This evening was a retrospective combining some old and new works from the repertoire of the company BrockusRED. Artistic Director Deborah Brockus welcomed us and explained that Balance is what is needed in these times, and I could not agree with her more. Ah, but how to get it? Brockus utilized different themes in her work in order to bring Balance to her and her company, and by association, the audience. The shared experience of witnessing dance and the performers is what makes the Artform so immediate, so human, so instantly comprehensible to the senses of those watching. These works had very different emotions attached and as the evening progressed a cathartic experience was evident.

What I like about Studio showcases is that the dancers are right on top of you spinning and sweating and it really brings home that incredibly hard work involved in any performance. There is nowhere to hide, or fumble. All must be perfectly executed or the audience will immediately know something is amiss. There was no such worry during “Balance” as all of the pieces rolled out smoothly.

BrockusRED - (L-R) Jolyn Rae, Denali Huff, Mara Hancock in "Boulders & Birds - Photo by Denise Leitner.

BrockusRED – (L-R) Jolyn Rae, Denali Huff, Mara Hancock in “Boulders & Birds – Photo by Denise Leitner.

Some of the fast costume changes were worthy of David Copperfield. One of the dancers, Rebecca Lee, had an amazingly quick costume change and I had to look twice to see if it were the same performer as my eyes would not let me believe it. Kudos to all of the quick changes as they can prove a necessary skill while on tour. Speaking of which, all costumes for the evening were by Deborah Brockus. These ran the gamut from form-fitting unitard jumpers to Whirling Dervish skirts with embroidered appliqué. It was an impressive array throughout the evening and served to enhance the performance considerably.

There were eight pieces on the program split with an intermission which was welcome as sitting for so many works back-to-back can be somewhat fatiguing. And wonderfully there were snacks and drinks to be had at the intermission which allowed for digestion of what was just seen and a brief respite to stretch and refresh for what was to come.

BrockusRED in "Oil-Pandora's Box" - Photo by Denise Leitner

BrockusRED in “Oil-Pandora’s Box” – Photo by Denise Leitner

“Oil – Pandora’s Box” was first on the program and had a message about Oil, and presumably the Oil Industry ruining the planet in the form of Fossil Fuels. From the program, “Humanity should have left oil in the ground, bringing it to the surface has unleashed our doom.” The same could be said about coal, diamonds, copper, gold, sulfur, salt, etc. The opening visual of the group of dancers all in a clump and undulating as if a pool of oil was erupting from the ground was very strong. This evolved into general angst and despair as humans are made to feel the effects of Climate Change brought on by the relentless commodification of natural resources and oil in particular. The group movement worked best when in unison. Music by The Hu, Värttinä, Hedningarna.

“Famine/no touch” (excerpt from Quest: Mankind’s Journey) This was a section from a larger piece which ponders why humans move around the world. The reasons given were “love/loss/war/redemption” and this duet with two men described “the inability to connect with one another” from the “Loss“ portion of the program. The dancers Arturo Gonzales and Harry Peterson did a fine job of emoting and creating the tension inherent in wanting desperately to connect but being unable to do so. Every time they tried some unseen force stopped them form actually touching each other. Music by Madredeaus.

BrockusRED in "Had We But World Enough and Time - Center dancer Mara Hancock - Photo by Denise Leitner.

BrockusRED in “Had We But World Enough and Time – Center dancer Mara Hancock – Photo by Denise Leitner.

“Had We but World Enough and Time” This piece utilized the large scrim upstage to show a video of moving through a landscape of nature. At times dancers within the video landscape are shown on the screen while the Brockus dancers perform on the stage. There was a juxtaposition of which performance to watch – the one on the large screen or the one on stage in front of us. This dichotomy was a major issue as one had to choose where to put one’s eye and consequently the opposite dancers and movement were lost. The program reads: “Civilizations come and go through the march of time” and they certainly did within the time frame of this one piece. Music by Cheb I Sabbah.

