Sarah Elgart is an amazingly gifted artist who is one of Los Angeles’ leading choreographers, directors and producers of site-specific works, concert dance and dance films. She creates dances for large scale site-specific productions at places such as The Music Center, Los Angeles International Airport, The Bradbury Building, Museums in LA and Santa Barbara, bus terminals, and more. She has choreographed for film and television, working with well-known directors such as JJ Abrams, Catherine Hardwicke, David Lynch and others. For many years Elgart has also been a major contributor to Dance Camera West. With all this, Elgart does extensive community work taking dance into such places as hospitals and prisons where she works with at-risk youth and female inmates. Sarah Elgart is one of the finest artists and humanitarians here, reconfirmed by her work presented this past weekend at the Electric Lodge.

UNICORN was an evening of new dance & dance film works by Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow. The performance began with Walk taking place in the venue’s lobby area. Charissa Kroeger moved through the waiting audience holding a small projector displaying a film loop. As she moved, Kroeger focused the film on the lobby’s walls, the floor and onto people’s clothing. It was difficult to see the film unless one was standing directly in front of it, but I got glimpses of a figure draped with a long silky scarf and holding white balloons shaped like wings. The audience was eventually led into the theater where Kroeger continued to focus the projection onto the walls, curtains and people as she sensually moved about the space. Sam McReynolds deserves mention because he followed Kroeger throughout with the projector’s power block and cord. Walk was edited by Danielle King with footage of work by Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow.

Charissa Kroeger in “Ideologies” by Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow – DP for Ideologies, Caitlin O’Rorke

Ideologies is a film rich with color contrasts, lush dance movement and film editing that alters where one thinks a dancer might travel. A bright red dress or a brilliant white one stands out against a black background, while a black dress highlights the skin of the person wearing it. The red dress becomes a path for dancer Kalin Morrow to follow and a secured line for her to hold on to for support. Charissa Kroeger’s blond hair and pale skin stands out against the white dress and dark background. This is indeed a visionary theorizing of shapes and colors. The film was directed and choreographed by Sarah Elgart and the beautiful costumes were designed by Elgart and Swinda Reichelt.

Flows Two Ways by Stephen Glassman – Photo: Timothy Hursley

Ghost Stories is a visual treat directed by Elgart with choreography by her and the dancers. The film was shot inside and around VIA 57 West in New York City, a development of the Durst Organization with architecture by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG). Also, prominent in the film is a wonderful large sculpture titled Flows Two Ways designed by Elgart’s husband Stephen Glassman. It is an incredible sixty-by-sixty foot aluminum, stainless steel, and rolled metal artwork that is textured with waves of blue, silver and yellow that stands out prominently against the building’s gray outer walls.

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) VIA West 57 – Photo from the Web

The four dancers moved along the building’s hallways, up and down stairs of an entrance, in a corner of the roof top, along a pool deck and seated at a circular card table. There are several shots of a male dancer dressed in shocking red as he protrudes outward from what must have been a balcony. Albert Esquilin aka “Ghost of New York”, his eyes solid white, appeared to haunt the building and the other three dancers. His figure was seen hovering over them and dashing sporadically along corridors. Chelsea Bonosky carried a bunch of assorted flowers that included Tiger Lilies while standing in one of the building’s landscapes designed by Starr Whitehouse. Esquilin and Storyboard P used hip hop movements such as the moon walk to glide across a roof top holding white balloons.

Chelsea Bonosky in GHOST STORY by Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow – Photo: Matt Butterfield

What also gave this film its haunting quality was its starkness and the static editing of some of the movement. A dancer’s head slivered in and out of a beautifully designed jacket. People disappeared while running down a hallway or lay dead like on a stairway as the ghost hovered nearby. The movement is pure. It does not try to tell a ghost story, but allows the director’s eye to do that. Ghost Stories is more than a dance film. It is a dessert of colors and textures. The Cinematography is by Victoria Sendra, Editing by Steve Pyne and Sarah Elgart, Fashion by Issey Miyake and Music by Chapelier Fou.

UNICORN also featured the premiere of Portraits: 3 solos based on defining moments in the dancers’ lives. The very talented and expressive dancers were Sam McReynolds, Lenin Fernandez and Charissa Kroeger, and the solos were aptly titled Sam, Lenin and Charissa.

Dressed in light brown shirt and pants, Sam McReynolds swerves beneath a work light that is suspended from the ceiling. He appears hypnotized by this light and reacts by violently shaking before crashing three times to the floor. His solo often shifts directions and moods as quickly as McReynolds fell to the floor. The movements in Sam are angular, off center and filled with level changes. There is a sense of internal struggle that runs throughout the work, and it feels not only influenced by his training in the Gaga technique, but also by the work of Andrew Pearson. McReynolds performs to music by Nels Cline.

Hands running along a black wall leaving a trail of chalky white. That is the visual that opens Lenin. Here, the movement is loose and fluid with amazing hinge movements that lift Fernandez halfway off the floor to hover before descending back down. Lyrical turns morph into percussive gestures and angst filled shaking vibrate outward from Fernandez’s body and out of his limbs. I do not pretend to guess what is in Fernandez’s mind during Lenin, but I came away with the feeling of loneliness and internal strife. The red ribbon being pulled from his mouth at the end enhanced this emotion. The music for Lenin was by George Auric and Paul Chavez.

Charissa is a lovely, open and womanly solo. Performed beautifully by the amazing talent, Charissa Kroeger, to music by Ryuchi Sakamoto and Yellow Magic Orchestra, the movement is fluid and sensual. Kroeger moves through both difficult and reflective movement like she has just created them. Dressed in a loose white jump suit, Kroeger left us with a feeling of joy.

The lighting for Portraits was designed by Stephen Glassman. One sees his sculptor’s sensitivity in his illumination of these three very different solos.

Feature photo: Chun Lai

For more information about Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow, click here.

To view the LA Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.