Sunday, August 25, 2013

7th Annual MixMatch Dance Festival Rundown

I started to review dance shows one year ago when I wrote about the 6th annual MixMatch Dance Festival hosted by HartPulse Dance Company.  I didn't know at the time that I would keep writing about shows over the course of the year and in the meantime fall in love with dance writing.  You might be interested to know that I am not paid to write any of this. I first started writing because I wanted to support dance; and, until we get a stronger written cannon about the concert dance in the LA area, I believe we will continue to float along under the public radar.  So, I started writing and a year later here I am having just danced in the MixMatch festival and written another article in support of the fantastic dance that took place.

The MixMatch Dance Festival is an open and inclusive dance festival featuring 8 dance styles, 50 choreographers and 70 different dances.  This year it grew to include 5 performances in one weekend, each completely different.  While I wasn't able to attend all 5 shows, I was able to make it to 3 and wanted to share at least a bit of what I enjoyed as part of the festival.  I wish I had time to write about each piece because, every dance had something unique to offer to the diversity of ideas and styles in the festival.  But, considering that I am back in dance class tomorrow at 8 am, I have chosen to cover just a few of the pieces that stood out for me in the shows I saw.

"Spirit of Intention" choreographed by Bay Area dance artist, Anandha Ray and dancers, was a stunning solo performed by Laura Rae Bernasconi.  This fusion of tribal Middle Eastern and modern dance, was unlike anything else in the festival.  The highly stylized and purposeful movement was performed with intensity and honesty. Bernasconi is a commanding performer, bearing her soul to the audience without hesitation through each precisely design gesture. The final roaring exhale evoked a feminine power reminiscent of the goddess Kali herself.  

Friday evening, Anne C. Moore presented a female quartet, entitled "i always choose to misremember."  This contemporary modern work was a feast for the eyes. The dynamism in the choreography and fluid performance by the dancers mesmerized the audience.  This is an example of a movement driven dance success.  While the title hints at a loosely thematic narrative, the power of the piece existed for me in the dancers' ability to engage the audience through the physical and emotional, execution of the rich choreography.

CJ Edwards charmed the audience with his all male hip hop, "The Quest."  These dancers were all very different in physical appliance, yet they had excellent unison in all aspects of space, time and energy.  The circle moment, in which a few of the dancers came to the center to shine in their own way, reminded the audience of the vernacular heritage of hip hop and bridged the gap between social and performance in an easy and effortless way.

The Saturday matinee included, "Fearing the Unkown," choreographed by Mariana Olivera. I had recently seen this piece in the SB ADaPT festival this summer, but seeing it again was an opportunity for me to take note and appreciate the physical risk involved in much of the choreography.  Olivera punctuated the choreography with high risk partnering, including falls, catches and throws that left this audience gasping out loud.  This performance communicated the feeling of helplessness felt by the dancers as they submitted their body weight to each other.

Misa and Stephen Kelly performed their charming and heart warming duet, "Recall is Never Replay."  If you have not seen Misa and Stephen on stage, you should!  This husband and wife duet is quirky and thoughtful, nonsensical and endearing.  The movement and choreographic structure was non traditional, including gestural phrases set to spoken text that seemed related only by chance at times, but it also felt entirely appropriate.  The ending, in which the two slowly entwine in a reclined embrace, wraps up the dada-like piece with a string that can't be explained in words and can only be felt in the gut.

The closing Sunday matinee featured many strong choreographic works, including Tawny Chapman, Artistic director of Leverage Dance.  Chapman presented two distinctly different works. The first, entitled, "Window of Opportunity (Excerpts)," was a modern dance, task-oriented piece performed by nine young dancers in a grid of nine boxes.  The dancers moved through the grid as if in a game, springing, turning, and sliding between the the boxes. This piece created a strong sense of geometry, which the dancers embodied effectively in their mature performance.  The second piece in contrast was entitled The Bitter Earth" and communicated a different tone, although it was performed by many of the same dancers.  This contemporary modern piece was deeply emotional and exquisitely performed by the young women.

