“Thoughtful. Beautifully executed. Emotionally complex.” – Artful Efforts

Acts of Matter
Forward Looking Back
March 11-13, 2022 at 8pm
Stomping Ground L.A. 


After two years of forced shutdown by the pandemic, the exciting Los Angeles based Acts of Matter (AOM) returns to the stage March 11-13, 2022 at Stomping Ground L.A. with the premiere of Artistic Director Rebecca Lemme’s film and live stage work Forward Looking Back. It is a work that asks each audience member to reflect on how have the past two years affected them and where do they go from here? Tickets are on sale now.

Forward Looking Back is a culmination of the past two years and Lemme feels it is very important that this work be multi-generational in terms of the life of the company. It includes dancers from past, and present, as well as the first time company members. In the return to making work she acknowledges that the company does not consist only of the people involved in one particular process, but rather every person who has contributed to what Acts of Matter has become over the last seven years.

Lemme strives to create work that gives audiences the room to reflect on what is going on in their personal lives, and she believes that Forward Looking Back specifically does just that. This work will give them the space to ponder situations that they need to think through.

Acts of Matter - "Forward Looking Back" - (L-R) Cody Brunelle-Potter, Ryan Ruiz - Photo by Malachi Middleton

Acts of Matter – “Forward Looking Back” – (L-R) Cody Brunelle-Potter, Ryan Ruiz – Photo by Malachi Middleton

“I think that all of us have a lot to contemplate,” she said. “To be able to have a communal experience that feels empathic, that feels passionate, that feels generous and to see live people moving in space and connecting with you is something of value. This piece specifically gives room for the audience to hopefully have some conversations and to make sense of some things.”

The inspiration for Forward Looking Back came from conversations that she had with her students at CSULB during the pandemic when everyone was working on Zoom. Those talks were about what they could learn and glean from these times that is positive. In her press release for Forward Looking Back, Lemme stated that the work is a reflection on the past two years, asking “how have we changed? What have we learned? What do we carry with us?” And, that the work “serves as a collective contemplation of where we go from here.”  I wanted to know if during the process of creating the work, whether she has answered those questions for herself.

Acts of Matter - "Forward Looking Back" - Cody Brunelle-Potter (Above), Laura Berg (Below) - Photo by Malachi Middleton

Acts of Matter – “Forward Looking Back” – Cody Brunelle-Potter (Above), Laura Berg (Below) – Photo by Malachi Middleton

“I think that the piece is about continuing to ask those questions.” she answered. “I don’t know if those questions are ones that we can ever arrive at a finite answer to. We’re still in it (the pandemic), we’re not past it, just a different phase of it.” What Lemme has discovered personally is that she has begun to think more holistically about how she approaches the different elements of her life.

“I have been using the word integrate a lot,” she continued. Such as: “How do I integrate the person who I am in the studio with the person I am driving my car?”

Lemme said that after having similar conversations with her students, she questioned whether or not the way that we as a society were living our lives prior to the pandemic was indeed the ideal or optimal way to live. Was it being shut in that allowed everyone to slow down, to be alone with their thoughts and to reflect on what they consider important.

“Artists always have to be ten steps ahead of themselves,” Lemme said. “Planning the next thing, hustling on this end and that end.” Having the time to slow down and not think about 20 things at a time. Moving forward, Lemme asked herself how could she, and everyone else, carve out time to reflect on life and how they are living it.

Acts of Matter - Cast members of "Forward Looking Back" - Photo by Malachi Middleton

Acts of Matter – Cast members of “Forward Looking Back” – Photo by Malachi Middleton

“One of the things that I have been thinking about a lot during this time and it has been making its way into my teaching and it has certainly made its way into this piece,” Lemme stated, “is how do we hold space for ourselves while holding space for each other.” She feels that balance is imperative not just for the individual but for the collective. “It often feels like you are letting go of one to attend to the other.”

