2024 marks the 7th season of Dance at the Odyssey festival curated by Barbara Müller-Wittmann and Co-produced by Beth Hogan and Müller-Wittmann. The summer edition of Dance at the Odyssey festival runs June 29th through July 14th at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble located in West LA at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. The dance artists and companies presented on the festival include Marianna Varviani & Selcouth Dance Company; Breayre Tender & Anthony Hernandez; Bernard Brown, Joey Navarrete-Medina & Rosa Rodriguez-Frazier; Olivia Liberati; Intrepid Dance Project; Leah Zeiger; Kaia Makihara & hasten dance; TORRENT, Caitlin Javech; Gianna Burright; and G.U.M., Genna Moroni and Hélène Bouboulis. Tickets are on sale now at https://odysseytheatre.com/

 Barbara Müller-Wittmann

Barbara Müller-Wittmann – Photo courtesy of the artist.

Before moving to Los Angeles in 2004, Barbara Müller-Wittmann lived and worked in Germany. She was Managing Director of the Theater Aalen. She also was producer, production manager, dramaturg and assistant director for various theater festivals and companies including Theater Freiburg, Volkstheater Munich, the Opera North Leeds, Left Bank Theatre Group Tel Aviv, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the International Figurentheaterfestival Erlangen, the Living Theatre New York and Kampnagel Hamburg. After coping with visas, Müller-Witmann is now a US citizen. “I think it is really important to be part of and to be able to contribute to the political development of the country. To vote,” she said.

Because her professional experience is in theater, I asked Müller-Wittmann how she became interested in curating and co-producing Dance at the Odyssey. In Germany, she began taking ballet lessons from the age of three until, as a teenager, she became rebellious against an extremely strict teacher and quit. “I always loved dance,” Müller-Wittmann said. “and I had the amazing opportunity to see some of the most important choreographers and companies during the 1990s and early 2000s in Europe – Sasha Waltz, Jérôme Bel, La La Human Steps, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, and of course Pina Bausch. ” Müller-Wittmann studied theater to become a director but said that stories expressed through images work best for her and for her dance is the perfect art form. “So, when I came to LA, I tried to see as much dance as I could,” she said.

In 2017, the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, along with the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, presented the Frankfurt, Germany based company Mamaza’s work Eifo Efi, choreographed and performed by Ioannis Mandafounis and Fabrice Mazliah. Following that performance Beth Hogan, who shares Müller-Wittmann’s love of Pina Bausch’s work, suggested that because Müller-Witmann knew the Los Angeles dance scene, that she create a festival around that knowledge. And Voilà, Dance at the Odyssey was born.

Dance at the Odyssey - Marianna Varviani, Selcouth Dance Theatre - Photo by Jack X Proctor.

Dance at the Odyssey – Marianna Varviani, Selcouth Dance Theatre – Photo by Jack X Proctor.

From 2017 to 2020 Dance at the Odyssey took place during the months of January and February. Like everywhere, in March of 2020 the Covid pandemic brought things to a halt. The positive change, however, was that a summer version of the festival was launched. “We had the last spring festival in January/February 2020 and then we came back in January 2022 with Shade Theret and in June/July with the first summer festival.” Müller-Wittmann stated. That first summer festival included all the choreographers and companies that were originally scheduled for the spring of 2021. “And then we liked that summer feeling so much for the festival that we thought, ‘why don’t we just do a different format?,’ she added.

Dance at the Odyssey - Breayre Tender - Photo by Kleshaam Shakir.

Dance at the Odyssey – Breayre Tender – Photo by Kleshaam Shakir.

The difference between the spring and the summer festivals is that in the spring companies get a full week in the theater with longer tech time. For the summer festivals it is one night, more works-in-progress, shorter tech time (four hours) and people can even share programs but each company only gets two hours of tech time. Another difference is that in the summer all the companies on the festival are Los Angeles based dance artists, whereas in the spring Müller-Witmann brings in companies from the east coast and elsewhere. But, as she said to me, “isn’t the idea of a festival to see something new? The summer festival with a fast turn around is really a festival,” Müller-Wittmann explained. Companies that perform in the spring get sixteen hours of tech time to prepare for the performances and often present evening length works for four or five nights.

Even for someone who has seen a lot of works by Los Angeles based dance companies and independent choreographers, I am excited to see that there are a few on this upcoming program that I have not had the opportunity to witness.

