Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz, housed at the Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, with its director, Pierre LeLoup, and director/choreographer, Deborah Brockus of BrockusRED’s – Extractions, welcomed the audience for an evening of dance, wine and warmth on December 7, 2023. Brockus, a generous regisseur and educator in the L.A., national and international dance scene, presented a fascinating installation; a lovely exhibit on large wall easels in the entranceway of Theatre Kabbaz. It was a precursor to Brockus’ creative and choreographic process giving context to the pieces that would be performed that evening.
Strolling through the doors of the intimate theatre and sitting comfortably in its welcoming space, LeLoup spotlit on stage, gave a short history including that this was the only bilingual French and English theatre in Los Angeles. He then introduced the program for the evening and from the first strains of DakhaBrakha’s moving and powerful music, it was clear from the very beginning that Brockus had moved beyond the often-used white noise of contemporary dance. Her musical tastes, with tuneful, rhythmic, soulful and, at times, obscure world music was fascinating. Her choreographic design and costume acumen, even her introduction of mythical and universal themes challenged her and the company. The potential for distinction was clear pending time and resources.
In her opening piece, Woman’s Stillness, five female dancers, Mara Hancock, Denali Huff, Joyln Rea, Rebecca Lee, and Ann Lee Rohovec’s lyrical and dynamic dance interpretation was a section from the Brockus’ suite, As Ancient and Young as Spring. The piece was influenced by Jean-François Millet’s 1857 pastural oil painting, The Gleaners. The movement was plucked from Brockus’ memories of women working, their enduring strength, and of cultures in the past working to survive in difficult times. A theme so appropriate and potent in today’s world when “the tradition and wisdom from our ancestors [would be] valuable to help us in times of trouble” (Brockus).
The second contribution was the “thoughts inside Americans” entitled Song of Myself – American Voices with short clips of poetry from the 1800-1900’s (Dickenson, Hughes, Whitman, Roethke and Frost) over Andre Previn’s sympatico music. With this, she added dancers Arturo Gonzales and Bryan Burns to the mix to join Hancock, Rae and Huff. They were to describe in movement the subtext of American thought through music and poetry. It was done with sincere effort, but at times, was in competition with itself… dance against words.
Antiquities inspired by the Roman marble relief, “The Borghese Dancers” which caught and preserved the young dancing women in the Frieze at their moments of action in the 2nd century A.D. Antiquities was brought to life with a pulsating heartbeat mixed with Mendelssohn’s rich languorous music. Life soon animated the dancers. Rohovec’s lovely lyricism, with an over enthusiastic Lee’s kinetic counter and Burns uneasy technical ability, made the effort not fully realized.
“My soul is shattered
My heart is rent
I will spend a lifetime
Making fragments whole”
Love shattered and a life repaired (Fragments of the Soul: 1994 Dr. J. Cacciatore)
Fragments of the Soul appeared to be the perfect pre-intermission piece. It examined the range of human emotions and was constructed in five movements: Shards, Engulfed, Repressed, Rage, and Aria. The legato eastern European feel of the music, “Dead Can Dance,” supported by the underscoring of the droning vocal bass line with the sudden sound of breaking glass was a stunning start. A piece that examined the colors of human emotions was a perfect tour de force for Hancock who showed not only her willingness to fully express her acting ability and her power as a dancer. Rohovec’s intriguing subtlety in movement, her lithe line and technique, her clean commitment also captured the focus of the audience. She was joined by the long legged power of Jolyn Rae and supported by Lee, Huff, and Burns. The piece ranged at times from slow motion to bombastic action and described well the shades of the fragmented soul.
After a break, the evening resumed, examining the environment in Oil-Pandora’s Box. It addressed the photos and writing of dedicated environmental heroes that led the fight against oil vs the planet and gave the spirit of hope. It was performed with the full company.
The spirit is again addressed in The New Yogi, embodying the concept that “we all in our own way can make the world better” from poetry by James Mihaley and danced by Charlotte Smith. Seated on a chair on the empty stage, her engaging cross between acting and effortless movement, made her distinct. She expressed a kind of spirit dance, that when discovered, we realized that we have been in the middle of a kind of meditation.
Soul, danced by Hancock, Rohovec, and Huff, with music by the brilliant Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt was a strong ethereal work, well designed and technically danced. A perfect lead to the final work.
The last piece, inspired by paintings in the Louvres of gods in the sky, The Brightness of Light expressed a light as it touches the clouds…offering glimpses of another world. Women in lustrous grey tunics, men in grey shirts and pants, melded with the background of sky and clouds at sunset. Rachmaninov’s soaring music inspired hope and expressed beautifully through the solos, duets and power of the full company to end the piece and the evening at a high point.
A congratulations goes out to Deborah Brockus and BrockusRED; Raymond Theatre Kabbaz and Pierre LeLoup for a lovely evening of dance that educated and enriched. Thank you for persisting and surviving through some very rough years for the arts to share your talent and support once again with the L.A. community.
For more information about BrockusRED, please visit their website.
For more information about Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz, please visit their website.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: BrockusRED in Oil-Pandora’s Box – photo by Denise Leitner