Lemme thinks that she and others are often struggling with another sense of dualism as well; living a working life with an intensity that is often at odds with our personal needs. She believes there is a way to hold both—to sacrifice less, by cultivating a space where these parts of ourselves we support, rather than impede, each other. And sometimes this means letting go of things that no longer serve us.

“The piece for me is about holding multiple things together at one time and figuring out how they work together,” she said. “I think that some of the answers to my questions are almost a challenge to myself, a challenge to the audience to try to honor the honor the things in your life that are important enough to drop one in order to do the other.”

Acts of Matter - "Forward Looking Back" - (L-R) Ryan Ruiz, Taylor Worden - Photo by Malachi Middleton

Acts of Matter – “Forward Looking Back” – (L-R) Ryan Ruiz, Taylor Worden – Photo by Malachi Middleton

During our discussion about the pandemic and Lemme’s working on Forward Looking Back, she stated that this time has really highlighted the importance of human connection, the importance of valuing the time you have, examining our stress levels, and asking whether the choices we make are actually making us happier and healthier.

Forward Looking Back investigates these questions and what this past two years has been like for those participating in the work which includes a film that AOM made over the summer and the live component performed in front of an audience. There is a crossover of cast members, but the through line of the cast is that it represents the past, present and future of the company.

Part of Lemme’s creative process included reflecting on where everyone has come from who has helped to develop AOM. There are dancers in the film who were in her very first project for AOM, some who joined the company several years into its existence, and a few for whom it was their very first time working with the company. The same is true with the live stage component of Forward Looking Back. As an example, film and stage cast member Laura Berg, of WHYTEBERG, was in multiple works that Lemme choreographed while earning her MFA in Choreography at California Institute of the Arts, making Berg her longest collaborator in Los Angeles. For the other four dancers in the stage portion of Forward Looking Back, this is their first time working professionally with Lemme.

Acts of Matter - Cast members of "Forward Looking Back" - Photo by Malachi Middleton

Acts of Matter – Cast members of “Forward Looking Back” – Photo by Malachi Middleton

In addition to Laura Berg, the performers in the film section of Forward Looking Back include Orlando Agawin, Cody Brunelle-Potter, Joan Fricke, Kearian Giertz, Kayla Ann Marie Johnson, Kaia Makihara, Ryan Ruiz, and Taylor Worden. The other performers in the stage portion are Sarah Butler, Colleen Hendricks, Malachi Middleton, and Ryan Ruiz, with contributions from Tetiana Sklyarova.

Over the years Lemme has been fortunate to have collaborated with quite a few musicians and composers. The composers for the film include musicians who Lemme first worked with at CalArts when they went by the name of ISTANBUL. These five musicians/composers include Lauren Elizabeth Baba, Louis Lopez, Andrew Rowan, Gregory Uhlmann, and Steven van Betten. The music for the live stage portion has contributions from all of these composers and centers the music of Lauren Elizabeth Baba and Michael Wall.

Lemme said that making the film became her way of re-entering the creative process and because it was not recorded in a studio but in a home space and outside, it was a way to help everyone feel safe while working. She had not been able to work with her company for more than a year and the work she did create for her students at CSULB was primarily done remotely. “The film is like a journey through a space and it plays with time and linearity of time,” she explained. “We encounter these people inhabiting these spaces, some of whom recognize each other and some of whom just exist simultaneously.”

Dancers in the film were asked to reflect on their memories of working with AOM, what they remembered about that experience and what emotion stood out for them either in something that was happening during the creative process or during their life at the time. “For those that had worked with the company before we were trying to draw on these references that were filed away somewhere in their bodies or their brain. Others, who had worked with Lemme outside the company, were asked to draw on those experiences. Within the set of the film, Lemme asked them to choose an area in the house that had a special meaning for them or in which they had spent a lot of time in during the pandemic.

