When one attends a Heidi Duckler Dance (HDD) performance, it is certain that you will not only see dancing, but you will also learn something new about a venue, area of town, or building that was possibly unknown to you. On Sunday, January 29, 2023 I attended HDD’s Truth or Consequences: Come As You Are in the Bendix Building located in the heart of LA’s Fashion District. Built nearly a century ago, the Bendix Building was designed and developed in collaboration by architect William Douglas Lee and contractor Florence Casler.
The 11th floor of the Bendix Building houses the offices of HDD and it was there the audience began their evening’s journey. To set the evening mood, there was an Interactive installation by HDD’s interns Seoyoon Choi and Yejin An featuring a long lit table with sea shells, urchin-like lamps and umbrellas re-imagined to resemble large jellyfish. In another area, a beach scene was projected on one wall and other seaside inspired decorations draped about the room. Several interns meandered among the guests wearing snorkel masks and toting the jellyfish-like umbrellas. There was a lovely buffet of different tamales, salsas and treats and the option of moving about on the company’s rooftop space.
Upon arrival, each person was provided with a yellow or pink wrist band that turned out to be one’s group color. I was in the pink group and the first mystery space that we were led to by HDD interns was a gorgeous room on the 3rd floor decorated in all blue – including the carpet, a faux fireplace, and the furniture. Dressed in floral patterned shorts, a long red leather jacket, a multi-colored headband and sunglasses, William Jay YIvisaker was our DJ for the evening. Soon Montay Romero entered riding a low-rider style child’s bicycle and went on to perform on, around, and behind just about every surface.
At one point Ylvisaker left his DJ console table and began improvising, seemingly without purpose, amidst the green drapes. Romero offered us slices of cold pizza and when the song “I Put a Spell On You” began playing, he sprinkled what resembled an herb around the room. Was he hexing us or protecting us? Hopefully the latter. I will admit to being confused by the two men’s exaggerated flamboyant movement style.
Unlike the previous, the second performance had somewhat of a narrative. The walls were pink, blue or yellow and the space was divided into three areas by pinkish orange curtains. A man, Edgar Aguirre, is first seen sitting on a chair next to a bed upon which lies a dead body covered with a lacey blanket. It soon became clear that Aguirre was performing a silent “raising of the dead” ritual to music performed live by pianist and composer Tomoko Ozawa. Sure enough the person on the bed (Rebecca Lee) began to move and thus began a long structured improvisation performed very well by Lee and Aguirre. They traveled from room to room and were joined at the end by Ozawa speaking on a 1940s black rotary phone and later pretended to paint a row of filing cabinets pink as the dancers performed on top.
As in the movies, the spell soon wears off and Lee is returned lifeless to the bed where we first saw her. She was mourned by her lover as the audience was led out and back up to the 11th floor via elevators. I overheard Heidi Duckler explaining to an audience member that these two mysterious rooms were not known to her until very recently. When asked if her company furnished the rooms, Duckler said “No, we found them that way and decided to bring them alive with dance.”
The photography that decorated the elevator walls was by Seoyoon Choi and the Projection Design was Kamyi Lee.
HDD always entertains, employs many LA dancers, provides exposure to previously little known areas around the world, and causes audiences to see those sites through a different lens as the dancers move about them. One personal grievance is that I tire of long improvised movement phrases when it becomes obvious that the performer(s) are running out of ideas. This was especially true during moments in the blue room on this night.
Heidi Duckler recently published a wonderful new book titled “The Best of the Quest: Celebrating 35 Years with Heidi Duckler Dance.” For more information and to order a copy, click HERE.
For more information about Heidi Duckler Dance, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Heidi Duckler Dance – Rebecca Lee in Truth or Consequences: Come As You Are – Photo by Rush Varela