Dance at the Odyssey continued its seven week run with ÍNSULA directed and choreographed by performer, theater director, and photographer Gema Galiana and brilliantly performed by Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes who received his training in Puerto Rico and at California Institute of the Arts. Galiana is a co-founder of Galiana&Nikolchev’s The Useless Room which focuses on the physicality as the main ingredient of their creating process. Indeed it was Montes physicality and focus on detail that made ÍNSULA a success.

Galiana is from Spain but has been based in LA since 2015 and Anthony Nikolchev grew up in the Bay Area and worked in Central Europe. The two met in Wroclaw, Poland in 2010 and were part of an eight member team of a physical theatre laboratory,  Studio Matejka, at the Grotawski Institute. In their press releases they state that they are “an impossible balance which keeps them alive and present in a constant research in art and in life which shouldn’t really be separated.”

Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULA by Gema Galiana - Photo by Gema Galiana

Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULA by Gema Galiana – Photo by Gema Galiana

ÍNSULA involves one man, Montes, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black shoes. He has a cell phone. There is a medium sized table with metal legs, a white area rug and numerous accessory props often utilized to evoke laughter. The humor is welcomed during this 50 minute movement theater piece that involves a man’s emotional journey where he faces, avoids and sheds his fears and material attachments to his existence.

Montes is first seen standing looking at his cell phone, a sight all too often seen in today’s society. He slowly curves over, puts his phone in his jacket pocket and crawls on his hands and knees across the stage. When faced with the table in his path, Montes crawls underneath and using only his back lifts it off the floor. We then watch as he slowly moves across the front of the stage, pausing only when one of the legs hits the floor. His path eventually leads him to unrolling the rug and setting the table down in the center of it.

Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULAby Gema Galiana - Photo by Gema Galiana

Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULA by Gema Galiana – Photo by Gema Galiana

From there the table becomes his personal emotional island or the more scientific definition as Galiana describes it “popular subregion in cognitive neuroscience, responsible for decision-making, emotional processing and attention.” His life is constantly interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone which he often ignores and even tries to hide away. As he moves about the table in a myriad of ways, Montes sheds his clothing piece by piece. He “tests the waters” of his choices and desires, performs a sensual samba atop the table as he sings softly to himself. Near the end Montes is left wearing flowered swim trunks and live video streaming himself onto the theater’s projection screen – a reflection on society’s addiction to sharing our lives on social media.

Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULA by Gema Galiana - Photo by Gema Galiana

Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULA by Gema Galiana – Photo by Gema Galiana

Montes is an amazing performer who has mastered the art of directing the audience’s eye to the smallest of details within his very varied physical movements. He tumbles under and over the table to open its drawer and retrieve a party noise maker. The pains he takes to sliver underneath the rug, call upon his iPhone’s Siri, or removes clothing while running in circles are made to look like an everyday activity; no big deal – but everyone watching knows differently.

Montes represents the every-man/woman. His internal turmoil of emotions are highly recognizable and in spite of Montes’s performance throughout the evening, my mind began to wander as Galiana’s points were stated, received and then repeatedly declared. We got it, now move on. ÍNSULA could be and should be a powerful work, but in its present form depends too heavily on the extraordinary performance by Montes who rightly deserved the standing ovation at the end of the piece.

The excellent Lighting Design was by Stephanie Lutz and the Sound Design was by Gahyae Ryu.

Dance at the Odyssey continues July 8-10, 2022 with a new evening-length work by Hannah Millar and concludes with a free event on July 16th at 6pm with deufert&plischke/Germany.

To learn more and to purchase tickets, please visit the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble website.

To learn more about Galiana&Nikolchev’s The Useless Room, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Gabriel Eduardo Jimenez Montes in ÍNSULA by Gema Galiana – Photo by Gema Galiana