BWW Review: Women Rising Triumphantly -- Choreography From The Female Perspective, Featuring Ten Dance Companies Led By Women At The Ford Theatre
Celebrating the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote; assembled and produced by Deborah Brockus, artistic director of the annual Los Angeles Dance Festival.
Deborah Brockus has assembled another TKO of a presentation. This time at the aesthetically invigorating and lovely renovcated Ford Theatre; originally entitled, prophetically first named, The PILGRIMAGE Theatre. It was an enlivening evening from start to finish. Ms. Brockus is a hands-on participant, besides organizing, directing, choreographing and publicizing and cheerleading all involved, she was there to greet the theatre goers and anyone coming to support and witness this celebration. Take note of her tenacity and perseverance.
Ms. Brockus has been labeled "the single most important person in Southland dance," an "impresario", "the mother superior of LA dance" and "tireless" by the Los Angeles Times for her involvement in establishing the local dance scene as a producer, choreographer and teacher.
She is the artistic director of Brockus Project Dance Company founded in 1991. Her choreographic style blurs the line between modern and jazz techniques, reflecting both European influences and East and West Coast training. Brockus is the producer of the Los Angeles Dance Festival and the Dance in LA showcases.
August 16, 2019
Under a full August Moon a celebratory event evolved. The cool summer evening at the John Anson Ford Theatre was magnificently transformed into a feminine extravaganza of affirmative demonstrations of the power and magnificence that women have always possessed.
Produced by Deborah Brockus, Los Angeles Dance Festival Artistic Director, it marked an important event. "We chose our date to doubly celebrate the power of all women, and to lift up the Los Angeles area women who created the modern dance movement over the last century as well as the women - my contemporaries and colleagues -- who are its standard bearers today."
Such strength and endurance all the dancers had! The dancing women (and men), the nine female choreographers, the execution of feminine strength and wisdom by these Los Angeleans was inspirational, as we mark the celebration of 100 years of women's right to vote.
We are at the verge of turning history in a new direction and it definitely starts with us, the people, the artists; the visionaries. What was demonstrated this evening was a solid foundation for women's power moving forward. It is time.
Before the actual show began, we were treated to a site-specific pre-opening intro, with the BrockusRED Dancers dancing on the plaza outside the theatre area, and Charlotte Katherine & Co. on the Terrace setting the tone for the illumination of women and their power; actively passing along knowledge and understanding to each other in a caring way ~ it seemed to represent the passage of the 19th Amendment a hundred years ago that has led the way to where we are... now...
And what a fabulous opening production number! Many of the dance companies performing had members who soloed in this opening montage in a tribute to women choreographers and pioneers of our past, spectacularly displayed one by one, in this very well-thread together tribute to: Isadora Duncan, (from Santa Barbara, CA) portrayed with gusto and passion by Gretchen Ackerman; the Goddess of Dance, portrayed committedly by Rosanna Tavarez, as she perches above the others in a voluminous gold cape, moving it to the music majestically and orchestrating the festivities; Ruth St. Denis (from Los Angeles) portrayed meticulously by Carmen Derouin; Martha Graham (from Los Angeles) portrayed beguilingly by Charlotte Katherine Smith; Doris Humphrey (Los Angeles) portrayed precisely by Paige Amico, the legendary Maria Tallchief, danced stunningly by Kelly Vittoe (of Luminario Ballet) and choreographed by the versatile Judith FLEX Helle; Katherine Dunham (who had a very huge Los Angeles influence) accurately portrayed by Adrian Chapman and Adrinnie Willis, separately choreographed by Erin Landry; another section choreographed by Judith FLEX Helle, the musical section of Rodeo originally choreographed by Agnes De Mille, danced by Sadie Black and Cory Goei was especially exact on capturing the feel of the original choreography; and the revered Bella Lewitzky who always called her home Los Angeles and based her company here for decades, reverently portrayed by Julienne Mackey. Each solo or section danced was performed to the hilt, with Kelly Vittoe's "Firebird" being the most compelling and artistic. With music by Copeland, Stravinsky, Brahms and more, this number set the rest of the evening up ever so nicely.
We were then treated to nine choreographic artistic endeavors by nine different female choreographers based in Los Angeles. It was thrilling to see the diversity, the range of styles and themes presented, with such superb technique and strength instilled in the performers.
The piece "Turf," originally choreographed by Bella Lewitzky, reconstructed by John Pennington, for Luminario Ballet, is more compelling each time I see it done; which would be three, so far. It's a powerful, animalistic and captivating scenario that you can't take your eyes off of, and is performed with intensity, accurateness and pure involvement. The sheer sense of survival is imminent. It is performed by outstanding soloists Tiger Ryan, Windu Sayles, David Tai Kim and Corey Goei.
