Saturday, February 1, 2014

Awakenings & Beginnings 2014: Review

Tonight I enjoyed an easy drive into Los Angeles to the Diavolo performance space to see the evening performance in the Awakenings & Beginning Dance Festival 2014, produced by Rubans Rouges Dance Company.  The audience was willingly packed in the small space to see some of the top contemporary dance groups perform their work. 

The show opened with a visually elegant work entitled Phoenix, by Michael Nickerson Rossi of Nickerson Rossi Dance.  This ensemble piece included sweeping port de bras, as the dancers adeptly moved through the space with turns, extensions, floor work and more. The imagery of flying surfaced at times throughout the dance which included well crafted and technically demanding modern dance phrases performed by beautiful movers.  The performance possessed a hypnotic quality as the dancers organized and reorganized in various pairings and designs in the space sometimes feeling like one bird sometimes feeling like many.  

The second piece in the show, Winterreise, was a classically based pas de deux choreographed by Judith FLEX Helle of Luminario Ballet.  It was so refreshing to see the simplicity of the classical ballet line included in this show.  Both performers were excellently trained with solid technique and a convincing ballet demeanor.  I was pleased with the German title (Winterreise means Winter Trip), because it allowed me additional insight into the narrative of the danseur who slowly goes insane over a lost love.  The shining moment of this work existed in the first few moments in which the ballerina was lifted and turned as she gestured with her leg in perfect timing to the musical phrasing.  Such manifestations of the music are gems for the audience member. 

The first act of the show closed with a piece choreographed by Deborah Brockus of Brockus Project Dance: RED.  Excerpted from an evening length work, Quest, this selection was titled Famine Solos and was beautifully performed by three dynamically different females who were deeply connected and passionately invested in the narrative of moving on from the pain of loss, grief and war.  The variety in the selection of performers had a profound effect on the nature of the work, one was young and played her part with both sensuality and ferocity.  The second soloist embodied a maturity in her opening moments of emotional collapse before she powerfully moved through the space.  The last soloist had a quieter essence, that resided in her stable presence. 

Act two opened with Noelle Andressen's company, Rubans Rouges Dance Company.  This was also a short series of dances excerpted from a larger work about her battle with cancer, Let This Be My Last Battleground. I had seen the original solo, STORM, last year and was interested to see the next stages of the story being told.  With a brand new set of company members, the work is representative of the continual growth seen in Andressen's work.  The intermittent video projections included photos of other cancers survivors as well as cancer victims and added a reality to this social issue that has or will effect each and every one of us in some way. 

Ken Morris presented a sweet duet, Conflict/Resolved, in which these young lovers experience their first fight, but manage to resolved their differences as they find each other rhythm and mutual balance.  The rhythm driven music was a refreshing shift from the more minimalist scores of the former pieces. In addition, the West African, Samba and playful club-dance vocabulary changed the tone of the evening at just the right point. The audience was able to laugh at the couple's follies and smile at their reunion.

The final work of the evening was Waiting at Home for the Witches, by Invertigo Dance's Laura Karlin (in collaboration with dancers). These powerhouse male performers stole the show!  Zsolt Banki, Chris Smith and Cody Wilbourn, jumped, rolled, floated, lifted and inverted their way into the hearts of the audience with this dance theater work inspired by the opening scene of Macbeth that answers the question: What toil and trouble is going on at home with the husbands of Machbeth's Weird Sisters?  The humor of the work was balanced with the sheer brilliance of the dancers' technical and dramatic performance.  The audience participation and beer bottled were just added bonuses to the satisfaction found in the piece due to Karlin's intelligent craftsmanship of this dance.

I overheard an audience member say (and I paraphrase) "There is a ton of great dance going on in LA this weekend." And, she was absolutely right. A sold out performance such as this should inspire you to get out an see what is available in the upcoming weeks.  Discover the work that moves you and then do all you can to support it!  Our LA dance community has everything to make a concert dance scene a real part of LA culture.  Now, we just need to make it happen, together, as a community. 

Did you see the show?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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