Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Awakenings and Beginnings (Highlights)

As much as I prefer to give complete reviews for dance shows I attend,  I only have time to share the majority of the highlights.  (So, please don't take offense if I didn't get to your piece this time around!)

The evening of dance was produced by Noelle Andressen and featured pieces from her company Rubans Rouges as well as other companies from LA, Ventura and Santa Barbara county.  The show, appropriately entitled Awakenings and Beginnings, was the very first show produced by Andressen and her company. I was very fortunate to work with Andressen while she attended Moorpark College and must say I am most impressed with her courage, creative focus, and unrelenting persistence as an artist.

The show opened with Gitanas de Jazz choreographed by Roubans Rouge dancer Kirby Harrell. This Spanish and Latin inspired dance was a crowd pleaser with its sexy movement vocabulary and fun rhythmic components.  Harrell playfully incorporated body isolations and polyrhythms in such a way to make this dance tough to categorize as either jazz, folk or social.  What it was, was fun!

Amanda Hart, who is no stranger to the dance scene in LA, performed a charming solo called Fluff.  Her performance was simple, clean and captivating. I have seen her company perform many times, and was so pleased with the chance to her dance. She gave this sweet and playful choreography a mature gravity that was honest and lovely.

Another member of the Moorpark College family, department chair, Robert Salas of Movement Theater CoLab presented a trio of three fiery redheads in Four Steps.  These three women were stunning in both their power and sense of line.  True to Salas' style, this piece included a blend of sensitive gesture and athletic power moves.  This power trio (as I liked to call them) did justice to htis challenging work both physically and emotionally.

Casualties of War was a moving modern dance work choreographed by Heather Smith. Performed by the largest cast of the evening, this tribute to the hardships and loss in a soldiers life was performed by young dancers who generously gave an emotionally convincing account of war's tragedies.  The piece required the dancers to transport themselves to wartime, and the result was positive.

Under the newly formed performance collective, Art Bark (formerly Sonnenblaume), Misa and Stephen Kelly co-choreographed One World is Never Enough.  This piece had it all: charming children at the beginning, a cute Dachshund running across the stage and paper airplanes thrown by the audience!  Set to a complex soundscape (that I can't even begin to recreate in my memory), this piece played like an abstract impressionist painting, offering the audience a series of images and scenarios that hinted at travel and relationships, but left the majority of the meaning to be formed by the observer.  Very Art Barkian!

One of Andressen's works was the solo Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies, in which she danced while seated at the edge of a large mirror on the floor.  This largely gestural piece, played with the concepts of reflection and identity, ending with Andressen pouring colored paint onto the mirror to obscure her image before a fellow dancer entered to remove her head scarf in a final moment of unveiling.  The imagery of this piece reminds me of Andressen's background in film.  Like the lens of a camera, the mirrors were both a window into truth and lies, a representative example of Andresson's strong sense of dance as moving pictures. 

Jenn Logan choreographed a remarkable duet, Coupling, Cycles 1-3 performed by Katrina Amerince and Scot Tupper. This dance was seamless and brilliant.  The dancers and choreographer are all members of Nancy Evans Dance Theater and their intimacy and understanding of each other was evident in the complete ease of the performance.  The partnering was mesmerizing and the chemistry between the performers was honest.  The performance was an example of technical excellence that was a pure pleasure to watch. 

Megill & Company debuted a new piece, called the Señorita Dance, choreographed Beth Megill (that's me!).  The audience received this piece with a joyful giggle and enthusiastic applause.  The petite allegro and folklorico inspired rhythms set this piece apart from the rest of the concert with its strong sense of play and joy.  I am so very proud of the performers whose excellent stage presence made this piece such a crown pleaser.

The Most Fascinating Person I Ever Met... Myself  was an emotionally charged modern dance - hip hop hybrid choreographed by another of Moorpark College's faculty Wendi Baity.  (If her name sounds familiar, it is because I recently wrote about her video series the Relentless Chronicles).  In this piece Baity proves again her incredible ability to create movement that is not only physically challenging, but precise and energetically charged.  Baity's movement doesn't just dance to the music, it dances in and around both the message and emotions of the hip hop soundtrack. 

Andressen performed her most powerful piece of the evening with Kirby Harell, entitled Coeur de Verre.  This piece highlighted exactly what Andressen is best at. Her petite frame and incredible core strength allowed her to be easily manipulated by her partner through sequences of lifts and shapes that feature Andressen's sense of design and space.

Alex Floyd was a new name to me going into performance, but her piece Ten was a definite crowd pleaser.  Set to spoken word, this trio of technically strong dancers included a sophisticated blend of contemporary jazz technique and style with more modern phrasing and use of the spoken word soundtrack.  Upon hearing that she recently received her degree from the University of Wyoming, I was even more excited because her style is a fresh addition to the LA dance scene.

Melissa Lynn Block  of Santa Barbara (also performed with Art Bark) choreographed and performed a wonderfully rich and mature solo she titled Powerless. This somatic and release based modern dance work was perhaps the most unpretentious piece of the entire show. Dressed in a simple black dress, Bloch moved through the space with a strength and clarity that is less common in the current LA dance world.  She was grounded and powerful. 

Overall the show was a wonderful success and so well attended that audience members had to be accommodated by floor seating on the side of the performance space. The lighting is a simple on-off, and yet, the intimacy and aesthetic value of the performance was not diminished. The audience was quick to forgive any technical mishaps because the goal of the evening was an unveiling and opening of Andressen's vision and the entire audience seemed willing to honor that.

Did you see the show?  Please feel free to follow this blog and post comments about your observations!  The dance discussion is just beginning. . . Also if you have addition weblinks to share please do!

* I apologize for not having the musical selections for the pieces. The show was so well attended that I wasn't able to get a program!  Now, that is what I call a successful first show.

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