Jacob Jonas is the 26-year-old Founder, choreographer, dancer and artistic visionary of Jacob Jonas: The Company. Jonas was introduced to dance at age 13, mentored by Mr. Animation, a legend of West Coast street dancing. Jonas also credits the Calypso Tumblers, an athletic street tumbling group (Season 2 of America’s Got Talent) from Venice Beach Boardwalk as his inspiration. He is Co-Founder, with dancer and Managing Director, Jill Wilson, a Los Angeles native, who began dancing at the age of two. Today she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance from the University of the Arts. Wilson apprenticed with Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle, WA under the mentorship of the esteemed Donald Byrd who was commissioned to do Unknown Territories for this Premiere performance. Jacob Jonas: The Company has now the good fortune of becoming the 2018/19 Company-in-residence at Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. And with that, has added the Wallis to their list of accomplishments, having performed at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Jacob’s Pillow.
Wilson’s lovely intelligent and fluid style and formal knowledge of dance, and Jonas’ love for the athletic street sensibility and outstanding understanding of promoting the community of artists has assembled an eclectic group of dancers from Africa, Puerto Rico, South Korea, East and West Coast. The dancers, Joy Isabella Brown, Lorrin Brubaker, Lamonte Goode, Byunggyu “Jack” Kim, Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, Emma Rosenzweig-Bock, and Mike Tyus, have a combination of backgrounds and talents from ballet to Street, with ethnic to modern dance, from circus to Cirque du Soleil and gymnastics, from African Music to street poetry. Even with a break in the performance to discuss mentors, consiglieres, and beloveds. It also includes the wonderful “Kujo” who we find has been hearing impaired most of his life, but his achievements oust any preconceived ideas of impediment.
It’s a community of hard workers and they have begun to carve out at inventive experimental niche in the L.A. dance scene. This makes for expectations of unique imaginative creations for The Company’s opening at the Wallis. And in most cases this occurs, yet not without some caveats.
Our intro to the company is a piece called Transfer. This is an exploration of relationships, with Miss Wilson being the subject of each male connection or disconnection. At moments she is crawled over, thrown over or bowled over by each gentleman who is either slithering, lifting or balancing their bodies either with, against or around Wilsons. The four variations introduce us to, at times, complex dynamics whilst throwing, dragging or encircling their subject. She seems to be un-phased by the gymnastics that weave her in pretzel-like intricate and complicated forms and shapes. Viewing this has pushed the envelope not only in what the body can do, but in the ways this young female goddess can uphold the male fantasy. One began believing that this was a piece that expressed a one way communication, seemingly in whole or part, for the purpose of all but the muse whose vapid resignation is finally concluded, and we are left with the sense that we were privy to a grand exploration, feeling or not.
Unknown Territories by Donald Byrd, was a engaging piece, sometimes surprising and satisfying the audience. With movements, splitting into dances for twos and threes, with floor stomps, as if to signal something is coming. The rhythmic, meditative and droning music of Avi Belleli carries the variations through each bursting theme and variation, and each off balance and often impossible spin. This was a feast of intricacies, athleticism and what appears as careful meditation and calculations.
As we came back from the 20-minute Intermission we were treated to Make a Toast which was a salute to those who have made an impression or contribution to the lives of the community, something so appreciated these days. The company had pre-choreographed pieces that accompanied the wonderful and impromptu tributes to Grandma who passed, Jonathan Gold the celebrated L.A. Times food critic, a fellow student, and a dog whose young owner’s heartfelt tribute evoked a combined sigh from the audience. Since the movements were pre-choreographed, they were an aside, sometimes a dissonant, against the poignancy of the moments of tribute. Perhaps more effective would have been a dance improv to capture and communicate the moment, and the importance of the tribute to the loved ones and the audience.
Then came a spirited work by Omar Román De Jesús former ballet and contemporary dancer now known for his aesthetic choreographic themes of universal love and beauty. In his well-constructed piece Cupido he used the apt technique and emotionality of his subjects Brubaker, Rosenzweig-Bock and Wilson.
And the finale piece, Crash by Jacob Jonas, with the exciting live music of West African musician, Okaidja Afroso, mesmerized and enchanted. Different from all the other pieces, a dancer, under sublime blue wash lighting replicates the ocean by rolling and undulating on the floor in waves of movement. Slowly additional bodies embellish and mimic the lurching tide, with its ebbing and flowing. It continues to grow until all seven dancers transport the audience metaphorically out to sea. This piece, one of the highlights of the evening, is willing to take its time, introduce new and personal elements and resolve as the setting sun brings the last of the pieces to a loving conclusion. It was imaginative and exciting with it’s un-self conscious and loving tribute to the sea.
Congratulations Jacob Jonas: The Company on a good start to hopefully many years of discovery, maturity and embracing the eclectic and talented community.
For more information on Jacob Jonas: The Company, click here.
For more information on Spectrum Dance Theater, click here.
Featured image: “Crash” by Jacob Jonas – L to R: Danielle Coleman, Mike Tyrus, Joy Isabella Drown, Lorrin Brubaker, Bhunggyu “Jack” Kim, Emma Rosenzweig Block – Photo by Lawrence K. Ho.