Saturday, September 1, 2012

MixMatch Run Down (Friday Aug 31st, 2012)

Another great show in the 6th Annual MixMatch festival.  This time with a completely different feel and composition of styles and trends from the shoes last week. (Reviews for those shows here: Saturday 25thSunday 26th).

Here are a few of my thoughts on each piece to help foster discussion and support for dance artists in the LA community and beyond. Please feel free to comment and add share your ideas and observations!

Act I
The show opened with a piece by Sara Kempe entitled, "I Wish I Were a Punk Rocker." The cast of all women in floral dresses nicely executed this lyrical/contemporary jazz piece.  There was strong use of musicality and nuance in the choreography. The dancers' unison was quite strong and highlighted by their smiling focus that was committed and enjoyable.

Jenni Kiiholma choreographed and performed in the next duet, "What is most durable in the world."  Kiiholma is a beautiful mover and her agility and flow was a pleasure to watch through out the piece set to Tool and the Deftones.  There was a patience and stability in Kiiholma's performance that I found refreshing. Her partner shared this aesthetic of clear intent, ease and strength. The question that emerged for me was regarding the relationship between the two dancers.  The introduction of the male dancer happened quite a while into the piece, and I wondered about the reasoning behind this as well as the nature of their transition into dancing together.  Nevertheless, I was so pleased with the quality of the dancers' movement that this question did not detract from my enjoyment.

"The Eyes of the World" choreographed by Alexandra de Ochoa of Blackbird Dance Company, introduced a more tribal (Africanist) aesthetic to the show which by chance would resurface again and again in other works.  This particular piece was very clearly animal influenced as the dancers crouched and circled each other between phrases of fluid spines and rhythmic stepping.  The "cat" was a particularly engaged performer, believable in her conviction and presence.  I enjoyed the rhythmic walking pattern with a scoop of the arm that added to the Africanist groove of the piece.

Jessica Kondrath presented a beautiful excerpted solo danced by Devon Reurekamp, entitled "The Art of Breathing." This piece was elegantly designed with awareness to both time and space that captivated the audience.  Kondrath has a special ability to draw the audience's focus where she wants us to look so that we really notice the beauty in Kondrath's choreographic detail.  The performer did justice to these moments with a patience and clarity that was mesmerizing. 

"The Story of Mulan" choreographed by Mary Ann Van De Car and Members of Troupe Zachareet was quite a show, complete with ornate costumes, fans and swords as props, belly dancing coin skirts and break dancers!  This performance group clearly loves to dance and there was a strong sense of community among this mixed racial and multi-generational cast.  The b-boys were particularly enjoyable for me.

The act closed with Amanda Hart's "Flex/Pull," the duet I saw last week, which you can read about here.

Act II

Ami Mattison choreographed "These Letters" which opened the second half of the show.  This quartet was a perfect example of where contemporary jazz practices have evolved.   The quartet was powerful, sexy, and expressive. The dancers were generous in their performance of the challenging material and their attention to dynamic nuance.  The theatrical component of the piece included letters that the dancers crumpled up and threw around in a variety of choreographic situations. This use of paper transformed the piece into a theatrical work that was truly enjoyable for me.    (Note:  I imagine that Mattison might call her work contemporary rather than contemporary jazz, but I wanted to note that this style is different than contemporary in the modern dance genre thus the inclusion of jazz in my categorization of her work).

CHIHIRO KODAMA knocked the socks off of the crowd with his piece, "Re-Construction."  This production (for in fact it was the most theatrically complex piece of the evening) was well crafted and nothing short of a total blast.  The crew of dancers each had incredible skill that was played perfectly in the loose narrative of a man in his electronic world.  The unison moments were excellently timed and the soloing was jaw dropping.  The incorporation of video, magic, acting, flashlights, red light balls, hats and canes made this piece a true stand out.

"Beguiled in the Bajou" choreographed by Maura Townsend of Project21Dance returned the audience to a groove in the Africanist aesthetic that was reminiscent of Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey.  This expressive modern dance included a cast of 7 dancers who filled the stage with their "cool" Luisiana energy as they performed with a sense of release, abandon and musicality that makes this style of dance a joy to watch.  The featured female in all white seemed to be conjuring the spirt of the other dancers, whipping them into a frenzy of fluid spines, powerful legs and expressive torsos. 

Irene Watson, brought laughs to the stage in her playful and outright funny duet entitled "Ooohdalollie."  Watson, measuring up at what I imagine can be no more than 5 feet, and her tall partner, who seemed to tower over her, were funny from the start. The over sized lollipop that changed hands countless times as they fought over it, seemed to me to be the real heart of the piece. In some ways the lollipop seemed to have a mind of its own and its presence was the sole reason for the incredible and funny movement that came out of the dancers.  The way her partner, Jarred Laos, flung her about in there pink petticoat was a hoot. 

Noelle Andressen presented her third piece in the festival "Emergence."  This group piece utilized sheer sacks in which the dancers started with illumination from a flameless tea light.  The sacks were then taken off and wrapped around the dancers into sarong style dresses or skirts, thus literally conveying the title concept of emergence.  I wonder however if the theme of emergence could be taken further; this group of dancers that included a variety of technical levels and body shapes were also emerging from the stereotypes of what types of bodes and what levels of experience are needed to create dance works.  One of the most stunning moments for me was a very simple slow walk that was performed in the background of the piece by two of the dancers. The dancers' focus in this very simple choreographic moment was beautiful for me and proved again that dancers of all levels and body types deserve an opportunity to express themselves through movement.

My piece "Pull & Draft" (Megill & Company) was second to last in the concert.  My trio of dancers performed very well considering it is a "big" dance that didn't quite fit on the very small Miles Memorial stage.  But, it is a good lesson for me to learn as a choreographer.  I need to choose works that fit in the performance space otherwise they cannot be done justice.  With that said I am particularly proud of the dancers Leah Craig, Nathan Burdine and Brooklynn Reeves for managing to dance so fully and so musically within the confines of that performance space.  For me that is a mark of true professionalism.

The show closed with a jaw dropping solo by Thomas Tsai entitles "MEAN".  Thomas entered form the house, walking down to the stage before jumping up and beginning his monologue of words and movement.  His b-boy background knitted seamlessly with a the modern dance sensibility of performing to spoken word.  I just don't know how he kept his breath while flipping, swirling, rolling and stalling his way through the piece.  His incredible feats of strength and balance challenged me to keep equal focus on the words. I was so captivated with his movement that I had to force myself to keep listening to what he was saying.  And, when I did, I noticed how his words also swirled, and rolled and stalled just like his body.  It was a stunning work.  And, the audience showed its appreciation with thunderous applause. 

Two more shows left in this festival.  Come out and show your support for dance in our community. 

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