Dance at the Odyssey - Joey Navarette-Medina - Photo by Owen Scarlett.

Dance at the Odyssey – Joey Navarette-Medina – Photo by Owen Scarlett.

I asked Müller-Wittmann how choreographers and dance companies were selected to perform on Dance at the Odyssey. “Honestly, it’s really just my taste,” she said candidly. “If I see something that gives me goosebumps, and it’s usually just a tiny moment where I get goosebumps or I laugh, I get tears in my eyes or I’m surprised. If whatever I see achieves that then I say, ‘Come to my festival’,”

In the beginning, Müller-Wittmann had to go see dance wherever it was happening. Now companies approach her, send in videos of their work or invite her to their performances. “The thing is,” she said. “if I see something where I think that person has “the” thing, I usually trust them completely. I say bring whatever you are working on. For the spring, I usually ask – if I saw one of those snippets – could you make that longer? Because I love it. For the summer it’s more ‘I saw something of yours. I love what you’re doing, bring whatever you want, bring what you’re working on’ and I’ve never been disappointed. I’ve never had anything where I thought ‘Oh my God what did I do?’.”

Dance at the Odyssey - Genna Moroni & G.U.M. - Photo by Denise Leitner.

Dance at the Odyssey – Genna Moroni & G.U.M. – Photo by Denise Leitner.

Müller-Wittmann expressed how grateful dance artists that perform at the spring festival are to have a full week in the Odyssey Theatre, which includes a wonderful tech team, to prepare for their performances. The technical crew includes the very talented Lighting Designer and Stage Manager Katelan Braymer. “To have that support from us to develop, to feel safe, and then present the whole evening, I see that people are super excited about that,” she said. “That makes me happy. The dance festival is the best thing to do! I love it,”

She may be the only one who selects who performs on the dance festival, but Müller-Wittmann emphasized how fortunate she is to have Beth Hogan as a supporter and co-producer and the technical crew at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. The summers are very busy at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble which houses three theaters, a rehearsal room, dressing rooms, and a large lobby area with a concession stand and bathrooms. “But we try to just give them (the dance artists) the best of what we can do in that amount of time,” Müller-Wittmann said. “And it’s so nice to have a tech team that is a hundred percent behind that.”

Dance at the Odyssey - Intrepid Dance Project - Photo by Art Documents.

Dance at the Odyssey – Intrepid Dance Project – Photo by Art Documents.

There was a sentence in the press release that caught my eye. It reads, “This “first look” summer dance festival offers an unprecedented chance to see the world through performances.” I asked Müller-Wittmann to speak to it. “Actually Beth wrote that because she’s our marketing person,” she said with a smile. “I think that it is how Beth and I see theatre. We do theater, dance, performance art because we want to contribute with what we put on stage [so] that people see the world differently; get just a little different angle on things; get new ideas and intellectual input. So, I think that is why Beth wrote that.”  The words “first look” is because Müller-Wittmann asks the dance artists to present what they are currently working on. “For the spring, I don’t usually present things that have already premiered. For the spring I ask that they present an evening length of what I saw. In the summer I want to see what they’re working on but it should all be something that hasn’t been shown or hasn’t been shown extensively in LA already.” She added.

Dance at the Odyssey - hasten dance - Photo by hasten dance and Kaia Makihara.

Dance at the Odyssey – hasten dance – Photo by hasten dance and Kaia Makihara.

My final question was what did Müller-Wittmann want the LA Dance Chronicle readers to know about Dance at the Odyssey that we had not already discussed. “I think if you want to see what is going on in dance in LA, or if I have the chance to also invite international companies or people from all over North America and South America, that they see the amount of talent, the great ideas that people have, everything that is happening now in modern dance. How you can tell stories with different means and forms,” she said. “I hope people are just curious to experience things like that and I hope they come and that they want to see the different ways to do it.”

Müller-Wittmann talked about how the past spring festival had such a variety of forms, but everything was so inventive and imaginative. “This is what we all need in our daily life; this kind of imagination,” she added.

The Summer Dance at the Odyssey Schedule:

Saturday, June 29 at 8 p.m.

Marianna Varviani and Selcouth Dance Theatre Company present MARK. What marks do we carry? What marks do we leave behind? Inspired by street dance vocabularies and Krump, everyday gestures and contemporary dance perspectives, MARK is conceived and choreographed by Marianna Varviani with movement vocabulary co-creators Tyler Law, Maya Peterson and Kai Toles. Performed by McKenzie Barkdull, Ariana Chavez, Mason Lee, Sophia Fan Lin and Anna Simonova. Original music composed by Yvonne Yifeng Yuan. Watch the promo trailer here.

