There are certain performing arts that I regularly attend: musicals, plays, and the occasional popular music concert (such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy). There are other genres with which I have much less familiarity: chamber music, ballet, classical concerts, and modern dance. I mention this because the rest of the family does enjoy those other forms, and so I’ll be broadening my ticket purchasing from time to time. Last night was one such time, when we went to the Alex Theatre in Glendale to see “Celebrate Dance 2010”.
“Celebrate Dance” is an annual event (now in its 5th year). Produced by Jamie Nichols, “Celebrate Dance” brings together nine local dance companies handpicked to provide a mix of styles. There’s an article on the production from the Los Angeles Times here. The production has won numerous dance awards.
But, of course, those are the opinions of the dance critics. I’m not well schooled in the language of dance. I don’t know the names of the ballet moves; the only choreography I know is what I see in musicals. So what did I pick up from this show?
Some general observations first. Being a theatre person, I’m more geared to stories on stage. Thus, for those presentations that had a discernable story, I found myself relating to them easier. If I could find the storyline, then even without words, it was more my style. But as the evening wore on, I began to realize that dance is dance, and theatre is theatre. One needs to look at dance—especially modern dance&mdance;as one looks at artworks in a museum. The story is secondary: what is important is the feeling imparted and the emotions conveyed. This is a very different way of looking at stage performance, and perhaps explains why the two audiences are a bit separate. Lastly, in general, I was really impressed by the strenght and power of some of these dances. This wasn’t artsy movement: this was powerful musculature and strength. The dancing I saw could rival in raw muscular power any sports performance.
The first performance in Act I was “Always Remember, Never Forget” by Visions Dance Theatre. This was a more conventional story-based piece: It started with a couple dancing, demonstrating their love. He goes off to war, fights, and is killed. The body returns, and she mourns at the grave. This was a good first piece: pretty, but with a story that makes the program initially accessable. The duet was danced by Bradley Beakes and Sara Vincent, and the other dancers were Cole Clemens, Cassie Cole, Jewel Davis, Bobby Neal, and Andrew Sawiles. Artistic director and choreographer: Macarena Gandarillas. Costumes by Abel Zeballos. Set design: Fred Kinney. Lighting Design: Eileen Cooley.
The second performance was “Found” by Josie Walsh’s Myokyo. I think this was the one my daughter liked, with two dancers in white. I’m not remembering it that well, so alas it wasn’t one of the ones that stuck in my head. Dancers: Heather Phillips and Donte Phillips. Artistic director and choreographer: Josie Walsh. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
The third performance was “Flowers That Pick Themselves” by the Rhetoracle Dance Company. This performance was bunch of dancers, primarily in white, seemingly addicted to knives and cutting. What struck me more about this performance was the dancers themselves: instead of the usual stick-thin modern ballet dancers, these young women had curves, and the lead was positively rubenesque. It was a very beautiful performance. Dancers: Bri Allard, Jill Dean, Ashley Grimes, Jia Huang, Rochelle Mapes, Sam Marcella, Courtney Ozovek. Artistic direction, choreography, and costume design: Nate Hodges. Set design: Lynn Hodges. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
The fourth performance was “Expansions” by Jazzantiqua Dance and Music Ensemble. I must confess this particular performance didn’t grab me, but it was one my daughter liked. It was more modern jazz dancing, but I don’t recall much more. Dancers: Terrica Banks, Bernard Brown, Keisha Clark-Booth, Teresa Harrison, Yvonne Johnson, Kacy Keys, Shari Rhone, Maurice Watson. Artistic direction and choreography: Pat Taylor. Costume design: Sam Loyola. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
The last performance in Act I was “The Cage” by Motiontribe. This was one of my favorite pieces. It consisted of two dancers: a woman inside a rolling iron cage, and a man outside. It told of their love through powerful motion: these two balanced in postions that required significant strength. It was just amazing how they used that cage to support their bodies and tell the story. Dancers: Fabienne Levenson and Ben Sayles. Artistic direction and choreography by Marie de la Palme. Costumes by Fabienne Levenson. Set design by Brock Cilley. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
