BWW Review: L.A. Dance Festival Delivers Delicious Diversity In Dance at The Luckman Fine Arts Complex
Deborah Brockus of The Brockus Project, producer of the 7th Annual Los Angeles Dance Festival has assembled an amazing array of dance performances, featuring a wide variety (50, total) of dance companies and groups that are based in Los Angeles over the span of the month of April at different venues in the L. A. area.
The first evening of the opening weekend, April 12th, was held at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, a part of the Cal State LA campus.
To kick off the festivities there was a pre-show performance by the San Pedro Ballet, in the Black Box theatre adjacent to the Luckman. The young, lovely women performed a touching modern ballet to the chorale composition "Agnes Dei." The soaring Adagio for Strings with its sustained hymnal phrasing coupled with the graceful circular patterns the dancers formed, in their long black skirts, softly moving, spinning and turning, arching and kneeling was perfectly timed and conveyed a feeling of beauty, respect and reverence. Uplifting movements that flowed as the circles formed within each other, some moving clockwise, some counterclockwise creating a kaleidoscope effect. The dancers were exact in their positioning throughout, painting lovely images that I thought might be viewed from overhead as a blossoming effect. Perhaps for the next performance an overhead cam and monitor might be added. A solemn earnestness to enlighten and exalt was the feeling this piece projected, between the intense musical chords, full-sounding acappella vocals and the sweeping choreography. Wonderful, seeing the next generation of dancers so well-trained and capable of so much going forward.
As the festival patrons moved to the Main stage for the rest of the program, there was a photo gallery to walk thru showing the work of Denise Leitner. Stunning photography of dancers posing or in motion, some well-known, but all artistically portrayed thru the lens of a dancer and dance teacher herself. Takes one to know one!
The audience, much like the presentation to come, was a cross-section of Dance students, teachers, choreographers, performers and enthusiasts from every dance genre that were all a-buzz with anticipation. Deborah Brocus's purpose in producing these festivals is to capture the artistic creations of LA-based choreographers using art to shape and define what it means to inhabit Los Angeles. It has created a foundation that she enriches each year, a melting pot and creative platform available for growth and visibility for artists wanting to express new and different ideations.
The evening did not disappoint. The first selection was a delightful piece, entitled "The New 45," performed by Tina Finkelman Berkett in the first section, joined by Guzman Rosado in the second. They both exude joy as they technically impress you, using the humor that is built into the choreography (by the authentic, original Richard Siegal) to communicate that joy out front. Part of BODYTRAFFIC, these two dancers each personalized their movements, it felt, organically, meaning only they would interpret the choreography the way they did. Excellent execution of technical steps, fabulous energy and preciseness and just the most fitting music - Clark Terry, Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler and Harry Belefonte!
The work that followed, "The last piece of Sky," Performed and Choreographed by Ido Tadmor and accompanied by Musician and Performer Joseph E-Shine, was interesting to watch unfold, and involved a few instruments and a lot of athletic floorwork, but the piece was unclear to me about what it was trying to convey, and gave me feelings of angst and uncertainty. Different, though...
An excerpt of Danielle Agami's "A Blind LAdy" was danced excellently by all the performers in the number: Sarah Butler, Rebecah Goldstone, Jorden Lovestrand, Jobel Medina, Alexander Quetell, Montay Romero, Genna Moroni, Cacia Lacount, Paige Amicon and Danielle Agami. The choreography was clean and the technique was impressive; it just felt disjointed to follow, or maybe it was meant not to be followed, but to give glimpses into different scenarios going on that all pertain to finding your own inner groove.
