On May 31st Highways co-presented a true happening at the theater. A relaxed atmosphere welcomed fans and the curious to Kybele Dance Theater who presented Seda Aybay’s SiMYACi (Alchemist), an Immersive Performance Experience with a moving spiritual tack. It was dedicated to former member of KDT, the beloved Robert Wells who passed away in February 2024 .  In the corner of the lobby, a film of each cast member moving individually was presented with projections on the wall designed by Carl Owens. With a sense of poignancy and other-worldliness it left one trying to find balance in this pre-show offering.

Kybele Dance Theater with audience member in "SiMYACI" - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kybele Dance Theater with audience member in “SiMYACI” – Photo courtesy of the artist.

Dancers in black practice clothes, wearing insect-looking goggles, designed by Senol Aybay, gathered in the anti-chamber integrating themselves within the waiting audience. They wandered, encountered, then guided unsuspecting visitors as they looked for their seats and ultimately floated into the black box theatre, a kind of prayer space. With an amalgam of music by Nils Frahm, Anne Müller, Adam Crawley, Rival Consoles, René Aubry, Dustin O’Halloran, David Schoch, Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joep Beving, dancers invited each person to become a part of this dance-of-discovery and join in as they moved, and were moved, into the performance space. I, for one, was secretly looking for a special place to hide and take notes without disturbing or being disturbed. Surprisingly, I encountered the diminutive Seda Aybay, dancer and Artistic Director for Kybele Dance Theater who with electric and gentle intension encouraged me to reach, to feel the air, to explore the music, and smell the incense wafting through the theatre from the lit alter on the far stage-right side of the space. Rather than a fourth wall, we were now a part of this life confirming experience.

Kybele Dance Theater in "SiMYACI" - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kybele Dance Theater in “SiMYACI” – Photo courtesy of the artist.

Eventually all attendees found their place either as audience members or dancers on stage who then posed each other and removed their goggles. Nico Albuja and four audience members were shaped and formed in “Searching for…” Leading to Ariel Scott’s “Spaces of Silence.” Scott, a powerful young dancer, demonstrated her versatility and spunk in a modern/contemporary tour de force and soon paired with Simon Lathrop in an engaging duet.

Kybele Dance Theater in "SiMYACI" - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kybele Dance Theater in”SiMYACI” – Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Change is Inevitable” brought Jade Lelievre, charming French dancer + 1 audience member to a lovely encounter leading to Istanbul-born, stunning tall, tatted, Huri Murphy and company, revealing how change is inevitable. With their unique individual styles from assorted countries, they rocked, with puppet-like movements interspersed with audience participation. The company made clear individually what their creative input was to this moment in time. Ecuadorian born Nico Albuja physically shared his eclectic dance experience, from b-boy to later working with the great Donald McKayle, Stephanie Powell and others. He brought a thoughtful feisty style that ended the first act with “Golden Compass.”

The intermission only barely allowed for bathroom breaks and drinks before the lobby was awash with a getting-to-know-you immersions of KDT company members and the audience. Some audience members challenged the group with their best showy steps, while others joined in Tai Chi cooperative meditational moves, improvising creations of their own interests, skills, and history. This was a true test of “Change Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone” when soon the amoeba-like exchanges traded places, giving intangible gifts to each other in the action.

Kybele Dance Theater in "SiMYACI" - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kybele Dance Theater in “SiMYACI” – Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Second act took us through “Fundamental Values,” Love, Gratitude, Reverence, with female dancers, Scott, Murphy, Lelievre and Aybay, four strong and very individual qualities of performers working together in fascinating configurations. Compassion and “Spark of Life/Energy,” and finally, Rhythms of Inner Harmony with the entire Company Finale to end the evening with a standing ovation and immersion that faded out into the streets.

There are some creative events that inspire by seeing, and others by fully experiencing. The highly creative Seda Aybay and the unique Kybele Dance Theater Company are committed to giving the audience an experience, making SiMYACi (Alchemist) not only an engaged, facile and exciting work that allows the combined energy of dance; but it also gifts the audience their own physical and spiritual understanding of the importance of movement and connection. Thank you for making this a committed relationship of dance and adventure an important gift for life.

To learn more about Kybele Dance Theater, please visit their website.

To see what else is happening at Highways Performance Space, please visit their website.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Kybele Dance Theater in “SiMYACI” – Photo courtesy of the artist.