This weekend and next Amanda Hart's Hart Pulse Dance is hosting the 6th Annual MixMatch Dance Festival at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica.
I am participating in the festival with my group Megill & Company, but tonight I took the time to attend the show as an audience member and enjoy the gifts of the dance scene here in LA (and beyond). I am writing this review in order to help get the word out about dance in the So Cal community. It is so hard for small, independent dance groups to get reviewed. So. . . I thought I would go rogue and start doing it myself. The following are my impressions, observations, and questions that emerged while watching this fun filled night of dance. Please feel free to add comments if you saw the show as well or if I have made an egregious mistake that should be fixed!
I hope that this will serve the community as a springboard for talking about the amazing dance practices that are happening all around us.
The show opened with Michelle Shear's "Two Forty Five," featuring a quartet of dancers (3 female, one male) sitting around a table wearing structured suit jackets in various subdued colors. The piece built from gestures of the head, arms and hands while seated at the table, to bigger "break off" phrases with full bodied movement grounded strongly in a ballet-modern technical vocabulary. This was a well crafted piece, that contained strong elements of theatrical design, symmetry and asymmetry in space, theme and variation. It reminded me of Kurt Jooss' "The Green Table" in its use of the table and specific hand and arm gestures.
"Windows Within," choreographed by Joei Waldron of Axxiom Dance Collective, was a powerful male duet that featured impressive turns, leaps and extensions on behalf of the dancers. While the interaction between the men was emotion-filled, I wondered whether it was a piece about two individuals or rather a single individual who may be struggling within (as suggested by the title). Regardless of the specific narrative, the theme of yearning and struggle was evident and well performed by these athletic dancers who were powerful and passionate.
Sophie Olsen's "Peep Show" provided an unexpected commentary on women's power and sexuality. The three female dancers opened the scene wearing bathrobes and performing perfunctory tasks of reading, chowing on chips and flossing. Then, upon hearing the sound of quarters dropping in the machine they strip off their fuzzy exteriors revealing quintessential lingerie in red, black and white. After performing a shocking routine of sex powered head rolls, body grinds and hip undulations, they returned to their boring world of waiting. This pattern repeated until these girls had had enough. rebelling against the structure and ending with broken movements that embodied the destruction of their compliance.
"Then and Now" was choreographed by Heather Dale Wentworth or OPUS MIXTUS dance. This sweet female duet was in stark contrast to the piece before it. The performers, dressed in black and white, shared a yin yang quality that blended them together in moments of sensitivity and care. The piece oscillated between moments of support and care, the most powerful of which for me was the image of the one girl holding the head of the other while kneeling in child's pose.
Erica Lyn Pena performed a stunning solo entitled "inTAKE". Wearing simple knit pants and a tank top, there was nothing particularly theatrical about this piece. Instead it was a study in motion and flow. Pena leapt and rolled through the space in an opening that was kinetic and whirling in its repetition. Each movement motif was developed in front of the audience in such a way that we as observers could track the movements visually and eventually feel the movements and their kinetic value.
The first half closed with a film "La Femme" featuring the work of Sophie Olsen (who also choreographed "Peep Show" and the festival director Amanda Hart. This is a steamy piece set to the music of Yael Meyer featuring a cast of stunning dancers who embody the flickering heat of fire perfectly.
The second half of the show began with an earthy duet by Kim T Davis of Ktdavisdance. The female duet began simply and grew over the duration of the piece in an organic way that surprised me by the end. The exquisite modern dancers were patient and serene in their rock solid performance. The aspect of the piece that stood out most to me was the use of the hands. This piece highlighted the power of touch, exploring it in countless ways and in so doing conveying the depth of intimacy between these two women. Grasping, sliding, catching. I was gradually carried away into its chilling ending.
Phil Turay took the show into a hip hop flavored direction in his "Cleopatra." Turay is an articulate dancer whose use of isolation and urban movement vocabulary (as well as more popular music style) made this a groovy, good-time, energetic dance. I was particularly surprised by the combination of his movement vocabulary, which was clearly influenced by street dance and club dance and his choice of not wearing shoes. This contrast against expectation was refreshing and effective in blending a more urban vocabulary with concert dance.
Ericalynn Priolo of Priolo Dance Company assembled an excellent group of female dancers for her piece entitled "Process." This piece featured a groups of women dressed in all black who moved powerfully and gracefully through the performance space. There was a clear edginess to the piece that used strong lines as well as interwoven moments of release technique. The dancers served the aesthetic and athletic vision of the choreographer moving with a seamlessness that made the performance a joy to watch. I was left with only one question. The dancers began the piece wearing dresses over pants, then they exited and removed the pants before finishing the performance in the dresses. I admit, I found myself taken out of the dance for a moment as I tried to make sense of this. (I would love to hear other people's ideas on this). But, overall this piece was beautifully crafted and performed.
Jessica Wang presented her take on blending dance movement and martial arts in "Kung Fu Fusion" a piece that focused on the design potential of the body in slow moving shapes that were then contrasted with bursts of energy in quick kicks and jumps. Wang's performance offered both serenity and power, conveyed in her unwavering focus.
"Flex/Pull," choreographed by Amanda Hart, closed the evening of dance. The only male/female duet of the show, this piece offered a new energy to the audience. The dancers were well matched in height and physique, very fit and powerful in their movement profile. The nature of the relationship was primarily expressed through sculptural partnering that demonstrated the skill and strength of the dancers. While there was a romantic component to the performance, the duet seemed to present a metaphor for two energies that pushed and pulled against each other in a fight for balance before coming together in a final image of interwoven ease.
Overall, the show proves once again that there is great dance happening in the area, and I am so pleased to be a part of it. I will continue to do my best to offer feedback for the festival participants, and hope that it will spark new discussion and appreciation of the dance that is happening here and now in our own backyard.
FYI: My company (Megill & Company) will be performing, Sunday Aug 26th, Friday August 31st and Sunday August 2nd. Come check out this great dance event!