Dance company The Assembly, musician/composer Joe Kye, and dancer/choreographer Ching Ching Wong co-produced MIGRANTS at the spacious and very contemporary Navel LA on Hope Street. The performance announced the release of Kye’s new album titled Migrants, and it was a send-off for his and Wong’s international tour. The evening was primarily a music concert featuring Joe Kye, percussionist Andrés Salazar; with a special appearance by Los Angeles based rapper Jason Chu. There were beautiful visual projections by Darin Reyes and choreographed by Lara Wilson and Katie Scherman that featured the beautiful Ching Ching Wong and five talented LA dancers.

Joe Kye is a violinist-looper and vocalist who launched his professional career in 2013. He was born in Korea and raised in Seattle. He attended Yale University and in 2015 released his acclaimed Joseph in the Well. Ching Ching Wong was born in Manila, Philippines and raised in southern California. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine and was a member of the Northwest Dance Project in Portland, Oregon for seven years.

MIGRANTS – Photo: LA Dance Chronicle

Kye’s music is a fusion of pop, hip-hop, jazz, rap and classical. Several of the songs presented on the program, like the title song Migrants, were inspired by the subject of migration, perhaps due to his own family’s relocating to the US from Korea when he was a child. Kye also has a very strong singing voice and uses his wide vocal range to make the many layers of his songs. He does so with an electronic music looper, playing several measures, touching a button on the device with his foot, which then plays the samples back. This results in multiple layers of music playing back repeatedly, which gives the impression there are other backup players and/or singers.

Kye is a very gifted singer, song writer and musician. I am not a music critic and will leave it up to those who are to assess his compositional talents. His music is entertaining, and he is a very lively performer who knows how to “play a room” and engage the audience. This was, of course, a live performance and there were several times when the different tracks or layers of music did not always match up and the looper samples sounded out of sync.  He has published several CD albums, and I’m certain that the production quality is far better on those.

Ching Ching Wong is a beautiful dancer and performer. She was lovely in Bambam’s Lullaby that she also choreographed, demonstrating her powerful technique and commanding stage presence. The solo felt introspective, often visualizing the music with her movements and then working outside Kye’s rhythms. Wong’s choreography was lush with beautiful moments of rapid fire percussive moves.

Migrants – Photo: LA Dance Chronicle

The choreography for Kye’s song, Migrants gave shape to the travels of individuals and groups of people alike. It was choreographed by Katie Scherman with group work composed by Lara Wilson that utilized Scherman’s phrasing and elements of improvisation. There was a nice duet between Wong and Byron Roman choreographed by Lara Wilson, but I cannot say the same for much of the other dancing on the program. Some of it appeared arbitrary, and poorly improvised. Lindsey Matheis was lovely in her brief improvised solo, but it felt incomplete. Dancers not mentioned earlier included Christopher Bordenave, Charbel Rohayem, and Tatiana Barber. The minimal lighting was produced with the assistance of Stage Manger Taylor Unwin. It was wonderful to watch Darin Reyes work his visual magic. His projections of lines that morphed into colorful dots that danced with the music, growing or receding in size according to the tempo and volume of Kye’s music. The motion on the screen built and layered in direct response to what Kye was playing.

Navel LA is a beautiful space and the audience was treated to a wonderful evening of music, visuals, dance and food catered by the Kobunga Korean Grill. Kye and Wong’s international tour includes Nepal, Japan, China, Israel South Korea, San Francisco and New York City. They are both very talented artists and I am certain that they will be warmly received by their audiences.

Feature Photo: Peddecord Photo

To visit the LA Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.