BWW Review: LA DANCE FESTIVAL FINALE at The Diavolo Space
On Sunday, April 28, the 2019 Los Angeles Dance Festival wrapped up a month of hosting over 50 dance companies, a dance photography exhibit, and several master classes. Over 100 years ago, modern dance was created by the "LA Ladies" the Festival Producer, Deborah Brokus reminded the audience, adding value to Los Angeles and Southern California as a unique, and stand-out community of dancers in the world of dance.
There's nothing more aw-striking then the athleticism of male dancers on stage and Pony Box Dance Theatre embodies that. "Under His Eye" choreographed by Elijah Laurant touches on the trust, betrayal, and redemption of his experiences in New York City. Among the scratching and tweaking gestures, the trio soothed one another with a simple hand on the shoulder. A gorgeous duet persisted between Elijah and dancer, Raymond Ejiofor into a brotherly sort of love with excellent and well-executed dynamic shifts both technically and choreographically. With explosive battements and luscious pirouettes, these three male dancers hold no extra glitter, but are an authentic expression of an experience. A powerful floor work section and an audible struggle from Elijah, the piece ended in isolation leaving Elijah alone on stage in the dark. www.ponyboxdance.org
"Benevolence" choreographed by Alan Perez and danced by Alan Perez, Jordan Slaffey, and Aleks Perez had strong performance quality with extensions and levels to hold the space. These dancers are rooted in truth with their final image earthbound.
The Seoul International Dance Festival brought Yoonsume Dance Company as LADF's special guest from South Korea. performed a piece choreographed by Yeunwha Kim and danced by Yeunwha Kim and Juhyun Lee. The piece opened as the kind of adagio that builds suspense. And with the bounce of the body a percussive frustration takes over them. The duet danced center stage, enface, and in third position for much of the work. Eyes to audience, they were masked in black veils, leaving only their piercing gaze and ponytails visible that proved to be powerful. The dancers had achilles tendons for days with rooted plies and arm sequence that manipulated their guts. An "out damn spot" Macbethian gesture repeated as the dancers hunched over rubbing their off-white slips repeatedly. The electronic music sounded a bit like 'Ole Macdonald' with a distorted "E,I,E,I,O." The duet had an excellent sense of musicality without being enslaved to the sounds and continued energy patterns of movement phrases. The piece ended as one dancer takes off her black veil revealing her face. The dancers had gracious bows when the audience clapped at the end, even blowing us a kiss and culturally bowing back to us. Visit www.ingdance.kr to learn more about Seoul Culture Tank.
Nancy Evans Dance Theatre performed "Tethered." The cohesive costuming played an integral part in the choreography by Nancy Evans Doede. Nacy's movement themes made for memorable shapes for the camera. The opening three duets of women had a maternal quality. The feminine connectivity of these dancers was palpable. With Mozart's Adagio from the Piano Sonata in F, the choreography felt two dimensional like that of Nijinsky's Afternoon of the Faun. Although the shapes and poses in partnering were strong, some dancers lacked in confidence with a shifty focus or intent. The piece felt very rehearsed in movement and skimming the surface in performance quality.
Emergent Dance Company "99.5" choreographed by Megan Pulfer was an ensemble piece that began as a solo with an emphasis on "embracing our similarities." Human DNA is 99.5% the same and this piece explored forgetting our differences. Gray t-shirts and black jeans, the almost all white female ensemble trickled on to the dimly lit stage circling the soloist center stage. The pulsing percussion kept the tempo with repetitive phrases including deep grande plies, a chair section, renverses, and fan kicks. This jazzy ensemble repeated a movement phrase in unison as if in a music video staying very contained like a school of fish. The dancers felt under rehearsed and fear of messing up in some eyes of the dancers was visible. What's holding them back? Perhaps it's their sameness and the paralysis of trying to be like everyone else on stage.
Lollie Works, "Wind Down," (Section 1) choreographed and danced by Lindsey Lollie was a real treat. Against the continuous flow of energy of a massive red industrial fan Lindsey endured, surrendered to, and resisted the constant blowing. She wa impacted and endured under ongoing stress. Inspired by William Pope's "Trinket." the strong dancer held the space against the wind with waving arms walking toward the fan. A ball change sequence and wonderfully bouncy hair, she suddenly pointed up to the sky, smacks her eye as if she got bird shit in her eye. Over and over this happened until finally, she was defeated on the floor. Lindsey has beautiful extensions, inventively walked on knees and leaned against the fan singing to a non-existent upstage audience. She is lost in the relationship with this fan as she mesmerized the audience.
Deborah Rosen choreographed "Tashlich" danced with a quintet of dancers and six chairs. "Tashlich" translates to "casting off," and is a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The performance quality was characterized with costuming in search for self with a gaze on the individual. The relationship to the chairs facing upstage was intriguing. A roll of the shoulders felt like distinct characters rolling off their sins of last year, this piece had heart and a hopeful understanding. A genuine group of performers encouraged by Deborah Rosen to "truly dive into their vulnerabilities," in what seemed like an strategic game of chess grabbed the audience and kept us.
Jess Harper's "It's About Time" was danced by Anna Lamonica, Anthony Languren and Katelyn Martin, a trio of ugly brown unitards where the dancers made the tempo with their breathing, stomping, and insistent counting. Jess very clearly was making fun of dancer-isms and had the whole crowd rolling in laughter. If you've ever been submerged in the modern dance world, you are familiar with the audible and physical cliches: stomping loud feat (unlike ballet), rolling around on the floor, preparing for technique class, the obnoxiously loud breathing as cueing tempo, and the general false ego that comes with being a dancer. Oh the -isms are hilarious, as Harper and dancers brilliantly showcased. We, as the audience, needed that emotional break to simply laugh. Sometimes modern dance can be taken oh so seriously when after all, it's just dance. Jess Harper hyperbolized the above in her choreography and her tight-nit trio were physical comedians. This piece belongs on SNL as they literally did not miss a beat.
FUSE Dance Company present Sections 5 & 6 of "Beyond the Body" choreographed by Joshua D, Estrada-Romero exploring the joys and deeper meaning of the moving body. With vibrant Latin music and strong dancers, the piece was an explosive button on the Festival's end. "Beyond the Body" had the audience moving along with the dancers. Although the piece was vibrant, the dancers looked like a Sunday show; somewhat sleepy. I wanted more because Joshua's choreography provided cohesive and dynamic work that could have been danced bigger. Still a piece worth watching, celebrating the love of music and dance was a perfect way to sum up the Festival's end.
To stay involved with LA Dance Festival, please visit https://ladancefest.org.