The lovely and intimate Brea Curtis Theater was the setting for the Season 9 Showcase of FUSE Dance Company that featured six works by founder and Artistic Director Joshua D. Estrada-Romero. Based in Orange, CA. the company consisted of vibrant and talented dancers who executed Estrada-Romero’s demanding work with great passion and clarity. I have seen the company perform on a dance festival in Los Angeles, but this was the first full evening of Estrada-Romero’s work that I was able to attend.

Estrada-Romero has a talent for creating beautiful groupings of dancers that intertwine, unite and divide as effortlessly as anyone I have recently seen in this area. His transitions between sections never interrupt the action or flow of his vision, and everything one witnesses appears necessary to complete his artistic conception. The talents of his dancers are showcased within the work, not separated out to impress. Estrada-Romero is unquestionably a choreographer to keep an eye on.

Set to the music by the Vancouver based group Loscil, One Nation was a work that went straight to the heart of where this country’s political focus has been on since the present administration took up residence in the White House. Estrada-Romero was not making an overtly political statement, but subtly expressing the beauty of a country welcoming and assimilating immigrants into its boundaries and culture. Estrada-Romero did so by having all but one (performed by the very talented Samuel DeAngelo) dressed in black and as the work progressed all but two had changed into pedestrian style clothes. The work ends with everyone forming a circle of inclusion.

The cast of One Nation included Leann Alduenda, Samuel DeAngelo, Kathy Duran, Olivia Hamilton, Matthew Kindig, Stephanie Lin, Phillip Lu, Rebeca Motecino, and Katherine Shepersky.

Love duets are plentiful and often trite, but Estrada-Romero has created a same-sex duet for Samuel DeAngelo and Matthew Kindig that is sensual, tender and moving without ever becoming sexual. Set to music by Claude DeBussy, in T-Shirts & Tanks we watch as two men quietly become attracted to one another, fall in love and depart together for a future that looked promising. The lifts and partnering were seamlessly performed and the gentle touching of fingertips that led into holding hands that melted into an embrace was a wonderful moment.

Flares, choreographed to music by Max Richter and performed nicely by Kathy Duran, was an introspective work with bursts of varying emotions. Estrada-Romero costumed Duran in a dark but bold reddish orange dress to represent this woman’s inner passion that was disguised by an outward serenity and control. Flares was not the strongest work on this program, but Duran brought great humanity to her subject.

Act I closed with an excerpt from Estrada-Romero’s dance titled Pipeline. As most excerpts, the performance left me wondering where the characters last seen trapped within the metal ballet barres, that they transported around the space and performed upon with great ease, were headed. Estrada-Romero only showed us one chapter of a longer work, so I will end my critique of it here.

Alejandro Gonzalez_One Nation Edwin Lockwood_ Tshirts and Tanks resized Edwin Lockwood_ Flares resized Edwin Lockwood_ Danca Musicorum, Ritmo resized Kathee Miller_Pipeline resized
Samuel DeAngelo and Matthew Kindig in "T-shirts and Tanks" by Joshua D. Estrada-Romero - Photo by Edwin Lockwood

Act II showcased the budding talents of dancers from the California State University, Fullerton Dance Department. In Estrada-Romero’s Dancå, Musicorum, Ritmo, the four-member cast appeared to be enjoying themselves dancing to the lively, and very rhythmic music. Enhanced by the colorful costumes by Estrada-Romero, the dance felt tribal and communal and it was an excellent showcase for those young dancers: Chandler Davids, Ashley Diamond, Gabriella Bridgmon, and Moise Felix. This work will next be performed as part of the CSUF’s Spring Dance Theatre running May 2 – 19, 2019.

Closing the concert was Estrada-Romero’s exquisitely choreographed and physically demanding work, Beyond the Body. Being in silence and then to spoken word by Joss Stone and Lauryn Hill, the full cast slowly walked around the stage until one soloist gently touched another to begin a temporarily quiet chain reaction. The peace was short lived, however, as the work soon progressed into a very rhythmic based, straight forward movement piece that each new score by P.F Labarbera, and Rodrigo Y Gabriela propelled the dancers to move faster and faster until they were moving at blinding speed.

This work highlighted how everyone, and everything are connected to the universe, way beyond our small planet. Estrada-Romero’s choreography is intricate, seamlessly tied together and the cast clearly enjoy dancing and performing this work. Estrada-Romero choreographs for the dancers’ arms as well as for the rest of their bodies. His gestures weave in and out of the movement and connect within partnering dancers like the gears inside a wind-up clock.

The final movement image is very striking. The cast forms a circle and an unseen explosion causes them to slowly ripple outward into infinity. The beautiful cast of Beyond the Body were Leann Alduenda, Samuel DeAngelo, Kathy Duran, Matthew Kindig, Stephanie Lin, Phillip Lu, Rebeca Motecino, Edward Salas, and Katherine Shepersky.

Lighting Designer Debra Lockwood with Assistant Lighting Designer McLeod Benson expertly created individual environments for each of the six works, and the production moved almost without a mishap.

For more information on FUSE Dance Company, click here.

For information on the Brea Curtis Theater, click here.

Featured image: Eddie Salas, Samuel DeAngelo, Rebeca Montecino, Kathy Duran, and Matthew Kindig in Beyond the Body by Joshua D. Estrada-Romero – FUSE Dance Company- Photo by Edwin Lockwood. Beyond the Body by Joshua D. Estrada-Romero – FUSE Dance Company- Photo by Edwin Lockwood.