Sustaining a dance company in Los Angeles has its challenges. Funding aside, LA covers 503 square miles connected by a notoriously congested freeway system, and it is a city whose income is stimulated primarily by the film industry, car dealerships, commercial videos and tourism. On Friday, February 15, 2019 Ate9 premiered a blind LAdy at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. It was a work that obliquely spoke to the isolation one experiences while surrounded by such a complexity of roadways and neighborhoods, each of which feels like a completely independent town. a blind LAdy featured one nude dancer (Sarah Butler) performing for the entire time alongside her clothed colleagues. Perhaps Danielle Agami, the Executive & Artistic Director of Ate9, saw herself as that singled out figure in an ocean of films, commercials, traffic and small villages. Or maybe the lone nude woman was representative of every person who lives and works in LA.
Of Agami’s works that I have seen, this was her most stark and isolating. Each character appeared cut off or lost among many. The work was, however, spiked with humor, as when a large movie screen was suddenly lowered in the middle of the work and, like watching a drama on local television stations, we were subjected to a series of commercials promoting McDonald’s, JC Penny, and a Mercedes Benz body repair shop. At first confusing, the symbolism became clear.
The set for a blind LAdy included a long, light green bench, a staid green, very high-backed chair and separated black backdrops which aided dancers to disappear behind while onstage. Seated on stage right was the extremely gifted composer and musician Lourdes Hernandez aka “Russian Red” whose bilingual songs reflected LA’s diversity. Her guitar music and vocals, mixed and amplified through expertly executed electronic sampling, added to the disconnectedness sentiment of Agami’s work.
Agami’s choreography and movement style was inspired by her training in the Gaga technique created by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Audiences here were not familiar with this training and for some, it continues to feel strange. Personally, I admire an artist who inspires me to think, to search and to expand my sensibilities. Agami is one such artist.
Sarah Butler has long stood out among the Ate9 dancers. She is a quiet but gorgeous performer with a unique way of moving that separates her from anyone else in the company. Performing onstage nude while everyone else was dressed in primarily elegant costumes must have been difficult. Butler, however, made it look natural and she never displayed any discomfort. She danced as she always has, with brilliance.
The look that greatly helped to express the loneliness and expansiveness for a blind LAdy was created by Lighting Designer Jeffrey Forbes. Lourdes Hernandez is a singer-songwriter, performer and artist from Madrid.
The performers who wonderfully maintained their individuality within Agami’s movement were Paige Amicon (Apprentice), Sarah Butler, Rebecah Goldstone, Devon Joslin, Cacia LaCount (Apprentice), Jordan Lovestrand, Jobel Medina, Genna Moroni, Alexander Quetell, Montay Romero, and Claire You (Apprentice).
calling glenn has matured and changed since last seen at CAP UCLA Royce Hall, but it still feels long. The work is beautifully structured, and the music performed onstage by the versatile musician and composer Glenn Kotche was thrilling. Agami’s appearance a director moving standing mikes around, picking up props and pointing out who should perform the next phrase was a nice touch, and the tiny circling red cars added an urban touch to the work.
As before, the most memorable sections included the extremely rhythmic walking lines and diagonals broken up by intricately choreographed and expertly performed solos that made each dancer stand out as individuals. Also, the line that included a short movement phrase performed in canon and then as opposing duets held my attention. A long section of duets that expressed love/hate, controlling or opposites attract, etc. relationships between couples was entertaining, but well outlasted its welcome.
There were wonderful solos by Goldstone and Genna Moroni. A very humorous theater-like section introduced the heartbreaking solo by Jobel Medina who was compelled to keep dancing by the composer’s tolling bell.
calling glenn was good, but it was not great; and it should have been. Agami has begun the editing process and this reviewer hopes that she will continue to put her expert artistic eye on its ingredients. It was not the length of the work that needed attention, it was how she managed that time.
The very talented and highly engaging dancers were Paige Amicon, Sarah Butler, Rebecah Goldstone, Devon Joslin, Cacia LaCount, Jordan Lovestrand, Jobel median, Genna Moroni, Alexander Quetell, Montay Romero, and Claire You. The elegant black laced costumes were designed by Eli James (Ghost Apparel) and the original lighting design was by Jeffrey Forbes.
For more information on Ate9, click here.
For view the list of programs at the Wallis Annenberg Center of the Performing Arts, click here.
For more information about Lourdes Hernandez aka Russian Red, click here.
For more information about Glenn Kotche, click here.
Featured image: Ate9 performs a blind LAdy by Danielle Agami at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; (l-r) Paige Amicon, Jobel Medina, Genna Moroni, Jordan Lovestrand, Devon Joslin, Rebecah Goldstone, Alexander Quetell; PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Steinberg