Luminario Ballet just released its provocative film L’INVALIDE, produced by Artistic Director Judith FLEX Helle, Allen Walls, and Luminario Ballet, now available on YouTube. I attended the 8:30 pm showing of L’INVALIDE on May 2nd at Yoga NoHo and for a few minutes was transformed back to the “flower children” era of the 1960s when psychedelic LSD trips and tie-dyed clothing or floral-themed decorations that symbolized the ideals of universal belonging, peace, and love was alive and well in San Francisco and beyond.
L’INVALIDE was inspired by Judith FLEX Helle’s early years of being a very sickly child who spent many weeks in hospitals and overly medicated by doctors. She describes the film as “Alice in Wonderland meets Dracula meets the ghosts from Giselle,” and indeed the music, costuming and choreography bring across those images. It reaches more deeply than that, however. It is a semi-biographical outreach to help others who have gone through this experience. I am thinking primarily of hyper-active children and adults who were prescribed drugs such as Ritalin to slow them down and act more “normal”.
Juliette, portrayed by Shannon Beach, is our heroine. To the music “Black Rabbit” by Prince Fatty and Shniece McMenamin, we first see Juliette spiraling down from above onto a hospital bed surrounded by her parents (Sadie Black and Alexander Stabler) and doctors (Jasmine Perry and Miguel Reyes Santiago) who continuously examine and drug her. Judith FLEX Helle uses ballet, contemporary dance, aerial, and dance theater to bring about these images of Juliette falling down the rabbit hole, struggling to get free and finally descending into a psychedelic coma.
While in a coma Juliette is preyed upon by vampires (Black, Stabler, Perry, and Santiago), drained of her blood and dies. They all come back as ghosts who are caught in a non-ending time loop but manage to save our heroine Juliette.
The film features the strong talents of Luminario Ballet’s dancers and aerialist and I really enjoyed the white fabric and costumes by Terril Teran Miré that realized the hospital room, vampires, ghosts and the purgatory-like realm. The ‘60s style projections and the music by Prince Fatty and Shniece McMenamin, “Angelica in Delerium” by G.O.L., and “I Lie” by David Lang greatly enhanced Juliette’s drug induced experience and salvation.
I was temporarily disturbed by Beach’s performance in the first section as she appeared to be performing to the camera. As the film went on, Beach let go of this presentational performance and truly immersed herself into the role of Juliette.
This was a courageous and strong work for Judith FLEX Helle, perhaps aided by its autobiographical nature. The third section suffered somewhat from a lack of clear character development, but L’INVALIDE is a film that should be seen. She is also putting the final edits to her soon to be released memoir “Wild Animals I have Known: A Walk on the Wild Side” which she wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown.
The beautiful dancers in Luminario Ballet’s L’INVALIDE are Shannon Beach, Sadie Black, Jasmine Perry, Alexander Stabler, and Miguel Reyes Santiago.
Filmed at the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park, CA. L’INVALIDE was Directed and Choreographed by Judith FLEX Helle; the Director of Photography was Ted Hayash; First Assistant Cameraman, Erik “Wolfie” Wolford; Second Assistant Cameraman, Mason Malone; and Drone Camera was controlled by JJ Trinidad. The Editor was Zak Byrd, with Rough editors Allen Walls and Judith FLEX Helle. Lighting Designer was Jesse Baldridge; Media Artist, Lauren Banuvar; Still Photographer, Ted Soqui, Production Assistant, Darin Sanone; Script Supervisor, Carl Jacobson; Wardrobe/Make Up, Barbara Lamelza; and Aerial Rigger, Kevin Scott Cannon.
L’INVALIDE is currently streaming on YouTube. To view the film, click HERE.
To visit the Luminario Ballet website, click HERE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Juliette Shannon in L’Invalide – Luminerio Ballet – Photo by Ted Soqui