As stated in my last blog, I am currently trying my hand as a dance writer in hopes of encouraging more discussion about dance and also growing the awareness of what is currently available for dance lovers in the Southern California region. Today was the 3rd performance of the 6th Annual MixMatch Dance Festival at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica. While I was not able to see the entire show because I was also performing, I managed to see most of it and wanted to share my impressions of the fantastic matinee performance.
The matinee opened with "No, Seriously" choreographed and performed by Molly Mattei. Beautifully performed, this dance was a versatile mix of dynamic energies that swept me away. I found her performance to be intoxicating with its use of subtle timing, musical phrasing and articulate movements. This piece is a wonderful representation of contemporary American dance which blends styles seamlessly, balancing traditional technique with more urban vocabulary and personal expression.
Amanda Hart, the Artistic Director of the MixMatch festival and HartPulse Dance, presented a beautifully performed quartet, "Spoons." I imagine the title represented the metaphor of two souls finding each other and fitting together like spoons. In this piece, the two duets worked in and out of each other, continually moving the focus of the audience member before finally returning to the original pairs, holding and hands as seemed inevitable.
Noelle Andressen, Artistic Director of Rubans Rouge, performed her first solo work "Decision." I know it was her first work because she told me! Noelle is a former student of mine from Moorpark College, and I couldn't be more impressed with her growth. She has proven to me that perseverance above all is the most important. This solo was dynamic and emotive with its strength residing in grounded leg stances and articulate gestures of the arms and torso. She danced around and finally into a pile of rose petals, signaling to me a deflowering of the character that matched the title beautifully.
"In this Shirt" choreographed by Meghan Tobin and Felicia Guzman of LA Unbound was an ensemble piece that included women in yellow dresses and a featured male figure. I enjoyed the challenge of the technique and expressive demand of the piece. It opened with a stunning duet in a very classical ballet style with beautiful line and balance. I was left with a few questions, particularly about the title of the piece and the relationship of the featured male dancer with the rest of the ensemble (which included just one other male). But despite my questions, it was clear to me that these dancers dance hard for their passion.
Kim T. Davis of ktdavisdance stole the stage again in today's performance of "Without...", a trio of one woman and two men. Unlike her piece yesterday, this trio was more aggressive, with the three dancers taking turns, supporting, holding, pushing and propelling each other through space. The performance was exquisite. These dancers performed their impressive partnering with an ease that seemed to suspend the laws of gravity while completely evoking them. The choice in cast was significant for me. All three had light hair and skin complexions, but differed greatly in height. This created a sense of them being siblings that I could not shake. As the "middle" brother fought for independence, it seemed only natural that the others had no choice but to let him be and to go on without.
Sadly I was unable to see the last piece of Act I, "Lifeline" by Leverage Dance and choreographed by Tawny Chapman. I did see part of it in tech but I don't feel comfortable giving feedback because I was unable to see it in it entirety and with complete focus. So, if anyone has a link to this piece online please do post it in the comments so other readers can appreciate the work!
"Cicatrix," choreographed by Heather Dale Wentworth and performed by her Carlsbad based company, OPUS MIXTUS dance, was one that I saw in tech rehearsal and then again from the side lines as I waited backstage. A powerful group of dancers with strong lines and facile bodies made this dance a pleasure to watch. Wentworth incorporated the use of black elastic bands around the dancer's waists, thighs, wrists and ankles. At first, it seemed simply a pleasant design elements, but then the elastic bands were manipulated and shared by the dancers as they wove in and out of each others space before finally coming together, bound to each other in the last moment of the piece. Not knowing what a cicatrix is, I did what any good blogger would do and googled it! It turns out a cicatrix is a scar and this new information leaves me wondering: were the dancers the cells coming together to heal a wound? It makes sense to me in retrospect, but I would want to see the dance again to determine if that connection is grounded in the rest of the piece.
Next came something COMPLETELY different, a piece I performed in with poet performer Joelle Hannah called "A Dance for the Guy in the Blue Button Down Shirt." Because it is not fair to critique your own piece, I will leave that up to you and invite you to check out a performance of the piece from the Razor Babes poetry tour last May. You can determine for yourself whether it was brilliance, madness or a bit of both.
"Variations on a Theme of Trees" was another piece that I was only able to see in tech rehearsal. But I did watch it in its entirety and what I can say about it is this: this piece was well designed from a theatrical perspective, incorporating interesting props including painted images of a tipping building, large tree branches attached to back harnesses, fabric covered fans, chairs and a metal tower. It created an environment that went beyond the dance. As for the modern dance movement vocabulary, it reminded me of work I have seen in festivals in Mexico, and it seems that the choreographer Beatriz E. Vasquez is Latina, so it makes me wonder whether there is a genre of Latin American Modern dance, that needs recognition in the current cannon of dance practices. The style was sculptural and thematic, utilizing strong ballet partnering that was never purely classical, but rather revealed the dancers strong technique as they portrayed an abstracted narrative through line and shape.
"Polymorphic" choreographed by Erica Villalpando of Nanette Brodie Dance Theater lent a yogic feel to the stage as the female cast elegantly performed partial sun salutations, yogic stretches and impressive feats of strength and flexibility. The dancers wore geometrically designed aqua and red costumes, that matched the geometry of the red boxes they used as props. The use of the red boxes added an element of height to the stage space when it was used as a pedestal for the female figures. The dance began slowly, but by the end it found an engaging pace as the dancers moved on and off the red boxes in swirling patterns of leaps and assisted lifts. Overall this was a visually dynamic piece.
Sophie Olsen brought a bit of theater (as well as excellent dancing) to the stage with "Rollerskater" performed by Carole Biers. This fun and quirky solo was short and sweet. Bier's focus was essential to the success of the piece as she was able to draw in the audience to her playful games. She interacted with the space by addressing a mysterious something in the air, playfully picking it out of space and dropping it into her pants for safe keeping. Could it have been a key that was referred to in the song? I imagine yes.
Arpana Dance Company brought the house down with its joyous classical Indian dance piece "Aikya" choreographed by Ramya Harishankar. The brilliance of the piece was that the classical Indian dance vocabulary drove the piece, but was set to a variety of music styles including Anoushka Shankar and Coldplay! These lovely young women were a joy to watch. There is something about the classical Indian dance training that is very potent in capturing the interest and attention of the audience. I think it derives in part from the use of rhythm and specific rhythmic stepping in the choreography. The women stamped and slapped the floor with their feet in beautifully syncopated (and perfectly accurate) rhythms. But in addition to the driving rhythms of the footwork, the dancers authentic joy and clear focus was another factor in engaging the audience. The dancers' joy at the end was intoxicating enticing the audience to a roudy round of applause at the end of the show.
Next week there are three more shows for you to enjoy (MeCo will perform Pull & Draft Friday Aug 31st and Won't Let Go Sept 2nd). Don't miss out of this performance that offers something for everyone and celebrates the love and diversity within the world of dance!