If you were fortunate enough to be at The Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 3, 2023, you too experienced an amazing evening of performances by the Ballet British Columbia (Ballet BC) company members under the leadership of artistic director Medhi Walerski. It was a program of very different works by three incredibly talented choreographers, three extremely diverse music scores, and lighting designs that not only enhanced the dancers but totally re-sculptured the environment they performed. If you were not there, do not make that mistake when this dynamic and versatile company returns.
Sharon Eyal was born in Jerusalem and worked with the Batsheva Dance Company as a dancer, choreographer and as Associated Director between 1990 and 2012. Her work Bedroom Folk was beautiful even though at times it felt like an assault on all of one’s senses and a test of patience. The music score by Ori Lichtik was the driving force behind the work. To say that it was repetitive would be an understatement. Its rhythmic beat found its way into one’s body and rattled one’s bones almost to the point of hysteria, and yet it was extraordinarily exhilarating.
Fourteen dancers dressed in black costumes designed by Rebecca Hytting performed in lighting designer Thierry Dreyfus’ stark half-light against a black curtain or while in silhouette against a backdrop bathed in red. In Bedroom Folk, Eyal proved that it is possible to construct a dance almost totally in unison while occasionally breaking it up with subtleties of precision or by stunning solos as the one danced by Sidney Chuckas that contrasted a luscious lyricism against a driving and overpowering sound score.
Bedroom Folk has been described as mesmerizing, and it was that but so much more. I felt that Eyal’s choreography, Lichtik’s unrelenting beats and Dreyfus’ lighting were designed to awaken something primal with me. It was as if they were saying “Wake up and take action or you might not survive.”
The program did not list the dancers due to a last minute cast change. There were 14 dancers in Bedroom Folk and 15 dancers listed on the company’s website. So, I will put their names here. Luca Afflitto, Emily Chessa, Sidney Chuckas, Livona Ellis, Michael Garcia, Orlando Harbutt, Kiana Jung, Patrick Kilbane, Èline Malégue, Benjamin Peralta, Sarah Pippin, Vivian Ruiz, Rae Srivastava, Kayline Sturtevant, and Jacob Williams. Bedroom Folk was co-created by Gai Behar.
Crystal Pite is a very sought-after choreographer and dancer who began her performing career with Ballet BC and later joined Ballett Frankfurt while it was under the leadership of William Forsyth. She formed her own company, Kidd Pivot, which became the resident dance company of the German theatre Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in 2010.
Pite’s The Statement involved just four dancers, a set design by Jay Gower Taylor that included a large oval shaped conference table, a large hanging lamp with a shade the same size and shape as the table, and lighting design by Tom Visser that separated the dancers, united them again and at times startled the viewer. Dressed in corporate work clothes designed by Crystal Pite and Joke Visser, the performers met, discussed and debated providing those in command “upstairs” with a statement of accountability or responsibility.
This could have been any large corporation that handles conflicts that might cause bloodshed of any kind in any country around the world. The Statement took on how decisions made by people within the safety of their offices can cause havoc and/or harm anywhere on the globe, and how those involved are often not held responsible even when they know that they are.
The Statement was fantastic dance theater and Pite moved her dancers on, under and around the conference table with choreography that reflected and visualized the recorded dialogue between the characters; dialogue that was written by Jonathon Young and voiced by Meg Roe, Colleen Wheeler, Andrew Wheeler, and Jonathon Young. There was a man and woman who made the decisions, a woman supervisor and a mediator from “upstairs” who was there to collect a statement.
Pite does not disclose where or when her work takes place or what the conflict is exactly. We know that blood has been shed and that more people could possibly be hurt, but she leaves the rest for the viewer to imagine. The Statement is dance art and the dancers who helped make it a joy to watch were Livona Ellis, Luca Afflitto, Rae Srivastava, and Sarah Pippin.
Medhi Walerski’s GARDEN was a gorgeous work highlighting the technical strengths of each of the ten dancers performing. It was a piece that came close to being a pure movement dance but for Walerski’s dramatic overtones and a set that periodically divided the space and left faces peering over the top of a half-risen gray curtain.
Walerski wove dancers together with duets, solos, quartets and quintets; duets that moved in and around trios that dispersed into powerful or delicate solos, only to be swallowed up by all ten dancers on stage at once. Dancers moved rapidly across the stage dropping off or gathering up one or two dancers. Lighting by Theun Mosk instantaneously altered the mood and shape of the work. GARDEN was a moving sculpture garden of astonishingly beautiful creatures whose physical abilities were enhanced by the beige colored unitards designed by Walerski and Joke Visser.
For more information on Ballet BC, please visit their website.
To learn more about The Segerstrom Center for the Arts, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Artists of Ballet BC in Bedroom Folk by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar – photo © Michael Slobodian