BWW Review: DANCE IN AMERICA - A MUSICAL AND DANCE TRIBUTE TO AMERICAN COMPOSERS - MARINA CONCERT at Burton Chase Park
July 25, 2019
The best and most satisfying way to beat the heat and be delightfully entertained on a boiling hot summer day in the San Fernando Valley is to head to Marina del Rey, to Burton Chase Park on a designated Thursday to see and hear an exciting orchestra play, take in the lovely surroundings, breathe in the gentle breeze and watch dancers bring alive the superb orchestral offerings.
The L A County Supervisor Janice Hahn and The Department of Beaches and Harbors has been presenting these wonderful concert gatherings for many years now, and each year they top themselves. With the amazing and animated Frank Fetta as Artistic Director and Conductor, the fabulous Marina del Rey Orchestra and Nancy Dobbs Owen, who provided the breathtaking choreography for the evening we were treated to an incredible program of music and dance.
The program began as the sun began to set in these beautiful surroundings with Igor Stravinsky's (A Russian immigrant who lived in Los Angeles most of his years) The Firebird Suite. Before the downbeat, Mr. Fetta recounted his own interesting working experience with Stravinsky here in Los Angeles.
It begins in a minor key, with the melody slowly coming in, a very hushed beginning, that the violins shatter with cacophony; pizzicato sounds, plucking, when flutes, cellos and bass join in with arpeggios and glissandos, a flute taking a solo, a cello and piccolo join the smooth violins in a very soothing section, the changes in tempo and intensity occurring when you least expect it. It goes from adding more wind instruments to a harp playing broken chords, into a full orchestra playing an adagio tempo that grows fuller and fuller, the cellos and bass intensely vibrato... until a big explosive sound; the strings pizzicato the accents and the trumpets and winds answer them, a xylophone then sets the allegro melody... it is a cornucopia of rhythms, tempos and emotions swirling together harmoniously and gloriously. Such depth and dynamics to this story, this piece... It is so exciting hearing it and seeing them play it, live.
The second piece was entitled "Sirens," a World Premiere, composed by Craig Safan, sections from his "Odysseys," inspired by his love of "The Odyssey." Collaborating with Nancy Dobbs Owen, the Choreographer, they decided upon three movements from the entire selection, which were cohesive in bringing the vision of a journey where individuals fight for connection and love and ultimately find a path through life's storms together. After going through the last few days of gun massacres by disturbed individuals, this seems the perfect message to spread far and wide.
The piece was beautifully choreographed and performed by eight radiant and skillful dancers. They danced interpretively, giving us a sense of the emotions and convictions expressed through the music and theme. Modern dance in style, it had movements combined on the floor, in the air, side-by-side, in sections, that truly made us feel the emotions they were conveying. The Orchestra and the Dancers were so "in tune" with each other, it heightened the visual experience. The vocalists added more music to our ears, Soprano Emily Dyer and Bass-Baritone Johann Schram Reed. Besides a showcase of their excellent, strong technique, the dancers danced with passion and joy, with many lovely lifts and inspiring terpsichore galore. The music was very moving and lent to the athletic choreography with it's intricacy and defined accents.
The costumes were simple, effective, with a nice color scheme and worked beautifully to showcase all of the dancers lines and movements; designed by Nancy Dobbs Owen and Sylvie Gosse.
The wonderful dancers were Kate Coleman, Michael Tomlin III, the two lead dancers, and Darby Epperson, Sarah Gomez, Eryn Orsburn, Jacob Byrd, JM Rodriguez and Spencer Ramirez.
You can't salute American Composers without these last two composers.
After intermission, we were treated to music by Aaron Copeland, the "Dean" of American Composers; Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo," again, played marvelously by the Marina del Rey Symphony. So much visually comes alive, in his music. He uses every instrument in the orchestra in each of their most useful ways, which is an art in itself... such descriptive composing of each related-to-a-certain sound instrumental section is vividly magnified aurally and imagination-wise. Makes for a great listening experience.
The grand finale was a glorious version of George Gershwin's "An American In Paris," and indeed grand it was. The Orchestra was superb with Frank Fetta again at the helm, and the dancers performed with jubilance and technical accuracy in the 25-minute long ballet. The theme was clearly about love, celebrating it, and life's endless possibilities, when your heart is open to it.
The dancers were resplendently attired, and their intricate steps were matched only by the exuberance and the wide-open energy they brought, while executing an amazing amount of beautiful and unique lifts. Being fueled by such masterfully constructed music, they danced their hearts out. The ladies danced in heels, but nonetheless were very balletic in movement with beautiful lines. The choreography was clean, as in double tours en la air and pirouettes by all the men, the ladies were in unison with their lovely port de bras, phrasing, pirouettes and being a strong lifting partner for the men, hitting poses altogether.
The two lead dancers, Aria Alekzander, vibrant in yellow and en pointe, and Spencer Ramirez, were the main thread of the story, a young couple falling in love. They both did pas de deux together, each took a solo turn or two, and each were outstanding in their performances. Beautiful, strong fouettes and pirouetting penches from Aria Alekzander, and gorgeous leaps and jetes, quadruple pirouettes from Spencer Ramirez.
The dancers worked well together, and the choreography fit perfectly with the musical accents and exciting transitions in this exquisite musical selection. There are so many different moods and styles, where again, the choreography completely complimented the music, made it come alive, so to speak. It builds and builds and builds and all of it was so pleasurable to behold! The dancers' joy in performing this was contagious!
Costumes for "An American In Paris" were designed by Nancy Dobbs Owen, who wore many hats in this production, as she did last year as well. Kudos for all your hard, dedicated work!
This is my review of the wonderful concert from last year that Ms. Owen and Frank Fetta collaborated on for the first time: /los-angeles/article/Bww-Review-BERNSTEIN-AT-100-Symphonic-And-Choreographic-Lushness-By-The-Sea-At-Burton-Chase-Park-20180803
It was a beautiful evening and event, and there are a few more similar events coming up before the end of August that you can attend. For information go to: culvercitysymphony.org.
Photos by Heidi Marie, Matthew Hetz and GingerSole Photography.