Sunday, June 30 at 2 p.m.

♦ Choreographers Breayre Tender and Anthony Hernandez present Dear Life. In this interactive dance experience inspired by deufert&plischke’s “Letters to Dance” project (seen at the Odyssey in 2018) and other of their works, dancer/choreographers Tender and Hernandez, joined by Lisa Gwynn-Tender and Andante Petit-Homme, will guide the audience through a reflection of our past and present to collectively write a message to the future we wish to create.

Saturday, July 6 at 8 p.m.

♦ Queer Black choreographer Bernard Brown presents Sugar Odyssey (or the undrowning), a multi-sensory experience excavating our society’s contemporary relationship to power, slavery, and otherness created in collaboration with Black Queer sound artist DeFacto X.


♦ Mexican American dance artists Joey Navarrete-Medina and Rosa Rodríguez-Frazier present Fluid Identities: a dance of belonging, a collaborative project that celebrates and explores the fluidity of identity, gender, composition and energy through dance.

Sunday, July 7 at 2 p.m.

Olivia Liberati presents Mafiosi, exploring the hidden work of the Italian-American mafia, a world in which five families evolved into one of the most in-depth criminal organizations of its century. Danced by Amy Magsam, Tori Gorny, Tayler McGuire, Ande Godwin, Julia Gaspari and Olivia Liberati


Intrepid Dance Project presents Taking Flight. Based on the belief that everyone can dance, Intrepid welcomes all performers, including those who may have previously been turned away from the traditional world of dance and performing arts, regardless of age, size, ability, training or gender.

Thursday, July 11 at 8 p.m.

♦ Choreographer Leah Zeiger explores the body’s memory, daily habits and mindsets, both physically and emotionally, with You Live in My Spine. Zeiger’s somatic technique, the Body Memory Method, was crafted from her approach to understanding her own body’s lived experience as a survivor of an abusive relationship and sexual violence. Featuring dancers Alexis Amundarain, Alondra Perez, Amanda Sun and Amina Yufanyi. Original music composed by Max Berlin.

Friday, July 12 at 8 p.m.

Kaia Makihara & hasten dance delve into a shared physical theater work exploring human grief, regret and finality with Bounded by Intervals. Dance artists include Makihara, Chelsea Roquero and Krystal Masteller (“hasten dance”), Jen Lacy, Orlando Agawin and Toby Echevarria, with music composed by Echevarria.

Saturday, July 13 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

TORRENT and Caitlin Javech present Rupture, a highly physical duet that investigates the impact of catastrophic events and ruptures — in nature, in our lives and in our relationships — on the body and psyche. Featuring dancers Joe Davis and Rebecca Lee, with an original composition by Tyler Sanders.


♦ Choreographer Gianna Burright presents As if everything was perfect, created in collaboration with performers Natalie Allen, Nicole Hagen and Alex Rix. Raw and intimate, the work reveals a sense of curiosity, joy and despair, silliness and serenity, revealing fantasies, nightmares, memories and utopias, real and imagined. Original music is composed by Sio Tepper.

Sunday, July 14 at 2 p.m.

♦ Choreographer Hélène Bouboulis dances Dégagez, il n’y a rien à voir (“Move along, there is nothing to see”), revisiting the precision, speed, balance and control of classical ballet after a 28-year hiatus.


Genna Moroni and G.U.M. (Gorgeous Ugly Movement Collective) present calling from the void. Welcome to the void. Where we all experience absurd contradictions, the complexities of the human condition, and grapple with life’s toughest questions. Featuring Marlie Couto, Maija Knapp, Baylie Olsen, Jordan Saenz and Marirosa Crawford.

Please support Los Angeles Dance.


WHAT: Dance at the Odyssey
WHEN: June 29 – July 14, 2024
WHERE: Odyssey Theater Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. 90025.
TICKETS: Tickets $25 or Dance Festival Pass: Choose 3 Shows for only $60.
BOX OFFICE: (310) 477-2055 ext. 2
PARKING:  On-site parking lot: $5. Street parking available.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Dance at the Odyssey website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Dance at the Odyssey – T O R R E N T – Photo by Natalie Deryn Johnson.