Nicole Olsen, choreographed and performed an empowered solo, entitled "Nude."  As the title suggests, the theme of revealing became apparent when Olsen first discarded her sweater.  The piece balanced strength and control with freedom and release.  The release and athletic flow became increasingly present as Olsen shed the layers of her conservative skirt, blouse and tank top, leading the audience up to the moment of ultimate power as she walked upstage taking off her final layer. 

Ashleigh Doede of Nancy Evans Dance Theater presented an excerpt of "Adhere Until. . ." Another audience member said of this piece, "These are the dancers you dream of growing up to be." I have reviewed NEDT before, and as always this performance was technically exquisite and emotionally powerful.  The dancers perform very difficult phrases with a subtle ease that I fear can be missed by an untrained eye.  This particular piece by three women exemplified the solid musicality and physical training that has come to be the thumbprint of NEDT.

"Strings," choreographed and performed by Chihiro Kodama, was a jazz-hip hop-capoeira fusion that was refreshing and playful.  Kodama's choreography and performance integrity rests on his ability to physicalize the music with an intensity and accuracy that is not always seen in contemporary choreography.  His vernacular based movement vocabulary is detailed and precise as well as fun and celebrational. 

Reject Dance Theater presented a few different works over the course of the festival, but I have chosen to speak about Sunday's performance of "Molt" because of the sheer quirkiness of it!  The featured "bird" dancer was a joy to watch in this piece. Her refined movement fit with the proud stance of her bird character.  The other dancers, dressed in fur vests and coats, contrasted the lightness of the bird, with their heavy and loose movement vocabulary.  The motif of the hip slap into what I saw as folded bird wings was so strong for me that I know this piece will resonate with me for a while still.

Festival director, Amanda Hart closed the festival with a duet entitled "Forever." This sweet choreography is characteristic of the strong jazz based choreography (especially male-female partnering) that I have come to expect of Hart's work.  These dancers seemed to authentically enjoy dancing with each other. They were soft and gentle with each other and told the story of falling in love with a conviction that melted the audience. 

Overall the festival was a huge success! 

The Southern Califronia dance community is gaining momentum, with festivals such as MixMatch, ADaPT and Celebrate Dance.  And, the opportunity for choreographers of all genres and backgrounds is greater than ever.  Now is the time to join in the movement and go out to see more dance in your local community.  Take the risk and discover the hidden treasures in your own backyard.  

Did you see the show?
What did you think?
Did you love a dance I didn't mention? (I am sure you did!) Share it here!
Your comments help support dance in LA and Nationwide!


If you are interested in reading up on Last Years MixMatch click here:
MixMatch Run Down (Aug 26th, 2012)
MixMatch Run Down (Sat Aug 25th, 2012)

Also, if you are interested in seeing one of the dance works presented by Megill & Company for this festival, click here. 
Stop. Listen. Dance.


  1. Thank you for this, Beth! I wasn't there this weekend but having seen Misa & Stephen's piece, i loved reading your description, and now feel like i had a VIPeek at the best of the rest =) don't know if you've had a chance to read any of my reviews, but it seems we have a similar style. i look forward to reading more of yours!

    1. Thanks Justine! I got caught up and haven't had a change to read them yet! But, I am so glad you like what I have written. I love processing the shows and sharing with the artists and others. Now, I must make time for reading!

  2. Ken Morris' The Conflict/Resolved really stood out for me. Showcasing a powerful, yet touching look at young couple trying to resolve their first conflict in a budding relationship.

  3. Thanks Anonymous! We need to keep writing about dance to help support our local artists!

  4. I went to see Ken Morris work nicely performed by two young dancers. His roots (no pun intended) always go back to the type of works done by Lula Washington and the style is very distinct. I made friends many years ago when he performed with me in an Indian and modern fusion piece. I did not see any mention of my Troupe Zaghareet (as we were the only taste of burlesque piece) but I sincerely hope you enjoyed the fusion of different dance styles (and my singing).

  5. Thanks for the review Beth!
    Mariana Oliveira.