Thursday, April 4, 2013

Then. Now. Onward: A Review of the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company

This was my first ever Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company show, so I came in with literally no expectations. What I knew of LACDC, consisted of a trio I saw of artistic director, Kate Hutter's just last Friday at Adam Parson's Commonality Dance benefit concert.  (See review here).

I also, knew a little about Lindsey Lollie's work (one of the guest artists), having seen her at a number of dance festivals in LA this past year.  But, all in all, I was a clean slate, and I was excited to see what LACDC had in store for me.

This spring repertory show was truly enjoyable.  Now, perhaps I have just been holed up in my suburban life (hello tenure process!), but this is the first local, professional contemporary modern dance company I have seen since I moved to the LA area.  I have seen fantastic touring groups come through, and I have seen short form contemporary work in regional festivals.  But, this was the first company with evening length repertory that I can say was not either a college dance show or some permutation of contemporary jazz.

The concert consisted of 4 pieces. Here are a few thoughts on each:

Lindsey Lollie's piece "En Route" was set to a live avant garde score of Peter Gonzales.  What a treat to have a blend of live instrumentation and real time ipad and macbook driven technical manipulation creating a living, breathing, aural landscape for the piece.  Lollie's syrupy movement dripped off the dancers in the signature style I have come to associate with her work.  The movement palette was silky smooth with a kinetic flow that poured into the floor and between bodies with a hypnotic result.  The dancers embodied the style with ease and vibrancy.

Arianne MacBean presented a beautiful and fun large ensemble piece entitled "100 Times is Not Enough."  MacBean's sense of comic timing and wit made this piece extra enjoyable for the audience.  Telling the "story" of a choreographer in the creative process, the piece featured LACDC's Kate Hutter as the "choreographer," who has to confront herself and her misgivings about creating dance again and again, but eventually finds solace in simple movements that weave together into a visual tapestry that is rich and satisfying.  What can I say? I love humor. And, Hutter's comic timing and ability to connect to the audience was excellent.  But, humor aside, the craftsmanship of the composition was what made this piece so victorious in the end!  It gave the audience a chance to see the piece come to life, and gave the audience a reason to cheer for the success of the piece. It was a choreographic victory happening before our eyes! "99!"

Returning from intermission, "Unravel" choreographed by Kate Hutter and performed by Hutter and Charlie Hodges, had the audience in rapture.  I think the power of this piece lies in the human connection.  This piece, more than any other in the evening, highlighted an intimacy between performers that was playful, invested, and personal.  The seamless partnering and dynamic flow of the two bodies in space had my neighboring audience member whispering "beautiful" under his breath and clapping overhead by the end.  Hutter and Hodges' life long friendship in movement was a treat for the audience to savor.

The evening culminated with Hutter's interpretation of The Rite of Spring, which celebrated it 100's anniversary just this past spring.  Entitled "Prite oef Stringh" (and yes, to save you a moment, it does work out to spell The Rite of Spring all jumbled), this piece was set to a recrafted version of Stranvisky's original score, as freshly composed by Austin Wintory.  I very much enjoyed the simple modifications to the original music to suit a contemporary aesthetic of dance as well as a newly crafted retelling of the story.  The dancer's wore white long underwear that was cut for the women, and socks on everyone that allowed the dancers to slide and be slid (by others) across the white marley floor.  The large cast was essential for creating the sense of tribe and community in the piece and made the final "outcast" particularly prominent.  The dancer's exquisite physicality was the shining star for me in this piece.  They danced from their gut in a way that was completely vulnerable and appropriately disturbing at times.  This, juxtaposed with periods of live clapping, added to the visceral immediacy of the "Rite."  A beautiful and beautifully danced contemporary work, that before now I hadn't experienced among the professional LA dance world. 

This show runs the weekend and should be seen by every dance lover who aches for concert length contemporary dance works that are unashamed to be exactly as they are in a city of glitter and red carpets. 

Then.  Now.  Onward!
 April 4, 5, 6 2013 8:00pm, April 7th at 7pm
LACDC’s Spring Repertory Concert featuring new work by L.A. choreographers Arianne MacBean, Lindsey Lollie, and Artistic Director, Kate Hutter.  The performance will also feature live performance of original music.

Diavolo Dance Space in the Brewery in downtown L.A.
616 Moulton Ave.  Los Angeles, CA  90031


  1. (Scot again)
    Your documentation of dance is very true. I've yet to see you be "critical", however, in your critiques.
    And yet, the best critique by Lewis Segal I ever encountered, was an ad lib conversation outside the Alex Theater in Glendale discussing Iona Pear, during intermission, quite some many years ago. The critical remark that will stay with me forever is paraphrased as, "Minimalist movement is acceptable, but when you show me the limitations of your dancers, I wonder if the minimalist choreography was by choice or because the dancers are not capable of anything else."
    Regardless of what I've just said, I hope you're fair, but honest, when you review NEDT's latest offering. And yes, there's a difference between reviewing the dancing, reviewing the choreography, and reviewing a show. (Also bear in mind: never ask my opinion if you're not prepared to receive it.)

  2. Scot,
    I love it! Trust me, I have my preferences. But, the eyes through which I see and write about dance are truly and honestly loving. Yes, teaching has taught me to be more diplomatic with my feedback. But, that aside, my appreciation for the art process as well as the product allows me a wide range for "agreeable" reviews. While my general belief is that it takes all types in the art world, if I really have absolutely nothing good to say I choose at this point to say nothing at all. That is the benefit of not getting paid for this. I don't HAVE to write anything. And, NOT being honest is simply not an option.

    I enjoy giving a "good" review to something I personally dislike but was well executed. Likewise I like to write "good" reviews for pieces that have a strong concept or composition but weak execution. When both are in question, then my response usually comes back in questions. My questioning process is my way of being critical.

    I am still finding my way through this new dance writing, and I greatly appreciate you feedback. I know that am not objective. I teach dance! I have my ideas and opinions! And, I will always know some of the people I am reviewing. But, this writing is my way to support the dance world with useful observations and feedback they can share with their communities.

    1. (from Scot)
      I appreciate the "Thumper Philosophy" of "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all".

      Questions are sometimes the most helpful, like "was it intended for the lighting to make them look naked?" Perhaps this is also from the college/education standpoint. Sometimes knowing what didn't work is as valuable as what did work.