms and symmetry, but artistry is elevated as he stressed not only showcasing innovative shapes but also creatively utilizing the time and space between them. This was explored beautifully by the company members, whosewhimsical flow of their limbs and incredible speed, precision, and control created wondrous moving optical illusions. Though gorgeous on its own, the choreography was made even more fascinating by its perfect union with sound and color. The music and backdrop were visual masterpieces in and of themselves, and yes, I did mean that the music was visual. Dessner's score captivated the audience and the dancers, setting and even changing the tone of the piece while opening up space to welcome new developments on the creative horizon. Overall, Murder Ballades was simply brilliant and was a perfect example of creative synergy.

The night ended with Quintett, choreographed by William Forsythe. It was a stark contrast from the previous piece's vibrant score and set. However, the quiet sounds of Gavin Bryars' "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" and thebare stage with low lighting were quite powerful (unfortunately, at this performance, the onstagebright white light fixture was not working, which might have possibly made this piece even more profound). Forsythe's ground-breaking choreography is fast-paced, physical, and never-ending, which may seem overwhelming, especially when performed by a company of this caliber, but it is balanced perfectly by the quietness and emptiness of the space. The five dancers fill the stage not only with incredible feats of strength and endurance but with raw passion. Their aggression reverberated through the theater; their flirtationsdrew the audience in. The music was hypnotizing, and the dancing was breathtaking.A most perfect way to end the evening.

It was a marvelous debut for the L.A. Dance Project, and one sure to mark an unending welcome for this west coast collective to New York.

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes


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Jessica Abejar is an artist with a love of storytelling. As a dancer/choreographer, she most recently performed at World Youth Day in Brazil, where she (read more...)