Deborah Brockus, producer of dance extraordinaire, with a strong desire to pull the Dance Community together, exposed an impressive array of talent to the ever-expanding Southern California dance audience.  At the Luckman Fine Arts Complex (one of the more challenging venues), her vision came together with a terrific and successful Los Angeles Dance Festival April 12, 13, and 14.  With loving care she, her crew, colleagues and the companies pulled it off in a spectacular way.  Every inch of space was used for what all were there for…dance!

The Friday, April 12th festivities began with a Pre-performance art show engaging us in the aesthetics of local beloved dancer, teacher and now talented photographer, Denise Leitner and others.

Luckman Fine Arts Complex

As we walked through the hallway and into the Black Box theatre across from the Main stage, we were then treated to a performance by the San Pedro Ballet, the childhood dance home of Misty Copeland.  The dancers in their black leotards and modern over circular skirts were transcendent with the beautifully intricate choreography (choreographer unnamed) to the heartrending Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings –Agnus Dei.  The circular movements and counterpoint was so moving in the young dancer’s harmony of movement and technical expertise.  The choreography lifted the audience above the mundane into the world of the spirit.  The work was a meditation and in such an appropriate space where all four sides of the theatre could savor the entire experience from a coliseum view of the patterns, it was unworldly.  It was truly an impressive piece done with such serious commitment.

We were then directed to move to the Large theatre across the courtyard where a crowd of dance luminaries and dance fans gathered.  Finding our way to our seats, with only a moment to spare, the lights went up on the diminutive and plucky Tina Finkelman Berkett of BODYTRAFFIC fame, with her high spirited technique and tongue-in-cheek joy, she presented with such verve, “NEW 45”, choreographed by the clever and talented Richard Siegal, directed Berkett to move with childlike joy to Clark Terry’s music.  In the second movement she met her match with the wonderful, loose-limbed Guzmán Rosado, whose balletic prowess with his beats (Brisé vole) and turns were so effortlessly executed.  The switch in leadership roles delighted the audience to the music of Harry Belafonte and Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen.  This was a terrific piece that warmed the audience and prepared them for this unique and eclectic evening of dance.

Luckman Theatre Stage - Photo courtesy of the Luckman Fine Arts

Luckman Theatre Stage – Photo courtesy of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex

LAST PIECE OF SKY” with choreographer and dancer Ido Tadmor coupling with Musician Joseph E-Shine wearing a sky-blue suit jacket and matching tie with an array of white clouds placed on both was a rather clear statement.  It appeared that no matter how Tadmor tried, he seemed to fade into the background when Shine with his ability to move easily, be fully focused and comfortable playing his instruments definitely out-Shined.

In Ate9’s piece “A BLIND LADY” choreographed by Danielle Agami there was sufficient angst in not only the dance but the music, originally composed and performed by Lourdes Hernandez.  To be sure the dancers, in their yearnings, were expert, however, in this excerpt it was not clear what the trading of pulsating bodies were attempting to say other than exposing non-discriminating human intercourse.  Perhaps the entire piece would have been more engaging.

Tina Finkelman Berkett Photo Cheryl Mann Bodytraffice Photo Cheryl Mann Ido Tadmor Photo Cheryl Mann Ido Tadmor2 Photo Cheryl Mann Ate9 Photo Cheryl Mann Ate9 2 Photo Cheryl Mann String Theory Photo Cheryl Mann String Theory4 Photo Cheryl Mann Bret Easterling Photo Cheryl Mann Bret Easterling2 Photo Cheryl Mann Deborah Brockus Photo Cheryl Mann Diavolo2 Photo Cheryl Mann Diavolo3 Photo Cheryl Mann
DIAVALO/Architecture in Motion in "Voyage" by Jacques Heim - Photo by Jacques Heim - Photo by Cheryl Mann

STRING THEORY performed “LANDSCAPE ONE” during the 20-minute Intermission done out on the courtyard. Choreographed by Holly Rothschild in collaboration with the dancers, it was a gorgeous piece, which the company considered to be a “work in progress” yet managed to transform the audience.

The dancers and musicians all in white were stunning, not only because of their stature but because of their technical expertise.  There was 5 silver strings with notes attached draped from Pillar-to-Post with the lovely Andrea Sobke, plucking those strands.  The strong lyrically exquisite dancers, Danny Dolan, Lavinia Findikoglu, Kearian Giertz, Andrea Sobke, and Carissa Songhorian were powerful, along with being technically striking.  They moved in and through the space with such control and beauty one did not want to miss any moment of their story telling.

The musicians were rhythmic, dynamic and aesthetically powerful, with the clear tones of Violinist’s and vocalist, Julie Pusch, who transformed the space into a kind of ancient temple of pure art.  The musicians included Robert Amjarv, Vivek Maddala, Danny Moynahan, Holly Rothschild, Luke Rothschild, Gavin Salmon, and Andrea Sobke.

BEMOVING – “BRECHT” (excerpts), choreographed and performed by Bret Easterling, with music by Maxwell Transue, began the Second Act.  It might be more aptly called a science project.  Its premise was to investigate ways to generate basic material composed only of the sounds made by the dancer and his passages in and out of the thoroughfare of microphones. There was a multitude of movements with sounds being picked up through a forest of stand-up mics which when the sounds played back acted as a kind of living breathing sound scape as its musical score.  Fascinating and yet curious to those who did not read the program notes.

And as ever, DIAVALO/Architecture in Motion under the leadership of Jacques Heim performed “VOYAGE”, with Music by The Crystal Method, thrilled and mesmerized the dance crowd with their gymnastics and underscoring of the Moon Landing.

The use of moveable doors, see-thru tubes and large spoked metal wheels divided in four sections, all daring the audience to not be nervous about the company defying gravity.  And yet, no matter how many times one sees the company, it is always spectacular, fearless, exciting, inventive, and brave.  This performance was no exception.  The dancers, Christopher Borrero, Christopher Carvalho, Kate Dougherty, Daniel Jacob Glenn, ,Simon Greenberg, Brandon Grimm, Shenandoah Harris, Aubrey Lawrence, Kelsey Long, Majella Loughran, Danielle Maloney, Abraham Meisel and Matthew Wagner, were so clearly performers who knew what “teamwork” was, in a day-and-age of the “Me Generation.”  With teamwork just being another dirty word for dominion, Diavolo, the company, always remains refreshing and new.

This evening was a delicious gumbo of inventive, stimulating and, yes, joyous dance and performance.  The Los Angeles Dance Festival was an inspiration to keep supporting and developing talent in the Southern California dance community.  This well-planned and organized honoring and exposure of both new and well-established companies so energizes the community.  There is always something for everyone, which makes Brockus’ Los Angeles Dance Festival, a fantastic and important event and hopefully an institution where all can gather and experience the incredible talent SOCAL has in its midst.

For more information on Los Angeles Dance Festival and tickets to FRINGE, click here.

For more information on the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, click here.

Featured image: DIAVALO/Architecture in Motion – Photo by Sharen Bradford