Over the course of the pass year, many dance artists have had an opportunity to learn new skills in order to continue creating and performing.  Seda Aybay, Founder, Artistic Director, and Choreographer of Kybele Dance Theater is one such artist who took on this challenge early on with her dance film titled Yol that was presented online as part of the LA Dance Festival 2020. On Thursday, July 15, 2021, at 7:30 pm, Kybele Dance Theater premiered Aybay’s newest work insan livestreamed on Zoom with the one camera choreographed to move inside the space as one of the performers. This is not a new concept, but Aybay, along with her Cinematographer Carl Owens, produced a dark but insightful work.

Following several failed beginnings during which Technical Director Mark Baker confessed that he was over 300 miles away from where the performance was being livestreamed, all the technical bugs that should have been ironed out beforehand were overcome and insan proceeded smoothly.

Aybay grew up in Istanbul, Turkey and “insan” translates as human in English. The work is very much that. Starting off with the dancers dressed in all black, their jackets worn backwards, and performing inside an all-black space owned by FD Photo Studio, the atmosphere is somber, introspective and the movement was unifying the five dancers with reoccurring unison phrases and gestures. Here the camera kept going in and out of focus, but soon corrected and the energy and emotion was able to come through the screen for a strong male solo performed by Robert Gomez which led into a shift of space, music and lighting.

Kybele Dance Theater - "insan" - Photo Carl Owens

Kybele Dance Theater – “insan” – Photo Carl Owens

Framed in an irregular hexagon of fluorescent lights, Rachel Walton beautifully performs an introspective and somewhat somber solo as Morgan Goodfellow stands upstage with her back to the camera. The choreography informs the viewer that these two are connected and indeed they soon unite in a sensual duet that evokes a strong love between these women.  Goodfellow’s all too brief solo (she is a compelling performer) ends as Walton is replaced (while she is out of frame) with a male figure (Karlo Ramirez). Ramierez’s wonderfully performed dramatic solo acts as a seamless transition back into the black box area.

Kybele Dance Theater - "insan" - Photo by Robert Gomez

Kybele Dance Theater – “insan” – Photo by Robert Gomez

Dancers are now dressed in flesh colored undergarments and Lighting Designer Steve Hosford softens the mood by bathing them in amber and a circle of rain soon falls from above, providing an even smaller area for the dancers to perform in. Nick Albuja delivers a powerful performance which utilizes his early b-boy and hip-hop training and Aybay’s soulful solo is gorgeous.

Next, however, Aybay slowly erodes the stunning human aspect of her choreography by not trusting the power of stillness that she demonstrated in the first two-thirds of insan.  A duet with Aybay and Albuja that all the elements of success is weakened by a long series of endlessly moving and complicated lifts; lifts that are not given time to breath or totally enjoyed. This constant movement is exciting, but simply feels out of place inside insan. Fortunately, following a couple of short trios that move in and out of camera, Aybay backs off and regains control of her original vision.

Seda Aybay in "insan" - Screenshot by LADC

Seda Aybay in “insan” – Screenshot by LADC

Everyone should be congratulated for the work they put into the creation of this online in-person performance. The highly gifted cast of insan included Rachel Walton, Karlo Ramirez, Morgan Goodfellow, Robert Gomez, Nick Albuja, and Seda Aybay. Cinematography: Carl Owens; Lighting Designer: Steve Hosford; and Technical Director: Mark Baker. The gorgeous music which greatly enhanced this work was chosen entirely from the soundtrack The Human created by Armand Amar.

To visit the Kybele Dance Theater website, click HERE.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Kybele Dance Theater – Rachel Walton and Morgan Goodfellow in “insan” – Photo by Carl Owens