The Dance You’re Part of: LA Dance Festival #5

Note: This is a partial review, in two senses.
First, this review covers only the opening night of the Festival; it closes today (Sunday, May 14), with 7 different troupes presenting avant-garde creations.
Second, I am partial to the LA dance scene because it, like our city’s theatre scene, is so deep in talent and so rich in creative invention and daring.  I regard it as one of the most valuable gifts our city is offering to the world.

You say you don’t know much about dance?  Don’t dance yourself?

Everybody dances.  Every body dances, every day, moving through the world in countless shifting postures.  Rising from bed, getting dressed, walking downstairs, kneeling to hug a child or a pet, sitting in a car, walking upstairs, passing through hallways, waving, sitting in a chair…  Even my bedridden brother dances, with his few remaining gestures and how he fixes attention on his visitors (while they and we spin on Earth’s axis, and hurtle through space at 67,000 mph).

So you do dance, moving through your part in the Great Dance, though maybe you’ve never focused on it.  Want to start focusing?  Visit the Los Angeles Dance Festival — in one sitting, you’ll see a remarkable array of highly trained artists creating patterns and stories simply by paying attention to the ways their bodies move.

Their moving bodies will move your body, perhaps to tap a foot or swing a leg.  They’ll also move your emotions, as you feel inside yourself the stories the dancers tell.

The LA Dance Festival, now in its fifth year, presents 26 of this city’s brightest dance companies, each sharing a single short work.  The dancing styles (and the musical selections behind them) are incredibly varied, from ballet to hip-hop to jazz to abstract to … experiments so new nobody’s given them a name yet.

The opening night’s five companies accurately suggested the range and quality of LA’s dance world.

No)one. Art House began, with a flowing series of abstract patterns to sounds gathered from the radio waves that surround us.  Fragments of a talk on the Q’uran, a Christian sermon, news bulletins, songs and static stitched a jagged tapestry.  Upon this, the four dancers (Shauna Davis, Charissa Kroeger, Tiara Jackson, and Alyson Van) wove all sorts of movement — graceful and awkward, swift and slow, connected and separated, fluid and static — into a steadily evolving picture designed by Sabrina Johnson.

Next came Helios Dance Theatre, with a powerful, intimate duet between two male dancers.  To Angela McCluskey’s singing, Chris Rodriguez-Stanley and John Origines moved — most of the time almost as one — through an intense, touching  paean to commitment. This physically felt reality they created, and let us share, cut through the winds of rhetoric that whirl around us.

Invertigo Dance Theatre — masters of storytelling through dance — then took the stage, with a re-imagined excerpt from founding artist Laura Karlin’s Interior Design.  To Eric Mason’s original score, Hyosun Choi and Jonathan Bryant unfolded a simple domestic tale with a harrowing center.  By turns comic, lyrical, and tragic, the duo glided smoothly from lightness to Choi’s painfully dark solo, and then to a wiser, warmer place.  Together they embodied love’s power — when acted with courage — to hold and slowly heal anguish.

Another excerpt — from choreographer Achinta S. McDaniel’s Terpsichore in Chungroos — filled the stage with vigorous action, often moving into and out of unison with fugue-like breakaway patterns. While the ankle-bells (chungroos) suggested India, the nine dancers themselves (McDaniel, Brittany Davis, Kirby Harrell, Shoshana Mozlin, Jon Paul, David Matthew Rodriguez, Rieka Toya, Adrianna Vieux, and Bridget Wilson) evoked India’s polycultural, pattern-generating chaos with an energetic kaleidoscope of movements.

Finally, we moved outside the elegant small theatre to the forecourt, where Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre displayed their mastery of site-specific dance.  With only a metronome for sound, Teresa Barcelo and Haylee Nichele, in costumes and braids paying homage to the host Lycee Francais, moved from mysterious minimalism (a hand, a leg, slowly emerging from behind a pillar) to an almost baroque duet on the open marble terrace.  The suggestion of pupils emerging from shy arrival into skillful confidence was unspoken but unmistakable.

This was but one evening, with only five of the Festival’s 26 troupes presenting.  Yet it made an indelible impression of the astonishing range and world-class quality of dance happening in Los Angeles.
If you haven’t been watching, grab your google and find a dance presentation to attend — you’ll be amazed and delighted.
Los Angeles Dance Festival #5, co-produced by Deborah Brockus and Pierre Leloup.
Presented by 26 LA dance companies at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, 10361 W. Pico Blvd., LA 90064.

Sunday, May 14th, at 6:00.

Tickets:  <>  or at the door.