The BrockusRED performance “Will, A Mile High” at the Diavolo Dance Space, was an aesthetic banquet of social and spiritual reminders. This was a particularly moving send-off for BrockusRed’s beloved dancer, Will Clayton. He and we celebrate his talent and passion for dance and bid adieu as he makes his next career move to Denver, Colorado.
With this farewell performance, there were no gimmicks – it was pure dance, washed in shadows and light, both stating and hinting at historical context and aesthetic purity in costume and movement. The commitment and individual talents of the dancers Will Clayton, Leah Hamel, Julienne Mackey, Moises Josue Michel, Dominique McDougal, Rein Short, Luciana Johnson, Isaac Huerta, Erin Galvin, Spencer Gray, Cersha Burn, and Raymond Ejiofor added intensity, focus, commitment and excitement to the evening. Ms. Brockus is a leader in Los Angeles dance. She offers her sense of intelligent visual, musical and emotional choreographic design. Her distinctive musicality and movement is structured from the classic fugues, theme and variations, poetic sound exploration and a well of remarkable insights that touch the heart and senses. She fiercely juxtaposes this sensibility with intense sharp angles, rhythms and dynamic technique, always reflected in not only her passionate choices of dancers but of courageous themes. Intelligence and feeling marks her distinctive work filled with her innate sense of color and understanding of dance as an art. She continuously marks her generosity, which overflows, to her dancers, choreographers, students and the dance community.
THE GREAT BEYOND
At the opening of the evening we are transported to “The Great Beyond,” which is poetically dedicated to the boundless life and mind of Stephen Hawking. The concept developed by Deborah Brockus with Choreography created by the dancers Burn, Hamel, McKay, Josue Michel, McDougal, Short and Johnson.
The lights dim, and in the dark, dancers appear as ghostly images in front of the performance space. One follows the other in domino-like, individual, personal and languorous movements. A unique mixture of sounds and vibrations accompany this human exploration of the space. The dancers move onto the stage covered with an opaque overlay dotted with lights encapsulated within the membrane covering the stage. The lights direct our sight diagonally right and left. Like alien beings, the rhythm and design with each dancer is carried both with and against the pulsating ethereal sounds …a 4/4 against a 6/8, 2/4 against 5/8, each body expressing its own inner rhythm and unique movement. All of it culminates through the focus and drive of the dancers as they appear, intersect and disappear. Rein Short, the final dancer fades up left as the membrane of lights, seem to then be swallowed up slowly in a type of black hole, leaving the space silent and empty as the light fades
The AMERICAN DREAM
The inspiration for these excerpts from a longer Brockus piece was the Social Protests of the Great Depression and songs of conscience which inspired the use of music by Tracy’s Chapman’s, “Talking about a Revolution.”
We are reminded of the settling of America, dancers in muted earth tones, men in overalls and billowing shirts, women in blouses and calf length skirts, interact, coupling and covering the stage westward to the words of the Bill of Rights and Langston Hughes, with poetry adapted and read by Deborah Brockus. Will Clayton, his long arms and legs spreading nearly half the width of the stage, begins his emotional tribute which crescendos and trades places with the dynamic Dominique McDougal, a wiry coffee skinned dancer, whose power and expressive technique gives the sense of the fear, despair and protest down through time. His turns and leaps, rather than just showing technical prowess, expresses the confusion and frustration of a people fighting, clawing, crawling to survive.
And as this suite of pieces advance to its end, the company, in dynamic confrontation, faces front… two rows run forward, roll and reach, ending with the strains of Amazing Grace.
This piece is a duet between Bassist, Zac Greenberg, who wrote and played his original score, and dancer Leslie Duner. The piece was choreographed by Charlotte Katherine Smith and costumed by Diana MacNeil. Jupiter is a pas de deux between two art forms, the live music of the bassist and the seductive movement of dance. It wanted and needed to show the connection somehow between the two. This expectation did not quite hit the mark. The music, at moments, melodious, at other times growled with a sound scape. It attempted to touch and express the feeling of the movement. However, both artists seemed to be passing each other by. Miss Smith’s choreography did not utilize the relationships, nor the space given her, and the concept did not translate nor was carried through on what she was attempting to reveal; the audience’s need to feel some communication. Unfortunately, this never came to fruition, often becoming just a meager attempt at trying to say “something.” It was not clear if the difficulty was with the concept, the choreography, the dancer, the chemistry between the bassist and dancer, but perhaps rethinking the piece might have refurbished it. However, the dynamic that would have given the audience a sense of emotion and caring for the couple never materialized and the appearance was that it was obscure and inauthentic.
AS MEMORY FADES TO WHISPER
Having seen this piece a second time, at first glance it is clearly beautifully constructed, intricate and intelligent. Ms. Brockus revealed that this moving explorational metaphor was dedicated to her father and his journey as his brain waned in later life. Her willingness to share her insights, and translate those into movement, was a welcome and moving experience. This so clarified my own mother’s battle and it felt deeply native, evoking emotional recognition as the piece unfolded.
The piece began with tunicked women and men dressed in shades of light and dark grays. The music, electronic in nature, created by DJ Cheb/Sabbah, Urban Tribe, William Orbit, Alex Gifford and Tabla Best Science, was haunting with its tribal undertones and exotic rhythms. The dancers’ dispassionate movement, at times mechanical, yet at times so human, countered the lyricism and intelligence of Brockus’ design. Couples weaving in and out, flying into each other’s arms, duplicating each other’s’ movements, then breaking away from their group to meet another… body to body, heart to heart, limb to limb.
