Judith Sánchez Ruíz and Laurel Jenkins danced together as members of the Trisha Brown Dance Company. They met up again to perform their own works at the we live in space in Los Angeles, a small studio owned and operated by choreographer/performer Meg Wolfe. The performance space at this venue is small, 48 ft. by 18ft., but the intimate space worked beautifully for these two seasoned dance artists.

Judith Sánchez Ruíz was born in Cuba and trained at the National School of Arts of La Habana and the Instituto Superior de Arte. She has worked in dance companies in Cuba, Spain, Germany and the US. Now working as an independent artist, she contacted her colleague, Jenkins, to share an evening in LA. Her solo titled ENCAJE was inspired by the act of novelist Anaïs Nin writing in her diary every day for most of her life.  Ruíz, searching for a way to expand her own choreographic voice, decided to incorporate this exercise of keeping a diary. To put it simply, how she felt each day created movements that she eventually pulled together. This process spanned weeks, if not months. The finished product was a solo that I found riveting.

Judith Sánchez Ruíz in ENCAJE – Photo: Albert Vidal

Dressed in an all-black jump suit designed by Berlin based artist Beate Borrmann, Ruíz gave an extremely personal and introspective performance to the sometimes haunting electronic music of ARCA, the stage name for Venezuelan born and London based artist Alejandro Ghersi. Ruíz is tall and long-limbed, and her movement would fill the space and then instantly shrink into a compact form. Throughout the solo, however, Ruíz’s eyes told her entire story. They searched, penetrated and during one short section, felt like they were exploring the one’s soul. ENCAJE appears to be an internal search for self. The monster claws, the closing of eyes to settle and look inward for a way to proceed, and the freedom of movement that surveys the space around her once that decision has been reached.

Ruíz is a beautiful dancer and her presence is astonishing. She both incorporated and worked against the music as she wove together her current movement vocabulary. The process that she calls “Diary exercise” and “Radio exercise” have served her well. The movement in ENCAJE is totally hers and hers alone. She owns it, inhabits it and generously shares herself with her audience.

CYCLES SCORES is a duet for Laurel Jenkins and Judith Sánchez Ruíz to honor the memory of choreographer, dancer, performer Trisha Brown who passed away in March of 2017. Alistair Maculay called Brown a “Pillar of Postmodern Dance” in his March 20, 2017 article for the New York Times. Vermont based choreographer and performer Laurel Jenkins performed with Brown’s company from 2007 to 2012. She put together a movement score that represented five eras of Trisha Brown’s work when she heard that Ruíz wanted to perform in the US. Jenkins lived and worked in Los Angeles for several years and used her connections to help arrange this performance.

Laurel Jenkins – Photo: Alan Kimara Dixon

CYCLES SCORES is, in truth, a trio with composer Brian Wood performing onstage with Jenkins and Ruíz. Wood’s music incorporated guitar, flute, and his vocals included whistling, singing and other sounds that were looped into his electronic equipment that became additional ingredients of Jenkins’ structured and spontaneous improvisation. The women’s movement resembled the loose, released technique inspired traits of Trisha Brown’s style, but their individuality shone through with inspiring clarity.

Laurel Jenkins, Judith Sánchez Ruíz, Brian Wood in CYCLES SCORE – Photo: LA Dance Chronicle

The work began with Brian Wood performing a section of his music before Jenkins entered and danced slow sustained movements. As Ruíz entered, the movement shifted to what Jenkins later referred to as accumulative ricochet improvisation. One performer dances a short phrase and the other picks up on it to repeat and add to. They each would move to stand at the side as the other performed; smiling at each other occasionally as if to say, “I like the choices that you are making” or “That’s challenging”.  Another section was playful with the two women physically connected as they moved through the space; a push of a hip or arm propelling the other into a different direction and shape. Elements of Contact Improvisation came through in this section.

Near the end, the performers’ movements became sensual and slow. Stillness burst into brief percussive phrases and then settled back into stillness. Level changes and mood shifts emanated from and through the movement, and often instigated the next quality. They finished with stillness, standing in place while letting the music fade. I, for one, could have watched these two women perform together for much longer.

This was the first and, sadly, perhaps the last time this duet will be performed by Ruíz and Jenkins. During the Q&A that followed, Jenkins did say that she might use a similar type of movement score for other situations.

There is only one more opportunity to see this performance and that is tonight at the we live in space at 8:30pm. Seating is limited. For information and tickets, click here.

To view the LA Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.