Dance at The Odyssey has presented the works of numerous Los Angeles choreographers with diverse movement training and styles. On Saturday, July 15, 2023, Alejandro Perez’s SIDE BY SIDE brought together street and contemporary dance styles while investigating the complex personal relationships between lovers, friends, society vs. “the other,” and more. The images were both abstract and blatant, loving and not so much. The performance of the eleven dancers was exciting and at times exhausting as there was so much packed into this one evening-length work that required time to digest and absorb.

Alejandro Perez - Photo by Melody Mariah

Alejandro Perez – Photo by Melody Mariah

At a young age, Perez demonstrated a mastering of directing the audience’s eye, diverting their gaze while setting up another scene onstage. A duet performed halfway up on the risers’ stairway made a row of performers lined up underneath a long strip of white cloth appear onstage unnoticed. Perez did this throughout the evening in a variety of ways. What he was also great at were his “transitions” between sections, duets into trios, trios into solos, etc.

There is a wonderful career ahead for Perez if he continues in this direction. His lifts, both standing and while on the floor, were inventive and often startling due to where they ended – a person left standing on one leg with their free foot locked around the neck of another. The ease with which he utilizes the manipulation of one person and their partner was both amazing and disturbing. This was a theme that ran throughout SIDE BY SIDE, to the point of becoming concerning.

The concern was from a dance critic’s view looking at the repetitiveness of certain physical statements, but it was also from a human desire for people to be nicer to those they do not know, whom society has labeled “the other,” or how one’s actions are felt by someone we might not even know. It was my humble opinion that Perez repeated himself causing the “punch” to be weakened.

I sat next to a lovely woman who was/is of Japanese heritage. We chatted during the intermission and she told me that some of the gestures in Perez’s movement vocabulary reflected how she felt after a long day of dealing with a privileged society. It appeared that she physically felt many of the performers’ gestures. During the second half of SIDE BY SIDE, I attempted to observe through her eyes, hoping that I was not part of what caused that pain.

(L-R) Gretchen Ackerman, Alejandro Perez in Perez's SIDE BY SIDE - Photo by Chris Emile

(L-R) Gretchen Ackerman, Alejandro Perez in Perez’s SIDE BY SIDE – Photo by Chris Emile

The dancers, Perez, Gretchen Ackerman, Marco Polomino, Marirosa Crawford, Quinlan Branch aka “Hyperbolic Q,” JM Rodriguez, Sandy Strangis, Chelsea Roquero, Noelle Hauptman-Anderson, Madaline ‘Mad Linez’ Riley, and Jordan Slaffey performed Perez extremely physical and complex movement phrases with an ease that was seamless and breath-taking. Standouts were the tall and elegant Ackerman whose technical skill is matched by her performance presence; Rodriquez, who is familiar because of his tenure with LA Contemporary Dance Company, demanded one to look at him because of the ease and clarity with which he performs; “Hyperbolic Q” with his fluidity and power; and Slaffey’s dynamic performance during her brief but poignant solo.

I look forward to seeing more of Alejandro Perez’s work and to the performances by this group of astonishing dance artists.

The Dance at The Odyssey series continues through July 23, 2023 with works by Marcella Lewis, Lara Wilson, and Vanessa Hernández Cruz. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit their website. The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is located at 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tel. no. (310) 477-2055.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Alejandro Perez (front) and Gretchen Ackerman in Perez’s SIDE BY SIDE – Photo by Chris Emile