With support from an arts grant from the City of West Hollywood, the dancer/choreographer/producer/director, Deborah Brockus, created WomXN Dance from a woman’s perspective at Fiesta Hall in West Hollywood. This very strong program included works by four very talented choreographers Deborah Brockus, Mallory Fabian, Hannah Millar, and Maura Townsend who are working with some of Los Angeles’ finest dancers.

In its current form, Fiesta Hall, located in Plummer Park, provides only the basic elements to produce an evening of dance, but it has lots of potential.  The stage is large, the hall has room to seat an ample number of audience members and parking is good. And on a very hot Sunday afternoon, the hall was air conditioned.

BrockusRED - (L-R) Mara Hancock, Julienne Mackey, Hannah Joo in Deborah Brockus' Antiquites - Photo by Denise Leitner

BrockusRED – (L-R) Mara Hancock, Julienne Mackey, Hannah Joo in Deborah Brockus’ “Antiquites” – Photo by Denise Leitner

Inspired by a visit to the Getty Museum to see an exhibition of Poussin and the Dance, Antiquites was Brockus and Julienne Mackey at their best. One work at the Getty was an ancient Roman relief of three women dancing while holding hands.  This tableau opened this work and references to other ancient Greek and Roman poses and tableaus were visible, but Brockus and Mackey did not saturate the work with these elements. Instead it was as if those ancient figures had come to life to express their views and entertain the audience with the best of their muses’ powers.  The three extraordinary dancers in Antiquites were the enormously talented Julienne Mackey, the powerful Mara Hancock and the exciting to watch Hanna Joo.

Antiquites was created with a mix of music by Mendelssohn and sound effects. The recurring heartbeat brought legitimacy to ancient art figures briefly coming to life.

Imprints Dance Company - Halie Donabedian in Hannah Millar's Let Us Bleed, Then Heal - Photo by Denise Leitner

Imprints Dance Company – Halie Donabedian in Hannah Millar’s “Let Us Bleed, Then Heal” – Photo by Denise Leitner

Hannah Millar, founder, and artistic director of Imprints Dance Company, presented an emotional duet that is an excerpt from her powerful evening-length work Let Us Bleed, Then Heal, which I saw earlier this year on the series Dance at the Odyssey. The work was inspired by Millar’s emotional and healing process over a few years following the death of her mother, and this duet provided insight into their complicated relationship. Of course, the duet belongs with the entire work, but it stands strong on its own. Without knowing the story behind these two women, one sees the love, rejection, disappointment, commitment, belief in, and the unbreakable bond that keeps them together.

The two amazing dance artists that performed Millar’s duet were Halie Donabedian and Julia Gonzalez. The music was by Michael Wall, Olafur Arnalds, and Swamp Dogg.

Mallory Fabian in Playlist - Photo by Denise Leitner

Mallory Fabian in “Playlist” – Photo by Denise Leitner

Watching Mallory Fabian perform is always a treat, and her dancing in her work-in-progress titled Playlist was no exception. When Fabian performs, one sees a rawness, honesty and the phenomenal ability to appear that she is in multiple places at once. In Playlist, Fabian not only moves through her usual athletic style of dancing, but seamlessly transitions in and out of countless emotions inspired or evoked by the snippets from an ever changing list of songs. It is a physical and emotional tour de force even while unfinished and I look forward to seeing Fabian master it more completely..

Maura Townsend Dance21 Project in Townsend's Together we are Strong - Part II - Photo by Denise Leitner

Maura Townsend Dance21 Project in Townsend’s “Together we are Strong” – Part II – Photo by Denise Leitner

The title Together We Are Strong originates from an incredible speech by the late Congressman John Louis that he gave at the 2014 Emory University Commencement.  Dance artist’s Maura Townsend’s work opened with an excerpt from Louis’ speech with a powerful performance by solo dancer Eliezer Rabello. Rabello’s ability to articulate movement is wonderful to watch and his presence was not overpowered by Louis’ inspirational oratory. Just before he left, Rabello was eventually joined by other members of the Maura Townsend Dance Project21 Dance Kylie Francisco, Colleen Melhuish, Alexis Ramirez, Mira Rose, and Rachel Turner performing to Radiohead’s Reckoner.

Although Together We Are Strong opens with a gut punch and uplifting words, as time passes the choreography occasionally becomes disconnected from Townsend’s initial vision. Her choreographic structure is strong, and the dancers are wonderful to watch, and throughout they continue to emote Louis’ words, but Townsend’s storyline or emotional statement loses focus.

The concert closed with Brockus’ work-in-progress Jonah which her program notes state is a work with Southern Exposure. Brockus’ mother grew up in South Carolina and having been raised in Virginia, I recognized many of the images provided by Brockus.  There’s a wash board for cleaning laundry, a row of crops, dirt roads, women hard at work in a mill, and the social restrictions placed upon them by southern men and strict religious rules. Two long pieces of fire engine red colored cloth are manipulated by dancers Mackey, Hancock and Joo. While most of their actions are translatable, a couple remain obtuse. This is fine, and I enjoyed trying to figure them out, but perhaps a few more hints are appropriate. Jonah shows much promise and I look forward to seeing the finished evening-length work.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Julienne Mackey in Brockus and Mackey’s Jonah – Photo by Denise Leitner