"The Farewell," was a gorgeously crafted pas de deux, performed tenderly by Jessica Gadzinski and Raymond Ejiofor, choreographed by Kitty McNamee, to Debussy's "Valse." Their movements were felt by all in the audience, with the familiar theme of love between two and all that it entails.
"Suite Nina," a fabulous four-part suite honoring the music and genius of Nina Simone and Choreographed and Costumed by the one-and-only Pat Taylor, the Artistic Director of JAZZANTIQUA Dance and Music ensemble, was the most joyous and uplifting piece of the night. The dancers moved with such soul and feeling to Nina's impeccable style, and they are all technically strong and agile, making their movements delicious and infectious. The expressiveness with which they attacked this piece was breathtaking. The hot dancers were Keisha Clark-Booth, Justin Edmonton, Tashara Gavin-Moorehead, Sarah Platte, Jason Poullard and Shari Washington Rhône. Just beautiful.
Blue 13 Dance Company's Adrianna Vieux performed an action-packed solo, "...but by others' seeing" that she and Choreographer Achinta S. McDaniel collaborated on, with Music by A. R. Rehman. It was lively, yet reflective, effervescent and demanding, technique wise, and it consumed the passion of a woman standing her ground and claiming her rightful position. Between the extraordinary lighting and her movements, especially her working of the skirt and her beautiful and strong movements, it was totally exhilarating.
Closing out the First Act, BrockusRED performed "Ritual," choreography by Deborah Brockus, in a beautifully staged and choreographed piece using dancers Leah Hamel, Julienne Mackey, Raymond Ejifor, Blair Pope, Halley Tansue, Robert Gomez and Olivia Perez, with music by Stravinsky and DakhaBrakha. About love, transitions and passing along to generations giving increased power to all. A nod to the future... Excellently performed.
During intermission there was a performance by the Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow Dance Company, which unfortunately I did not get out to see, entitled "Detained," which premiered that evening out on another Plaza landing; and was described as exploring the manifestations of internment and denial, both physically and psychologically, and how this affects us as both individuals and as a collective within our world today. The Dancers were Ariana Daub, Sam McReynolds, and Carissa Songhorian, with Music by Paul Chavez.
Kybele Dance Theatre presented "yabanggulu, 'wild rose' in Turkish," performed with no discernible melody, just a rhythm, choreographed by Seda Aybay, who's signature theme is to awaken forgotten moments of life through fusing contemporary dance with Turkish imagery, creating unique gestures by infusing movement with her roots. The dancers were Seda Aybay, Omar Canedo, Caitlin Heflin, Robert Gomez, Amanda Tran and Marii Kawabata. The Music, by Scanner and Nils Frahm was inspirational, freeing feeling, and very uplifting.
Rosanna Gamson/WORLD WIDE choreographed "Louange, "praise," from Quartet for the End of Time," by Olivier Messiaen. The four dancers were Gretchen Ackerman, Lavinia Findikoglu, Jingliin Liao and Stephanie Zaletel. They were so into this enactment of giving laudation, to honor and give homage to the art of dance itself, and it was exquisitely performed. The music was wide-ranging and so, so passionate.
Listed as Excerpts from UNRAVEL, a full-length show they will be presenting Aug. 23 & 24 at Highways Performance Space, the MASHup Contemporary Dance Company gave us a look into womens' struggles with overcoming deeply rooted shame and rebuilding that self-confidence by releasing those feelings and stigmas. The incredibly strong Dancers were Shelby Davis, Megan Kenson, Leah LaGrange, Magan Picas, Jade Falkenberg, Nicole Haghen, Hannah Hawkins, Abby Ruiz and Stephanie Heckert. They were all beautiful, and very committed to the theme, giving us technical accuracy throughout.
The closing piece, "EBBA," Choreographed by Genevieve Carson for the L. A. Contemporary Dance Company, showcased the many layers that exist within the psyche of women and how we can find strength and ownership at being female. These Dancers have the endurance of an Olympic athlete! Hyosun Choi, Jamila Glass, Kate Coleman, Nicole Hagen, Tess Hewlett, Andrea Sobke and Angel Tyson, with Guests Artists Olivia Euritt, Nicole Flores, Colleen Hendricks and Ashlee Merritt. I loved this presentation, although I feel it could have been much abbreviated but still about getting the point across.
The lighting for this event was top-notch, by Evan Nie, considering the natural surroundings and illuminating it was used to great effect. It creates a different atmosphere that separates the real from the imagined, and gave the performances a separate authenticity on stage.
I applaud the herculean effort that all of the choreographers and Ms. Brockus put forth, and it excites me for the future of dance, Los Angeles, women taking charge and coming into their own. Vive Les Girls!
Photo by Gennia Cui, courtesy of Ford Theatres.