During intermission we moved to the plaza outside in front of the theatre for a most unusual, fascinating artistic endeavor by String Theory. Dancers began moving in and out of the courtyard in various formations to the music and the percussive rhythms being played by live musicians that they also danced around and between. An electric violinist, a cellist, drummer, sax and keyboard players were very much a part of the action, as they slid into "Landscapes One," choreography by Holly Rothschild and the dancers. There were more dancers added and the choreography took on a more physically demanding tone. It filled the courtyard with such liveliness, everywhere you could see, there was something exciting going on. Dancers doing lifts, slower movements to a violin solo, then hitting sharp accents on a hot drum solo and just tearing the place apart with their energy and stunts. Meaning the musicians as well... One girl attaches herself to a pole by a metal clip with a leash around her and does a wild series of movements that is ended with another dancer carrying her off, back to where she came from, as the violinist sings on mic. On one side of the open plaza there are gigantic instrument strings hung in the air on a slant across from one pole to another that a dancer is actually playing, producing the harp sounds we were hearing that filled out the music and added to the bedazzlement. The performers were all in white, making a beautiful visual as they're clapping in syncopation to the funky drum beat and dancing up a storm. The last section of this was odd, innovative and captivating, using very long and pointed white cone-shaped arm extensions - kind of like what the coneheads wear on their heads on Saturday Night Live, but on their arms; the 5 dancers form all types of shapes and dimensions with these crazy props until we hear the sounds of thunder and lightning, when the extensions start crumbling and bending, causing them all to walk off awkwardly, falling apart as they exit. The fine Dancers were Danny Dolan, Lavinia Findikoglu, Kearian Giertz, Carissa Songhorian and Andrea Sobke, who also played the "air" harp, along with the fabulous musicians Robert Amjarv, Vivek Maddala, Danny Moynihan, Julie Pusch, Holly Rothschild, Luke Rothschild and Gavin Salmon. Music Composed and Arranged by Manuel De Falla and Eric Satie.
Following that, another excerpt and quite unique piece entitled "BRECHT" was performed (and created) by Bret Easterling. The Set consists of (live) mics on chords attached to quite a few music stands scattered all around the stage as a lone dancer moves slowly through them, making his way across, as if performing a kata. Then seeming to be pulling on an invisible rope, which he struggles to move forward with, eventually being catapulted away from it, or sliding wildly through the music stands from it, as another person from the opposite side of the stage quietly enters and sits all the way down front leaning against the proscenium edge. He has some type of machine that he is recording the sounds made with and then playing them back, which coordinate with the sounds that the dancer has created with his movements on the set. The wilder and wilder movements, including lunges, backbends, flinging his arms and body about, knee slides and various acrobatic feats, produce a succession of rhythms on playback that enthuses him, so he keeps embellishing and embellishing, the volume of the sounds getting louder and louder, out of control... finally doing him in as he twerks, laying on the ground, as if he is receiving electric shocks. As that slowly subsides and he lays still for some time he suddenly stands, grabs a mike from the stand as if to start singing... blackout.
The finale featured the miraculously gifted Dance Company Diavolo/Architecture in Motion performing "VOYAGE," a simulation of a moon adventure in space, using large props and apparatuses that they agilely swung onto, leaped and dived off of and through, that were constantly in motion, powered by the athletics of the dancers themselves. The coordination and gymnastic abilities it takes to master these moveable objects, to be able to dance technically adding difficult feats to the mix, and smile and perform to the audience is the mark of a true professional. This company's dancers are amazingly well-rounded and skilled and all sure know how to put on a show! The intriguing music was by The Crystal Method, and the fast-paced, intricate choreography was created by Jacques Heim, assisted by his versatile dancers, who are: Christopher Borrero, Christopher Carvalho, Kate Dougherty, Daniel Jacob Glenn, Simon Greenberg, Shenendoah Harris, Aubry Lawrence, Branond Grimm, Kelsey Long, Majella Loughran, Danielle Malone, Abraham Meisel and Matthew Wagner.
A satiating evening of Dance with eclectic and exciting performances by some of Los Angeles's finest up-and-coming dance companies and solo artists.
You have this evening to catch the last two dance events of the Festival, at 5:00 or 7:00 pm, held at the Diavolo Space by getting tickets here: https://ladancefest.org
Photos Courtesy of David Barber, D&C Publicity