BrockusRED - (L-R) Arturo Gonzalles, Rebecca Lee, Harry Peterson (in back), Joyln Rae in "Edges, Lines and Corners"- Center dancer Mara Hancock - Photo by Denise Leitner.

BrockusRED – (L-R) Arturo Gonzalles, Rebecca Lee, Harry Peterson (in back), Joyln Rae in “Edges, Lines and Corners”- Center dancer Mara Hancock – Photo by Denise Leitner.

“Edges, Lines and Corners” This work, according to the program notes, is about “boundaries that we place around ourselves for protection and those that trap us.” The four dancers here used two sticks each in order to define their boundaries and also to encapsulate themselves for safety or out of fear. This concept seems popular these days as it was just outlined and described in a show by Kybele Dance Theatre’s production of “Sinir/Siz (Border/less) which uses strings instead of sticks but has the format of boundaries which then become entrapments for those who use them. Why this theme now? Is it because our own borders are such a flashpoint of political contention? Is it because of the current turmoil in the world defining populations into us and them? I don’t know. In one quiet moment during Brockus’ piece the four dancers sit for a group portrait reminiscent of the United Colors of Benetton ads. It was a serenely beautiful moment. Music by Peter Askim.

BrockusRED in "Brightness of Light" - Photo by Denise Leitner.

BrockusRED in “Brightness of Light” – Photo by Denise Leitner.

“The Brightness of Light” This piece was “inspired by the Gods in the sky in paintings in the Louvre“, also “the brightness of the light as it touches the clouds at sunset offering glimpses of another world as our night begins.” Evening has always been a magical time for humanity and there are volumes written about it throughout mythology. Don Juan De Matus calls it “The crack between the worlds” when great magic is possible. The last image of the group holding up one of their own to reach/touch the sky is a good metaphor for every human endeavor since the beginning of time. There were moments when I felt the music by Sergei Rachmaninov overwhelmed the choreography. His extremely sumptuous melodies and themes are difficult to match physically unless one can levitate.

BrockusRED in "City" (From "Edge of the Sands") - Photo by Denise Leitner.

BrockusRED in “City” (From “Edge of the Sands”) – Photo by Denise Leitner.

“City” and “Isolation” (from Edge of the Sands) The images for this piece were of the searing desert sands and mud cities made from the desert itself. The costumes were bright red and alluded to the Whirling Dervishes with music by Phil Thorton & Hossam Ramzy, David Holland. The “City” section was danced by the full company and then segued into “Isolation,” a solo for Raven Smith. This was a strong counter to the group work in the first section and spoke to the strength of the individual. Isolation in any early society meaning a death sentence.

BrockusRED - "Women's Stillness" - Photo by Denise Leitner.

BrockusRED – “Women’s Stillness” – Photo by Denise Leitner.

“Women’s Stillness” (from As Ancient and Young as Spring.Here the costumes of shimmering gold sheaths worked well to offset the physicality of the women working. Set up in trios, duets and group movement the piece delivers a glimpse of the inner strength of these women who went before. Music by DakhaBrakha.

“Always Ever Amber” Unlike the feeling of “The Brightness of Light” this piece is moored in natural effects, such as water running in a stream, the granite cliffs, boulders and birds, trees and the joy of being in nature. A double duet showcased the partnering talents of Peterson/Rohovec and Burns/Lee, while a trio of Hancock/Rae/Lee flew through their choreography. The finale was a full company tour-de-force that was joyous and celebratory exulting in the simple fact of humanity belonging to Nature. Music by Greene String Quartet.

The company: Mara Hancock, Denali Huff, Rebecca Lee, Anne Lee Rohovec, Jolyn Rae, Bryan Burns, Arturo Gonzales, Raven Smith, Harry Peterson. Lighting by Evan Nie, sound by Mike Grimms.

For more information about BrockusRED, please visit their website.

Written by Brian Fretté for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Arturo Gonzales, Harry Peterson and Joyln Gonzales in “Edges, Lines and Corners” – Photo by Denise Leitner.