Two California companies combined forces to present over five performances in two cities. The project that was two years in the making is called PORT (Peer Organized Regional Touring); two companies coming together to find alternative means to create touring opportunities. The two companies are LA’s own Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company and San Francisco’s FACT/SF. Earlier in September, they shared programs for three nights at the ODC Theatre in San Francisco. This weekend they appeared at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. PORT: LA/SF is a welcomed and unique opportunity for audiences to experience different artistic visions and helps to expose the unfounded gap between northern and southern California artistic ideologies.
Charles Slender-White is the Artistic Director of FACT/SF. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Slender-White began his career with Provincial Dances Theatre in Yekaterinburg, Russia and founded FACT/SF in 2008. The work that he presented here showed roots in Release Technique, but he took it much further and deeper artistically.
Remains was a dark and, despite a cast of six dancers, lonely work. Costumed in all black, the dancers entered carrying life-size, headless figures made of a translucent material, frozen into partnering positions as if they were beheaded while slow dancing with a friend or mate. The manikins were placed along the back wall facing the audience, and six black straight back chairs were slowly placed on one side facing away from the audience.
The dancers moved in a processional-like formation with circular, sweeping movements as if following each other to a solemn event. They sat in the chairs, moved away in pairs that gently melt into trios and quartets, but they never clearly interacted. The dancers collapsed to the floor, rose to fall again. The chairs were ceremoniously placed next to them for a too long repetitive section that incorporated loud lamenting sounds of hands, arms and bodies hitting the floor. Near the end the manikins became partners and, in an unexpected move, illuminated with white lights dropped from the performers mouths through their headless necks.
Remains had a detached surreal quality, and the constant collapsing evoked death and dying. For me, the manikins represented the memory of lost loved ones. The work was lonely, stark and engaging, but not sad or morose. The lights within the headless bodies provided a sense of hope for our internal energies moving on.
The very talented cast of Remains were Dalton Alexander, Liane Burns, Catherine Newman, LizAnne Roman Roberts, Charles Slender-White, and Amanda Whitehead. It was a joy to watch them perform. The plain mourning dresses were designed by Sporadic Assembly; music by Max Richter; and the stark but beautiful lighting was by Delayne Medoff.
Slender-White performs a loose-limbed duet titled Platform excerpts with the talented Liane Burns. The two are well matched for this unison duet with little or no partnering. The movement is continuous, but punctuated with sudden stops and stillness. One very strong element is the beautiful lighting by Pablo Santiago-Brandwein. The opening is shockingly brilliant and the subtle shifting of geometric figures provides a sense of passing through various locations.
LACDC also presented two works for PORT: LA/SF, opening the evening with Stimulaze excerpts by Artistic Director Genevieve Carson, and closing it with the premiere of NOMAD.LORE. by Nathan Makolandra. They were two very different works but only one deserves praise.
Genevieve Carson is a very musical dance artist who understands form and subtlety. Her musicality is evident in how she physically illustrates the music of J.S. Bach and W.A. Mozart, while weaving her own rhythmic phrases in and around theirs. Carson gently introduces humor while exposing different layers of human behaviors.
Dancers crashing to the floor became a recurring theme throughout the evening. Fatigue, resolve, death or simply cause and effect. Carson’s dance opened with beautiful solos performed by Ryan Ruiz and Ashlee Merritt, who were soon joined by JM Rodriquez and Drea Sobke. Stimulaze is a made-up word. A hybrid of stimulate and laze that Carson has combined to create a quirky, beautifully performed and often entertaining work.
NOMAD.LORE. was choreographed by New York based Nathan Makolandra. It is a lengthy work that is greatly harmed by the choice of costumes designed by Sami Martin Sarmiento. The green and black costumes were ill-fitted, distracting, unflattering and they do not help place the cast of characters in any specific period, place or lore.
The press release states that NOMAD.LORE. “delves into the herculean efforts we make along our life journey, and how those efforts define our existence,” but in truth it rambles aimlessly without ever settling on a clear direction or dance style. The dancers Christian Beasley, Kate Coleman, Hyosun Choi, Jamila Glass, Ashlee Merritt, Andrew Pearson, JM Rodriguez, Ryan Ruiz and Tiffany Sweat are all very talented, and the original score by New Villager is enjoyable, but the work is otherwise lackluster. Ryan Ruiz, Hyosun Choi and Ashlee Merritt, however, deserve special mention for their outstanding performances. Lighting Designer Pablo Santiago-Baldwin did his best to give this work a sense of journey.
PORT: LA/SF is a wonderful idea and one that I hope will continue to expand to include other companies from across California and beyond. The more established companies are well represented at the larger venues in LA and if successful, PORT will continue to bring smaller or less known companies here for audiences to experience and enjoy.