Celebrating its 21st season, Backhausdance performed on February 17, 2024, at L.A. Dance Project with three Los Angeles premieres and the revival of another. The choreographers whose works on this program were seen for the first time in Los Angeles were Peter Chu, FLOCK: Alice Klock & Florian Lochner, and Amanda Kay White. It was Artistic Director Jennifer Backhaus’ delightful work Love and Other Impossibilities which premiered at the Alex Theatre in 2006.

Backhaus currently has a very strong group of dancers who proved that they are capable of performing a diverse repertoire of choreographic styles and have the stamina it takes to dance them well throughout an evening. They were Kira Bartoli, Samuel DeAngelo, Mo Goodfellow, Kaitwan Jackson, Sophia Lang, Katie Natwick, Adrien Padilla, Kaitlin Regan, Chihiro Sano, Kyle Schrader, Marco Vega, Samantha Waugh, and Apprentice Anne Elise Garrison who performed in Backhaus’ work.


Backhausdance - "The Barest Echo" by FLOCK: Alice Klock & Florian Lochner - Photo by Shawna Sarnowski.

Backhausdance – “The Barest Echo” by FLOCK: Alice Klock & Florian Lochner – Photo by Shawna Sarnowski.

FLOCK’s The Barest Echo, set to music by several different composers, opened the program and although the choreography was very good, extremely complex and almost constantly on the move, it lacked variety. Arms interlocked, groups entangled, expanded and then retracted, but as the work progressed, each new section became more and more familiar leaving one with a sense of Deja vu. The program notes stated: The Barest Echo explores the physical and metaphorical power of breath. There were moments that reflected the action of breathing but without a moment of peaceful ease.

Bravo to the dancers who gave this work 100%: Kira Bartoli, Samuel DeAngelo, Morgan Goodfellow, Katie Natwick, Adrien Padilla, Kaitlin Regan, Kyle Schrader, and Marco Vega.

The lighting for The Barest Echo was adapted from original design by Stacy Fireheart and the costumes were designed by Jennifer Deck.

Following a brief pause, Backhaus’ enchanting exploration into relationships of all types titled Love and Other Impossibilities filled the space with humor, insight and delicious dancing. One might call this a crowd pleaser, but if one paid attention, Backhaus dissected a myriad of relationship possibilities and outcomes. Inspired by a personal experience, Backhaus took her pain and sadness and turned it into art. On the surface one was entertained but beneath that was so much more.

The cast that appeared to love performing Love and Other Impossibilities was Samuel DeAngelio, Kaitwan Jackson, Sophia Lang, Katie Natwick, Kaitlin Regan, Chihiro Sano, Kyle Schrader, and Anne Elise Garrison.

The music was by Pink Martini, Costume Design by Rhonda Earick, restaging adaptations by Jennifer Deck, and Lighting Design adapted from original design by Stacy Fireheart.

Backhausdance in "I Am Dangerous and Blooming" choreographed by Amanda Kay White - Photo by Shawna Sarnowski.

Backhausdance in “I Am Dangerous and Blooming” choreographed by Amanda Kay White – Photo by Shawna Sarnowski.

Following intermission, Associate Artistic Director Amanda Kay White’s new work I Am Dangerous and Blooming began with beautifully constructed movement phrases including dancers moving in a circle that seamlessly developed into duets, and a caterpillar-shaped line that expanded outward and then reformed. The work was really well made and performed but I kept thinking ‘What does this have to do with the title’? It was energic, varied in tempos and energy, and again, extremely well made. I felt, however, that the dance wanted simply to be a movement piece a la the postmodern era, without its title trying to force it into becoming something more. Ms. White has a lot of potential as a choreographer and I hope that she continues to make dances.

The dynamic cast of I Am Dangerous and Blooming was Kira Bartoli, Morgan Goodfellow, Adrien Padilla, Marco Vega, and Samantha Waugh. The music was by a variety of composers; Sound Design by Connor Lemon; Original Lighting Design by Stacy Fireheart; and Costume Design by Jennifer Deck.

Backhausdance - "Portals of Being" by Peter Chu - Photo by Shawna Sarowski.

Backhausdance – “Portals of Being” by Peter Chu – Photo by Shawna Sarowski.

Each work on the program began with a short video of the choreographer talking about what inspired their dance. Peter Chu stated that he had recently been thinking a lot about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Portals of Being was created to music written, performed and produced by Djeff Houle and Glimpses, written and performed by Alex Ebert, and like the theme of Chu’s work, the music was electronic, futuristic and at times haunting. The costumes by Jennifer Deck also reflected AI, including at various times two performers wearing black plastic face coverings like those seen worn by robots in sci-fi movies.

Portals of Being came across as a prediction of the future; human work forces being replaced by AI and robotic machines created in the image of their creators. Chu spent a long time depicting the AI but too short a time depicting the reason humanity began resisting or striking back. It was a great attempt that just fell short of achieving Chu’s vision. That said, Portals of Being had moments of excellence.

As already mentioned, the dancers in Backhausdance are wonderful. There is, however, one who deserves special mention: Katie Natwick, whose stage presence always attracts one’s eye is matched only by her fearless yet controlled dancing. Also kudos go out to Kaitlin Regan and Samuel DeAngelio who stood out whenever they were onstage.

Backhausdance will be presenting this very diverse program on March 27, 2024 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click HERE. Or call (949) 854-4646.

I highly recommend that you go.

For more information about Backhausdance, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Backhausdance in Love and Other Impossibilities choreographed by Jennifer Backhaus – Photo by Shawna Sarnowski.