LA Grooves is a new, innovative Los Angeles based dance collective formed during the Covid pandemic in November 2020 by Creative Directors Hannah Keene, Leah McCall, and Madeline McMillin with the goal of making performance art accessible to everyone. On March 13, 2020, LA Grooves premiered its second virtual performance, A Love Letter to LA featuring works by choreographers Skyla Schreter, Brittany Rand, Sadie Black, Cara Hansvick, Elise Filo, Leah McCall, and Madeline McMillin.
All the dancers on the program are or have been in professional ballet companies and the movement style, though highly classically influenced, demonstrated the range of dance styles such as contemporary, ballet, jazz, and modern that these very accomplished dancers have studied. The program consisted of six works with subtle transitions between them. Watching dance online can be challenging, and to be honest, I was relieved that the program was just over 24 minutes.
The stage for A Love Letter to LA was a rooftop somewhere near downtown Los Angeles with the city’s skyline as the backdrop, and a dance floor had been laid to allow the dancers to perform on a smooth surface with different types of shoes. The sun was near setting and the sky was crystal clear, lending an overall sense of serenity and avoiding any extra glare for the camera.
Moonlight was choreographed by Madeline McMillin and Leah McCall to Saeglópur by Sigur Rós, an Icelandic post-rock band from Reykjavík. Like the choreographers, the band incorporates classical music with more modern musical elements. The dance began with a solo performed by Shelby Whallon, joined soon thereafter by McKenzie Byrne, both of whom gave beautiful performances dressed in simple white halter tops and gray dance shorts. The choreography was naïve but structurally sound, blending contemporary and lyrical dance styles. It was, however, the dancers’ performance that saved Moonlight and made it an excellent choice for an opening work.
Blending together seamlessly, Hannah Keene walks in dressed in black dance shorts and a white blouse to begin performing Rabbit:Hole choreographed by Skyla Schreter, a former member of San Francisco Ballet. Keene, who is a member of Los Angeles Ballet, is a gorgeous dancer with a compelling stage presence. Although Schreter’s work starts off strong, the movement quickly becomes repetitive, succumbing literally to the musical form of Zachary Carlisle’s song Rabbit Hole. An element that worked in this dance was the excellent camerawork and editing by Oliver Endahl.
Things improved with Haze that was structured into two parts, The Mountains performed and choreographed by Elise Filo and The Clouds, performed and choreographed by Cara Hansvik. Performed to Carpathian Mountains and My Piano, The Clouds live by Italian contemporary music composer and pianist Fabrizio Paterlini. Costumed in elegant purple dresses and dancing on pointe, the two performers beautifully executed the choreography that visualized Paterlini’s romantic score.
Brittany Rand took pointe work to a new level in her work titled Fantasy Life, performed to music of the same title by Bryce Hirschberg. Though much of the movement phrases mirrored many one sees and dances in class, Rand challenged the viewer’s idea of dancing on pointe by incorporating modern dance and jazz floor work. I suggest she continue in this vein of movement exploration but drop the classroom phrases.
One of the highlights of the program was the far too short My Love My Love choreographed and performed by the elegant Sadie Black who performs for TV and film in Los Angeles in TV, and who has danced with Luminario Ballet. This work was one of the few that made total use of the rooftop and that incorporated the camera as one of the choreographers. Black looked at the dance through the lens of the camera and created a dance for film rather than simply a recording of a stage performance. Performing on pointe and wearing a brilliant red dress with a long trail, Black took her training and experience and spoke to us with her own choreographic voice. The music was Dance for Me by Polish composer of film and theatre scores Abel Korzeniowski.
Firelight, Part One: Match Strike was choreographed and performed by Madeline McMillin to Silver Coin by the brother and sister Australian folk and indie pop group Angus & Julia Stone. McMillin infuses lyrical dance with her background in acrobatics. The former is lovely, but the acrobatics appears put in for affect only. Unexpected movement accents are McMillin’s choreographic strong points and her performance is electric.
Firelight, Part Two: The Spark was danced and choreographed by Leah McCall to was ‘Cold Love’ by Rainbow Kitten Surprise.
Part Three: Embers was danced and choreographed by McMillin and Leah McCall to a song of the same name by American band known as Hundred Waters. The choreography, that has a slight jazzy tone, is original with unexpected floor work. McCall especially comes across as having created movement that she genuinely loves to dance. The final duet was powerful with McMillin and McCall making a compelling pair.
LA Grooves’ Love Letter to LA was definitely entertaining and although the choreography is not the strongest element here, the dancing was excellent and I strongly encourage these women to continue exploring their creative abilities.
A Love Letter to LA was Produced and Directed by Leah McCall, Hannah Keene, and Madeline McMillin. The luscious Cinematography and excellent Editing was by Oliver Endahl of Ballet Zaida. The costumes were by AJ Abrams, Brittany Rand, Cara Hansvik & Elise Filo, Leah McCall & Madeline McMillin, and Skyla Schreter.
To visit the LA Grooves website, click HERE.
This article was edited March 16, 2021.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: LA Dance Grooves – Madeline McMillin and Leah McCall in Firelight – Photo courtesy of the company.