The 7th annual Los Angeles Dance Festival (LADF) concluded on Sunday, April 29th. Deborah Brockus in partnership with the Luckman Fine Arts Complex and California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA), deserve an enormous Brava for the hard work put into producing and organizing three nights at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex; exhibitions of leading Los Angeles visual artists; master classes at Brockus Project Studios and around Los Angeles; and ending with three nights of FRINGE at Diavolo Performance Space. The festival included completely different programs for all six nights and featured works by over 40 choreographers, including two from Korea. Brockus formed a connection with the organizers of the Seoul International Dance Festival in Tank and is hoping to expand the relationship into an ongoing artists exchange.

The program began with a very powerful performances by three very talented men in Elijah Laurant’s very dramatic work Under His Eye,inspired by a life altering experience that Laurant experienced in New York City. The piece was taut with emotional tension and struggle from the onset, and the dances sustained those qualities throughout.

The three in Under His Eyes, Elijah Laurant, Raymond Ejiofor and Aleks Perez, portrayed individuals (or perhaps three conflicts within one man) united through comradery, an ability to overcome and a desire to survive. Special mention goes to Raymond Ejiofor for his exceptional performance. He processes a technical brilliance that is enhanced by a commanding stage presence.

Alan Perez understands how to create beautiful movement and to draw the best from his cast. Benevolence, set to music listed as Untitled, opened with Alan Perez and Jordan Slaffey slowly rotating back to back and moving together as one entity. Once Aleks Perez joined them, the piece branched out with a sense of unity through beautifully designed phrases. Alan Perez is a strong dancer and I especially enjoyed where he walked slowly upstage expressing his inner feelings via subtle ripples of his back muscles. Slaffey was a wonderful mover and actress, and Aleks Perez demonstrated great potential.

What was unclear about Benevolence, was its targeted purpose. Was it simply to show a desired emotion or quality, or was it all in reaction to outside forces? It was beautifully constructed and performed, but the full meaning remained evasive.

Next was an intense and beautifully performed duet presented by members of the Yoonsume Dance Company and choreographed by Yeunwha Kim. There was no title listed in the program. It was, however, an absorbing performance by Yeunwha Kim and Juhyun Lee, both dressed in white satin while wearing black head gear that covered all but their eyes. They each appeared at times to be the person remembering another, as well as the person remembered. The two personalities vied against one another or united within beautiful unison movements. In the end, only one was left standing.

One hoped that this is just the beginning of a sister city relationship between the artists of Seoul and Los Angeles.

The Nancy Evans Dance Company is one of the gems of Pasadena. Nancy Evans Doede takes on many subjects within her choreography, but it is always exquisitely musical, beautifully performed by her all women cast, and expressed with an honesty that is sometimes heartbreaking. Tethered was one such work.

Three couples moved slowly while connected to their partner; or if separated, it was but for an instant. Tethered was performed to Mozart’s mournful Adagio from the Piano Sonata in F (k.280) as arranged by Arvo Pärt, and Evans Doede maintained the sense of connectedness with her unique movement phrasing, an abstract intertwining of characters, harmony, and during one section, gentle running that gently dissolved into integrated designs. The dance bordered on appearing movement based or a visualization of the music, but Evans Doede’s subtle tying together of patterns gave us a portal into her inner inspirations. The wonderful cast of Tethered included Katrina Amerine, Noel Dilworth, Ashleigh Doede, Jen Hunter, Karina Jones, and Jenn Logan.

Act I closed with the dynamic performance by Emergent Dance Company in Megan Pulfer’s intriguing work 99.5. The space was abstractly transformed into a competitive arena with chairs arranged at 4 corners of an imaginary ring. Four women performed on the chairs while the other two vied with one another in and around the center.

99.5, performed to an original score produced by Nick Pethtel, included gestures and a posture that expressed feminine strength with a tinge of defiance. Pulfer was an amazing performer with Clairobscur Dance Company and she demonstrated here that her talents in design and movement show potential to equal her gifts as a dancer. The very talented cast included Paige Amicon, Claire Keeley, Stephanie Lin, Jessie May, Melody Plastow, and Madison Simons.

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Jordan Slaffey, Aleks Perez, Alan Perez in Benevolence - Photo by Denise Leitner

Act II opened with an absorbing work titled Wind Down, choreographed and performed by the beautiful Lindsey Lollie, founder of lollieworks. Lollie is also a performance artist and a member of szalt (dance co.) and Wind Down offered a deeper layer and sharper edge to the evening. Reverse the words in the title to down wind and one can imagine Lollie’s portrayal of the resistivity expressed in her work.

Performed in front of an industrial sized red fan that filled the space with a roaring buzz, Lollie’s movement was often stationery, twisted, or leaning forward to fight or conquer the impending flow of energy. The wind became life and/or internal struggles, and her movement displayed a determination to continue forward.

Note: The program mentioned music by Marry Lattimore, but either there was a technical mishap or the noise from the fan drowned it out.

Deborah Rosen and Dancers presented an excerpt from an evening long piece titled Tashlich, a Jewish rite usually performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Choreographed to music by Tom Moose, the section presented here, although very well performed by Jacquelyn Buckmaster, Diane Hula, Matt Lara, Myra-Joy Veluz, and Monilade Walker, left me with no true sense of the entire piece. It was calm and expressed a quality of unity, but it felt like randomly opening a book and reading only one non-descriptive chapter. This chapter did not make me want to continue reading.

Jessica Harper’s Its About Time drew a few laughs from the audience, but its humor struck me as trite and overly obvious. Three characters costumed in ill-fitting brown milliskin unitards, performed ill-conceived slap stick gestures and physical arrangements to represent different genres of competition. They then added vocal sounds to accent their extremely exaggerated and childlike responses. The cast of JESS HARPER & Dancers include Anna Lamonica, Anthony Languren, and Katelyn Martin.

The performance ended with the high energy and Latin flavored excerpt from Beyond the Body choreographed by Joshua D. Estrada-Romero founder and artistic director of FUSE Dance Company. It was an appropriate closer for FRINGE to send the audience off wanting more. I recently saw, and reviewed, the entire Beyond the Body at the Brea Curtis Theater stating that Estrada-Romeo had created a beautiful work to showcase his company of strong dancers. Choreographed to the powerfully rhythmic and beautiful music of Rodrigo y Gabriela,  Estrada-Romero’s work was energetic, visually exciting, movement driven, intricately designed and increased in speed as it progressed.

The cast of Beyond the Body who rose to meet the physicality and endurance of Estrada-Romero’s challenging work were Leann Alduenda, Samuel DeAngelo, Kathy Duran, Matthew Kindig, Stephanie Lin, Phillip Lu, Rebeca Montecino, Edward Salas, and Katherine Shepersky.

Deborah Brockus has proven that LA is alive and well with talented dance artists. I look forward to the 8th Annual Los Angeles Dance Festival.

For more information about LA Dance Festival, click here.

Featured image: Emergent Dance Company in 99.5 by Megan pulfer – Photo by Denise Leitner