The fascinating Leah Hamel, beautiful to watch, technically reminiscent of the best of Hubbard Street dancers, was focused, balanced, expressed an open spirit of dance that moved within her. When dancing with Will Clayton, the two managed to mesmerize us with lines that moved beyond their bodies and the space. The fierce Moses Josue Michel, Isaac Huerta and Dominique McDougal took the stage with moments of singular skill, and intensity; while Julienne Mackey and Luciana Johnson, juxtaposed their expressive light and softness when working with both the women’s trio and the pas de deux with their partners.
The shifting ideas, right to left, the disconnection, the tension of angles which resolved in powerful ensemble work, then attempts at resolution, and circling back for a newly stated theme and variation helped us realize this was a metaphor for the patterning and complexity of the mind/brain. This moving piece’s intelligence and insistent demand for recognition was then clarified in its final moment. What was again fully realized was that dance can truly imitated life in obtuse, deeply emotional and profound ways.
COMING DOWN was choreographed and performed by Will Clayton and Erin Galvin. We begin with the pleading voice of Anaïs Mitchell wailing the lyrics to “Coming Down”. This piece is strongly emotional and very well performed. It’s a poignant recollection of the past, and premonition of the future. Both Will and Erin’s acting, and dancing facility moves us through their relationship and love for one another, roller coastering over the highs and lows, and hinting at the inevitable separation. The lyrics insist, “nothing’s gonna stop me now” with her answer “Don’t leave me.” This push and pull sets up the tension in their bond which is resolved at the end of the piece, as in one last effort she grabs at his leg in an attempt to detain him, if only for a moment. He shakes her off, and resolutely moves away and disappears in the darkness. This emotional duet echoes the inevitable. She’s trying to find ways to keep him from going, and he knows he must, as we hear the strains of ”Nothing will stop me now.”
WEEDS IN THE GARDEN +TENDER Choreography by Moises Josue Michel, Music by Mix Moises Josue Michel, Artists include Miki Blanco Perfume Genius and IAMX. Danced by Julienne Mackey, Spencer Gray, Moses Josue Michel .
Like weeds overtaking a living garden, this piece is a metaphor for the invasion of innocence. The piece begins with the romanticism and play of a young couple danced by Julienne Mackey and Spencer Gray. There’s interplay between the two, partnering, reaching and withdrawing, Triangulation is then introduced in the powerful presence of Moises Josue Michel, dressed in a silk tunic of shades of beige and brown. His blond white closely cropped hair and stalking compelling movements break the peace between the lyrical dark-haired Mackey, and her sinewy, Spencer Gray.
At first, it’s just an interplay between Gray and Michel, then athletic exchanges lead to a stormy sexual foray. The menacing Michel attempts to conquer his prey. We see the assault from Moises whose villainous passion creates confusion in our young man, first relenting and then choosing his wistful partner. Finally, in an attempt to choose, the young man confronts his partner standing at one end of the stage and lands only inches in front of her, then moves to the predator keeping space between the two of them. Gray then moves back to her, gradually lifting his hand and touching her, then turns and runs to the predator across the stage placing his hand again his chest. Then back to Mackey, he kisses her, breathless, pulls away and turns to face the man. He runs to him, and with passion and defiance, kisses him…and the choice is made. The young woman backs off the stage and is gone as the passionate duo continues and the stage darkens.
AS ANCIENT AND YOUNG AS SPRING ends the concert. Brockus and her company have created a tour de force with their musicality and integration of movements, connecting the very distant times with the newness of the now and future. This created an authentic emotional elixir dedicated to life and living, so uplifting and exciting on its own terms. The dancers are focused and intense as their powerful controlled movements unfold with each new theme, “Wisdom”, filled with allusions to basic human needs; love, life source, the spiritual, so aptly entitled, got us started in this primordial journey. The primitive throbbing rhythms of breath, pulsing ancient sounds, evoked a sense of time in “First Humans” as the voices moved the dancers above and beyond the ordinary. The music gave vision of connection to our past. Brockus’ choice of music by: Hedningarna, Dijorne, Peter Askrim, and DakhaBrakha, is singular, exotic. The ethnic sounds with throaty straight pure tones, powerful pulsing rhythms, the wailing intersections picked up by the choreography and driving the dancers are fascinating and engaging. Gutsy scatting sets the inner pulse, and one is hardly able to contain oneself as an audience.
The powerful dancing of Raymond Ejiofor, Will Clayton, Moises Josue Michel, and Isaac Huerta with their strong partnering, exciting solos and duets juxtaposed and enhanced against the lyrical athletic strength of the female dancers, Leah Hamel, Julienne Mackey, Luciana Johnson and Rein short. All contributing to this tribute of Life in each piece.
This is the true value of Brockus’ work, her power of design and color, unique musicality, development of dance as story and metaphor and her fierce generosity of spirit which she gives so willingly to her dancers and her audience truly makes her a treasured force in the dance community.
BrockusRed speaks to our humanity, originality, and possibilities.
For more information on BrockusRED, click here.
Featured photo: Paul Antico