The beautiful and spacious ARC Pasadena was established by dancer, choreographer and educator John Pennington as a home for his company Pennington Dance Group. It is, very importantly, also a studio for dance classes, a place where new works are created and rehearsed, and a safe and affordable venue for young aspiring choreographers to present work. On February 1, 2020 several young dance, music and literary artists shared an evening under the title DIALOGUES + SENSATIONS,
JED was a futuristic piece about a humanoid who travels to Earth seeking knowledge and a better life, only to be disappointed by the noise, smog, destruction and loneliness she/he finds. Choreographer Sinnamon Hauser set JED to music by indie rock group Grandaddy as performed live by Brett Bixby, Elizabeth Ellison, and Jesse Nason; poetry written and performed by Derrick C. Brown; and video projections by Jared LaFreniere and Michael Roberts. Although this work was well constructed, the choreography did not rise to the level of the tale or the visual effects. Without Brown’s narration, the story of JED might have remained a mystery. The strong cast of dancers included Sinnamon Hauser, Vannia Ibarguen, and Kindra Windish as JED.
Two musical interludes performed on trumpet by Brent Dodson were also performed. During his first set Dodson used electronic sampling to add layers of richness to his pleasing composition, but it seemed that technical problems hindered the fulfillment of his second appearance.
The evening’s standout was DERISION, created and performed by the extraordinary Kyreeana Breelin and talented rapper and tap dancer Vinci Lewis. Using spoken word and video projections of smoke, scenery, digital formations and a collapsed object reforming itself, Breelin and Lewis took on human rights, racial disparities and poetic reflections. “The human beings around us are often the bottles for our medicine”, is but one example of the provocative thoughts offered.
Breelin first captivated the audience with her opening dance performance. Her style of movement was grounded in modern dance, but it was her ability to shift directions, move onto and off of the floor with ease, and the control of her technique that drew me in and held my attention. After a rough start, Lewis found his voice and added a depth of intent to the work’s theme. The second section of DERISION found Breelin tap dancing on a small circular wooden floor, wearing one white and one black tap shoes. A statement on white vs black? Her tap dancing was as strong as her earlier work and Lewis joined into the mix on a nearby platform. Ms. Breelin is definitely a talent to be watched.
Vannia Ibarguen is a very talented performer and choreographer who has a knack for drawing the audience in with humor, only to infuse serious realities to make them think. CHOLO SOY (Work in Progress) was one such work. Choreographed and performed by Ibarguen, the audience was educated on the official and provincial translations of the Spanish word “Cholo” – a word with many meanings: half-caste, mixed-race, or Spanish speaking people living within western societies. Cholo Soy translates as to be a person of such a description.
Ibarguen incorporated a Peruvian poncho and hat to introduce who this character was and her comedic timing was spot on as she instructed the audience in the correct pronunciation of cholo and described its various meanings. Things turned serious when the poncho became a dress and Ibarguen took ownership of her heritage and informed us that it was not a weakness but a powerful strength. I look forward to seeing the finished dance.
The humorous work titled CO-STAR(Z) was choreographed and delightfully performed by Megan Fowler-Hurst and Tracy Tom-Hoon. Two medal chairs sat center stage as Tom-Hoon walked in, sat and very slowly fell asleep. She was joined by Fowler-Hurst and as the music Triumph of Venue by Torche blasted into the space, the two began a rapid series of gestures ending with them collapsing forward. They then stood, performed short phrases accented with counting numbers 1, 2, & 3 that comically led them into a musical dance triplet around the space. Following another series of short phrases that added the number 4, they exited with verbal grunts and the audience roared as occasionally one made out the somewhat muffled F word.
As the lights came back up, Tom-Hoon and Hurst reappeared, each wearing one half of a mirrored ball on their heads, moving to Beethoven’s Moon Light Sonata. CO-STAR(Z) was not a great piece, but it was the wonderful performances of Tom-Hoon and Fowler-Hurst that saved the day.
CANON was a work-in-progress created by Arletta Anderson and Adam Smith but performed here only by Anderson. It began with Anderson upstage, her back to the audience, gently swaying in a wide fourth position plié. She eventually walked across the stage to deliver a lengthy oration on a series of inter-relatable subjects of God, religion and grief before traveling around the space in rhythmic, repetitive prance-like steps.
CANON never found its footing, however. It was not clear where the piece came from or where it was headed. To paraphrase myself from earlier reviews, it felt like I had read a chapter somewhere in the middle of a book giving me no idea of who the characters were or the author’s plot.
Next, novelist, comedian, poet, and storyteller Derrick C. Brown entertained the audience with the reading of his story about a southern man who survived being struck by lighting seven times. Brown informed us that it was inspired by a true story and his becoming interested in dance. It was a story of survival, but also one of acceptance and finding one’s own strength.
ALONG THE EDGES was a potentially strong dance in great need of editing. Choreographer Kindra Windish demonstrated that she has wonderful ideas and that she understands how to construct a dance work, but this piece came across as a choreographer with not enough material to fill up her chosen music score.
A diagonal line slowly breaks up into a beautiful solo performed by Kyreeana Breelin, followed by a combination of solos, duets and trios. There was a wonderful section with organized chaos, but it got away from Windish and she took too long to reign it back in. This was followed by other sections of undefined angst, solitude and a coming together of sisterhood, but Windish never made a clear connection to her title, ALONG THE EDGES. I strongly believe that she could turn this into a very powerful work by using her impartial editing tools.
Windish’s talented cast included Arletta Anderson, Kyreeana Breelin, Megan Fowler-Hurst, Vannia Ibarguen, Sinnamon Hauser, Bonnie Lavin Hughes, and Windish. The very dramatic music was Sequence for Minor White by Kyle Sanna.
Caitlin Eby did a wonderful job of creating a unique environment for each piece presented on DIALOGUES + SENSATIONS.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, February 4, 2020.
Featured image: Vannia Ibarguen, Megan Fowler Hurst, McKell Lemon, and Kyreeana Alexander, in Along the Edges choreographed by Kindra Windish performed at SoCal Invitational 2019 – Photo by Photopolari