Leave it to Heidi Duckler, Artistic Director of Heidi Duckler Dance (HDD) and the grande dame of sight-specific dance, to introduce new spaces to audiences and to highlight other Los Angeles artists while doing so. Many of those spaces, of course, have been in Los Angeles for years, but perhaps not known to many. Such was the case for me when I attended a preview performance of the fourth iteration of Ebb & Flow at the Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP), historically the home of the Gabrelino-Tongva peoples and the Zanja Madre Aqueduct. In the 1800s, this land became a rail yard for over a hundred years and then a warehouse area. After becoming property of the California State Park, in 2017 the Los Angeles State Historic Park was opened to the public and has become one of LA’s largest parks and a place where a very diverse group of communities can enjoy.
HDD’s entertaining and thought provoking Ebb & Flow is taking place this weekend, June 25-26, 2022 from 3pm to 5pm. A map will be provided for aid attendees in locating where the performances are taking place and attendees will be guided through in groups. Those Los Angeles based artists whose work is being presented include Darrél ‘Friidom’ Dunn, 3-19 Dance Art, Ching Ching Wong (HDD), Nat Wilson, Elena Brocade, Deborah Brockus, Elkpen/Hollywood Orchard + Audubon Society, Taylor Donofrio, Anj Vancura and Lydia Janbay.
Darrél ‘Friidom’ Dunn is an incredible dancer who makes his hip-hop based movement appear as if it was invented for his body; movement that flows like mercury on silk. His duet titled Yii, performed by Dunn and the delightful Tiffany Bong is inspired by the age old philosophy of Yin & Yang bring balance to the world. Performed on cement bench-like sculptures, Yii softens everything around it and for a brief movement brings harmony to our existence.
A la Rueda Rueda was choreographed by Beatriz Eugenia Vasquez and performed by members of 3-19 Dance Art Letxia Cordova, Khalia J. Frazier, Marla Hamaya, Dani Savka, and Vasquez. Although this work was a little weakened by its length, the women dressed in colorful dresses and wearing floral headwear, performed Vasquez’s choreography, which speaks to how women shape the world, extremely well. Continuing the theme of supporting women, the music was created by composers Marta Gomez, Rene Aubry, Simon Mejia, and Sarai Gomez and the poetry/spoken word by Jireh Deng.
The HDD dance mobile makes a return appearance in artist in residence Ching Ching Wong’s Parts & Labor Fourth Gear. Performed expertly by Rebecca Lee and Alejandro Perez, two friends perform to live music by Gloria Arjona and Javier Arjona inside, around and all over the yellow mustang convertible. According to the program notes, Parts & Labor Fourth Gear was first staged in 1993 and reimaged over time. This is Wong’s version of the piece and it is wonderful to watch.
Not as strong a work but still entertaining to watch is Nat Wilson’s Frontyard Gardens performed with grace and clarity by the all-women cast Annalise Gehling, Mamie Green, Taylor Unwin, Anna Long, Taylor Marie, Louisa Miller, and Mady Thornquest. The women spend a long time with their sunhats covering their faces, and without the narration by Kristalyn Gill, it would be difficult to discern that Frontyard Gardens is about feeding the world through everyone sharing their gardens.
Untiled is a showcase choreographed by Elena Brocade for aerial dancers Rachel Tatem, Kate Minwegen, Heather Valles, and Brocade. Performing solos, duets and quartets on a single trapeze, these young performers spin and fly in numerous dance positions, jete without touching Earth and through the use of their costumes, create a beautiful pastel colored butterfly.
In and around a dry creek bed, Deborah Brockus and dancers’ work Echos addresses several ecological issues and images. Fire and water, earth and water, drought and how important water is for the existence of those who inhabit this planet. The work was performed by the stunning longtime BrockusRED member Julienne Mackie, along with the very talented Maiko Okajima.
Next is an art installation with a powerful message titled HERE AND NOT by Elkpen Signs artist Christian Kasperkovitz. Left lying in a circle on the lawn are several signs on poles. The signs represent different species that once roamed the Earth in large numbers but are now extinct. Attendees of Ebb & Flow are encouraged to pick up the signs and use them as masks, or to simply get a closer look.
The highlight of the day for me is VIEW choreographed by Taylor Donofrio to the music of Squash & Biscuit (瓜和饼干). Not only is the movement that Donofrio created for the beautiful dancers Emilio Wettfauler and Josie Anders exquisite to watch, but it is clear that she took great pains to select where she presented her work within the park, one if not the only hill with a gorgeous view of downtown Los Angeles. Atop the hill is a set by Yuki Shiyu Ding that occasionally frames the dancers and highlights Donofrio’s concept. This is a wonderful piece and I look forward to seeing more of Donofrio’s work.
Finally, the map leads to a work that allows for audience participation by Dakota Merritt and Lydia Janbay to sound created by Anj Vancura and Janbay. The work is titled Hide and Seek, and the only time it lost my interest was when the performers took that title literally, playing the children’s game while vocalizing unanswered questions such as “Are you my friend?” “Do I know you?” and “Why is it so hot?” Their work came back into focus as the dancers performed structured improvisation and following a sound cue “ready or not” danced in unison. The work is not very memorable, but well executed by Merritt and Janbay.
Kudos to the HDD Production Team: Lead/Audio Engineer: Karl Learmont; Crew: David Calderon, David Carrera, Josh McClellan, Luis Ramos; and Volunteers: Itzel Herrera, Kaitwan Jackson, Catherine Larson, and Rosanna O’Guynn. Special thanks to Raphaell Ziemba and Chloë Flores for guiding me through the park.
Each group performs three times during the three hour period (3pm to 5pm) of Ebb & Flow at the Los Angeles State Historic Park Saturday and Sunday, June 25 – 26, 2022.
If you go, which I hope you will, I highly recommend wearing a sun hat &/or sunblock and taking along a bottle of water!
For more information about Heidi Duckler Dance, please visit their website.
This article was edited on June 27, 2022 to correct a misquote.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Emilio Wettfauler and Josie Anders in VIEW choreography by Taylor Donofrio – Photo © Rush Varela Photography