There are athletic sports that push the restrictions of the human body. However, the boundaries of technically trained dancers often take these limitations to a whole new level. In a strikingly beautiful facility in Santa Monica called The Water Garden, the audience was able to experience Jacob Jonas The Company (JJTC) in a personal setting, up close and personal. In this performance, you could feel the building floor and walls shake, hear the dancers heavy breathing, and visually follow each dancer in their quest of pushing their limits. A warrior himself, Jacob Jonas is carving out his artistic style, creatively challenging art forms, and all the while, building a company full of dynamic dance troopers.
In its art gallery type setting, the Jacob Jonas space is referred to as a blank canvas. The stage is level with the floor, surrounded by a thick white backdrop covering all three sides. A clean slate and a bit reminiscent of the inventive artist Kanye West’s stark white home aesthetic. Kanye, now known as Ye, is one of the many singer/artists Mr. Jonas has collaborated with. Before each piece Jacob spoke about his work. The first dance of the evening was the premiere of Getting Through, Going Through. Jonas described, “This piece is my take on a linear world transferring into AI.” This example of Jonas’ choreography was very fitting of his style; containing his signature moves, standing – drops to the floor and various bodies collapsing in sequence to the floor. The choreography contains a lot of walking while also providing very angular stiff robotic movements. It was intense and strikingly performed by all three cast members Jill Wilson, Emma Rosenzweig-Bock and Baptista Kawa. A powerhouse of a piece, Going Through, Getting Through, increasingly challenged the dancers to persevere and conquer. The solos were athletically and technically impressive. A well-executed head stand flip was just one of the feats Jill Wilson mastered while moving steadfast and precisely aggressive. Baptista Kawa did several remarkable somersaults in the air indicative of the Afro-Brazilian dance fighting sport, Capoeira.
The duets of entanglement appeared toward the end of the work, which is much tougher for the dancers after such strenuous solos. While partnering, Mr. Kawa executed an impressive, controlled head lift. Emma Rosenzweig-Bock, credited as producer and Senior Art Director on this piece, also who starred in singer Sia’s official video, “Pin Drop,” was smooth and steady. The illumination direction chosen was one of minimal lighting, making it hard at times to see the dancers. Perhaps a few more lit moments would be helpful for the audience to clearly see the choreography. The unique blue jean costumes designed by MANCANDY had a 90’s industrial look and feel, while still being in the current trend.
Jonas spoke out saying, “The next piece Mind Cry is not meant to be liked. My challenge was only to use eight movements.” JJTC’s brave dance technicians who were all in tremendous shape and exhibited fearless stamina, performed without music. The lighting was all white but enhanced by the displaying of purposeful directional shifts.
Baptista Kawa exhibited a commanding stage presence and a profound intensity in his body and expression. In a long coat, Oscar Ramos seemed to have the most one-step repetitive measures from the beginning to the end of the project. His persistent heavy breathing was penetrating and provided another level of intensity to the sections while his sense of determination was infectious. Chadwick Gaspard carried through the movement with ease and he had a noteworthy smooth flowing approach that helped lengthen his lines. When it seemed he had a moment of tiredness, however, Gaspard met it head-on with willpower. Not to disappoint, Elizabeth Lage held her own amongst the men. She was precise, calculating, and unwavering in her approach.
These artists were astonishing because when you thought their foot rhythms would become weaker or tired, they became stronger and louder until the end. The floor reverberated in response to their purposive power. The choreographic composition by Jonas was exaggeratedly repetitive, and this viewer felt anxious and angry not knowing when the over exertion was going to stop. Hence the name Mind Cry, which seemed as vastly overwhelming for the dancer as for the audience, bubbling up emotions of unsettling angst. From what I understand, in Mr. Jonas’s description, this was his point.
My favorite of the night, Early Bird was originally created by Jacob Jonas at Perry – Mansfield, a haven for dancers and choreographers to feel free to express their inspired thoughts and bodies. Jonas was invited to the compound in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he was able to connect with nature. Jonas remarked, “Early Bird is my response to nature.” The work was originally choreographed for six dancers but due to injury, the five presented in the show were Jill Wilson, Elizabeth Lage, Chadwick Gaspard, Vo Vera, and Oscar Ramos. The audience, if not told, would never have known anyone was missing because the dancers carried on with great ease.
So beautiful was the use of the sun in the center of the backdrop, and by using different shades of the white spectrum, it encompassed the orb’s full range. These young women and men were, however, one with the earth. They displayed animalistic movements and resembled different species in the wild. The use of running to walking to dance steps encircled the square performance space. At least here, the running stop motion felt a bit like they were divinely trapped. Jill Wilson moved as a bird and remained true to her character. Elizabeth Lage had lovely visual steps and shapes that highlighted her control. Mr. Jonas built inventive and interesting partnering pairs that were unified and elegant. Long limbed, Vo Vera smoothly connected within his partnering sections – his body offering an underlying exuberant bounce at stints. The music by Joe Berry was peacefully spa-like but with a bit more eagerness. The bottom patchwork costumes by Anamarys Perez were see-through on the top giving the dancers a clean skin essence of European sophistication. Yet Perez’s costumes were raw and open causing one to feel that the animals had nothing to hide, but only to express their true nature.
There were originally twelve JJTC dancers and due to covid, injuries and other deterrents, a total of seven dancers performed. You could not tell there were dancers missing, as all who did perform were very well rehearsed, and in every section the head, arm, patterns, and beats were tight and together. JJTC has built a brand of innovation and crafted athletic artistry, they are an asset to the dance and artistic community in Southern California and beyond. A must see dance company, Jacob Jonas The Company will be performing this program again on Saturday, April 29th in Santa Monica, CA.
For more information on Jacob Jonas The Company, please visit their website.
Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Jacob Jonas The Company – Baptista Kawa, Jill Wilson, Emma Rosenzweig-Bock in Jonas’s Going Through, Getting Through – Photo by Josh Rose