When I first met Genna Moroni, she was setting Barak Marshall’s Monger at USC Kaufman—an incredibly detailed work, with four gestures in each count. She paid special care to each shape, no doubt the reason Marshall chose her to relay the choreography to a rowdy group of students. Since then, I’ve seen her improvisation and been fascinated by the ways in which she innovates, constantly defying her anatomy and assuming shapes once thought impossible. But until Sunday night, I had never seen her own choreography.
a space devoid of matter was last on this quarter’s REDCAT Studio Fall 2019 bill, one of six presentations curated by Marsian De Lellis and Sebastian Hernandez. Before her came Davia Spain’s Dawning, Kayla Tange’s Dear Mother, Ironstone & Jordi’s She Is Trying To Be Born, Kristina Wong’s Kristina Wong for Public Office, and Kite’s Pȟehíŋ kiŋ líla akhíšoke. Her hair was heavy., in a wonderfully queer melting pot.
Moroni, an alum of LACHSA and UCLA, still works often with Marshall. She’s performed with BODYTRAFFIC and Ate9 on stages worldwide. More recently, she’s been venturing into commercial choreography for musicians in particular: HAIM, Leven Kali/Smino/Topaz Jonez, Helado Negro, Francisca Valenzuela, Jarina De Marco, Little Monarch and more.
Her premiere of a space devoid of matter hit the ground running. Moroni and dancer Gigi Todisco took the stage—no set, just curtain down behind them—braced for battle, stances set and heels rooted. They aimed straight for each other, interlocking chins and almost sparring for center stage.
I’ve seen Moroni do soft and careful, and she does it quite well; this was not that. This was a display of alien athleticism, a stylized struggle: but none of it contrived. The two reached into the ground to throw their shoulders at each other, then broke for an intense unison section that stares down the audience. The dynamics shifted so quickly you could blink to miss them, but you wouldn’t have wanted to. They were too captivating for that.
Many of Moroni’s movements are invented, profound in their originality. But even more refreshing is the complete gusto with which she attacks the movement. It’s almost animated. It’s bold and exudes recklessness. Set to a mix of “Lost and Found” by Andy Stott, “Empty Gesture” / “Hope You’ll Stay” by Lorn, and “Drenba Nih Sendaut” by Oake, her composition is thrilling, beguiling. She and Todisco connect with force, almost clunky but not cringey. They’re both small in stature, but between them there’s enough power to move mountains.
From nowhere, Frank Sinatra’s “Somewhere in Your Heart” cuts through the score: Moroni goes still in a single spotlight and Todisco continues in the dark, breathing heavily and muscling through choreographic motifs. Stagehands cover her in tarp and she’s whisked offstage. And when the blackout comes, you want them back. A teaser is just enough to make you yearn for more.
In under fifteen minutes, Moroni and Todisco manage to surge at the audience just quickly enough to leave them stunned. Look out for more of Moroni’s work at local venues this season—she’s a fresh force to be reckoned with.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle, November 13, 2019.
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Featured image: Gigi Todisco and Genna Moroni – a space devoid of matter – Photo courtesy of the artist.