Acts of Matter - "Forward Looking Back" - (Top-Bottom) Kearian Gietz, Kayla Johnson - Photo by Malachi Middleton

Acts of Matter – “Forward Looking Back” – (Top-Bottom) Kearian Gietz, Kayla Johnson – Photo by Malachi Middleton

The film and the stage performance were tied together via the sound and movement designs. Forward Looking Back begins with the film in one space at Stomping Ground L.A., and then the audience is directed into the larger performance area for the live stage piece. Lemme has created the work so that the performers and the music from both the film and the stage piece form a seamless and continuous transition to tie the two together as one piece. “That it morphs from being two dimensional to three dimensional,” Lemme explained. “That the environment feels that it is evolving as opposed to completely shifting.”

Malachi Middleton, the Cinematographer and Co-director for the film, is also a photographer and dancer who performs in the live stage piece. Lemme said that most of the film was done as a single shot and that Middleton was very instrumental in figuring out how the film was framed, how it looked and how fast it would move. She considered herself fortunate to have a cinematographer who is also a dancer.

Lemme stressed again the importance of the cast for Forward Looking Back being multi-generational. “It honors this return to making work,” she said. “You will see a lot of their faces but you will feel their influence whether you see their faces or not.”


Presented at Stomping Ground L.A., Forward Looking Back will begin outside before moving into the performance space. Most audience members will be standing for the outdoor portion of the show and will be able to choose various vantage points for viewing the indoor performance, so attendees are encouraged to dress in clothes and shoes that will allow for comfort throughout the evening.


WHAT: Acts of Matter premieres Forward Looking Back
WHEN: March 11 – 13, 2022 at 8PM
WHERE: Stomping Ground L.A. located at 5453 Alhambra Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90032
In advance  | $20 general // $15 student
At the door | $25 general
To Purchase tickets, please click HERE.
Show runs roughly 1 hour with no intermission

Audience members with accessibility needs, including accessible parking, reserved seating, extra time to move, wheelchair/walker accessibility, etc. can complete this survey, also available through the ticket link: please click HERE.

The space is ADA accessible, and seating can be reserved for those who request it.

All attendees will need to show PROOF OF VACCINATION or medical exemption in order to gain access to the performance.
All attendees must be masked for the show.
Performers will not be masked but will be tested just prior to the show.


About Rebecca Lemme


Rebecca Lemme - Photo by Cheryl Mann

Rebecca Lemme – Photo by Cheryl Mann

Rebecca Lemme began her dance career in Chicago. She has toured nationally with contemporary repertory companies Luna Negra Dance Theater, River North Dance Chicago, and Hedwig Dances. Lemme is not just a gorgeous dancer and performer, but also a strong choreographer and visual artist whose work has been commissioned and presented by both local and national companies that include LA Contemporary Dance Company, Heidi Duckler Dance Theater, Santa Barbara Dance Theater, Los Angeles Theater Center, River North Dance Chicago, and Thodos’ New Dances. Lemme is also an educator who has taught and created works for numerous college and university dance departments. She was a finalist chosen to present choreography for The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2010: Chicago. Lemme is currently a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Dance at California State University, Long Beach.

About Acts of Matter

Acts of Matter is a project-based performance group with a mission of revealing and reveling in our greater humanity through investment in process and collaboration. The work of the company is grounded in an unfettered willingness to attempt something while accepting the possibility of its failure. This physical exertion—this act of trying—is the core of humanity in the work. As a choreographer, Artistic Director Rebecca Lemme is inspired by the ability of movement to move people—to stir in them something innately human: the need to find connection. Acts of Matter hinges on the belief that as a society we are defined by what unites us—by what makes us similar, not what makes us different. Drawn from immensely personal inspiration, the work creates a window in which others can see their own experience reflected. The work suggests that at the core of every private struggle or individual joy is something universal.

To learn more about Stomping Ground L.A., please visit their WEBSITE.

Written by Jeff Slayton
LA Dance Chronicle received compensation for this article.

Featured image: Acts of Matter – “Forward Looking Back” – Cody Brunnelle-Potter – Photo by Malachi Middleton