Act II started with “Drift” by the Bare Dance Company. This was a pretty piece consisting of two male dancers and two female dancers working on top of a square of white fabric, demonstrating how relationships weave in an out. Alas, I was distracted by a spark of dark on one of the white costumes, which turned out to be torn crotch seam. This demonstrates the importance of why costumes must be right: wrong costumes can distract the audience. Still, the dance was pretty. Dancers: Jessie Agdeppa, Efrén Corado, Jessie Hartley, Chad Van Ramshorst. Artistic direction, choreography, and costumes by Mike Esperanza. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
Second up was “Joie de Vivre”, by Ptero Dance Theatre. It was during this number I began to see dance more as art than as theatre: the costumes combined with the movement to create beauty, and the joy came across in that movement without need for a storyline. Dancers: Molly Brictson, Louie Cornejo, Miko Doi-Smith, Briana Masson, Paula Persent, Eva Weiland. Artistic direction and choreography by Paula Present. Costume design by Shannon Harris and Paula Present. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
The penultimate performance was “My Breath Comes Differently” by Body Current Dance. This performance was interesting for its lighting: The dancers were lit from the front of the stage creating large shadows in the back, turning the four dancers into as many as eight, amplifying the moves, creating interesting effects. I moved from watching the dancers themselves to watching the shadows, and it was quite interesting. Dancers: Kimberley Hannah, Belinda Lutes, Andrew Palomares, Emma Storey. Artistic director and choreography: Lorin Johnson. Costumes by Liz Pelster. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
The last performance was also the most spectacular: “Guiding Rings” by Catch Me Bird Dance Theatre. There were two distinct parts to this performance: an on-the-ground celebration of love, including slowly fluttering confetti from the sky… followed by an aerial ballet on rings in the sky, danced in silhouette, amplifying the sensuality of the dancers and their movement. This one, just like “The Cage”, was sheer beauty and power and was a spectacular close. This was danced by C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalav, who also choreographed and served as artistic directors, as well as designing the set. C. Derrick Jones designed the aerial rigging, with the aerial sculpture design by Adam Olson Davis. The video was by Annika Kay. Lighting design: Eileen Cooley.
“Celebrate Dance 2010” was a one-night performance. I’m sure we’ll be attending more dance throughout the year.
Upcoming Theatre. As for us, what’s upcoming on the theatre calendar? Next weekend brings “On Golden Pond” at REP East on Saturday night @ 8pm (this was rescheduled from March 14 due to Lauren’s memorial service), with Sunday bringing another installment of “Meeting of Minds” — this will be the second episode with Karl Marx (Ed Asner), Sir Thomas More (Bruce Davison), Queen Marie Antoinette (Meeghan Holaway), and President US Grant (Dan Lauria). The last weekend of March has no theatre, but is still busy: there’s a Games Day on March 27, and Rick Recht is doing a free concert at TAS on March 28. April brings more of potential interest, including “Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris” at the Colony Theatre (tickets pending, likely April 10 or April 16), “Damn Yankees” at Van Nuys HS (tickets pending, April 15-17), the April installment of “Meeting of Minds” at the Steve Allen Theatre on April 18, “12 Angry Men” at REP East (April 24 @ 8pm, although Erin may have to see the May 2 Sunday Matinee due to AP Stats Camp). May looks to be equally busy, with “Little Shop of Horrors at Cabrillo Music Theatre (May 1), “See What I Wanna See” at the Blank (likely May 9), “The 39 Steps” at the Ahmanson (likely May 15, evening), the May installment of “Meeting of Minds” at the Steve Allen Theatre (May 16), the Spring Dance Show at Van Nuys HS (May 20-22), and “The Wedding Singer” at Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall (May 30 @ 2pm). May will also bring the annual visit to the Southern California Ren Faire, although it looks like we’re going to have to divide and conquer: we’re like to go on Saturday May 8, and ellipticcurve, Erin, and one of Erin’s friends will go on Sunday, May 16 (we can’t do it that day due to “Meeting of Minds”, but it puts it after all of Erin’s AP exams).
As always: live theatre is a gift and a unique experience, unlike a movie. It is vitally important in these times that you support your local arts institutions. If you can afford to go to the movies, you can afford to go to theatre. If you need help finding ways, just drop me a note and I’ll teach you some tricks. Lastly, I’ll note that nobody paid me anything to write this review. In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.