Since I first attended Flower of the Season at Electric Lodge in 2020 (on March 9, no less), I’ve been a loyal audience member — really, I’ll go see anything associated with Oguri and Roxanne Steinberg. Their work and curation in Venice is one of the absolute gems of Los Angeles dance, and if you get me started, I may never stop talking about it.
The fall 2023 program featured four completely formidable artists with impressive log lines: Carole Kim, Cheryl Banks-Smith, Melinda Ring, and Mia Doi Todd. And as always, the theater atmosphere was buzzing with community, warmly inviting and informal.
Carole Kim’s Inflorescence: Fig. 1 began the evening, Kim and collaborator Alicia Byer breaking the ice with a quick toothbrushing session. Byer, wielding the clarinet in addition to her vocals, physicalized melodies as she played them, squatting and reaching with such satisfying gusto. Kim responded with a medley of found object sounds, a responsive landscape of projections illuminating the sounds. In Inflorescence, she intertwined the media in ways that transcended just intersection of disciplines — she fashioned a new dimension, a new medium, blending sounds and visuals and space into each other. At the work’s climax, I was sure I had entered a new world, a cartoon realm of synesthesia.
Cheryl Banks-Smith’s Petals Push Out on Painted Skies featured an improvisational exchange with percussionist Breeze Smith, who really did paint a sky for her to dance on. Banks-Smith’s commanding presence engaged the theater with ease; she shaded her movements beautifully, defining her edges with push and pull. Smith’s soundscape almost disappeared into the movement, their wordless communication indicative of a lifetime of duetting. Banks-Smith, embodying “Petals, burnt now / From countless efforts,” as written in her program notes, followed effort into exhaustion, an arc well-earned.
Melinda Ring’s The End (Monotropa Uniflora) came next, following intermission with a stark, silent backdrop. With only her tambourine to accompany the decomposition of her memories, Ring sang and soothed herself in circular patterns. A haunting shadow amplification was brought to life by lighting designer Keiden Oguri, and though perhaps some of this piece went over my head, the image stuck with me. A musical intervention by Zenji Oguri carried us through the blackout, knitting some of Ring’s scattered postwar sentiments back together.
Mia Doi Todd’s Plumeria At Sugar Cove was a triumphant scene, so many elements of pure beauty arranged delicately into harmony. Her costume, which she indigo dyed by hand with expertise from Niki Tsukamoto, became waves in the ocean, cresting and falling and flowing from the orbit of her grounded center. A white paper boat sailed, floating on the crown of her head and adorned by a plumeria lei: set to her own original recordings, “Plumeria,” “Cais” with Fabiano do Nascimento, and another track, “Hawaii Janaina” by Luis Pérez Ixoneztli and Jesse Peterson. Her movement, lovely and patient, flowed from the hip into an endless ocean, meditative in its many iterations but strung through by a graceful undercurve. The plumeria traveled to many realms and returned us to peace to see us off into the evening.
I often write that magic is the only way to explain the way the light casts at the Electric Lodge, but I am starting to understand that Zenji and Keiden Oguri are the orchestrators of much of that magic. This team, who have designed sound and lighting for the majority of the works I have seen, know their craft well and their tools better. Their creativity shades in the worlds the artists build, so that the art can resonate. Their knowledge of this specific black box allows an unearthing of its charm — a little here, a little there — revealing the care and community that make this venue and this program thrive.
For more information about Electric Lodge, please visit their website.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Flower of the Season – CALOLRIFLORA Four Solos – Collage – Photo courtesy of Oguri.