The Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company (LACDC) is a community-minded, non-profit repertory company devoted to the creation and promotion of cutting-edge contemporary dance by Los Angeles artists. According to their website, LACDC believes in ”the transformative power of an artistic experience, and seeks to engage, educate, perform for, and connect with all people.” On Friday night, January 31st, the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance company premiered four new works in partnership with the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s Dance at the Odyssey series.
The evening opened with, Well Weathered, choreographed by Alice Klock featuring Hyosun Choi, Kate Coleman, Tess Hewlett, Ryan Ruiz, and Tiffany Sweat. The piece opened with soft lighting which cast shadows of the dancers against the white backdrop and gently lit their faces and bodies. The dancers performed in vibrantly colored and well-coordinated pedestrian clothing. There seemed to be a juxtaposition in this piece of the dancers moving in groups and in isolation and a motif of the dancers moving their fingers softly and quickly giving the piece an essence of lightness and magic. Hyosun Choi performed an outstanding and intimate solo in this work. I appreciated her vulnerability and honesty. Choi did not necessarily connect with the audience by making her movement and gaze presentational, but rather her authentic and organic connection to the movement made it a genuine performance. The program notes that this piece “explores systems and dynamics of the elements that aid or perhaps hinder growth in the natural world. The piece emphasizes that struggle is a steppingstone to strength, and that in the midst of difficult environments life perseveres and beautifully evolves.” The choreography flowed between duets, solos with several dancers on stage. The transitions of dancers coming off and on stage were seamless and did not interrupt the evolution of the piece. The constant shift of dancers on stage also allowed for individual stories to develop as well as tales born from the relationship of the dancers to one another.
Tainted, choreographed by Roderick George, featured dancers Christian Beasley, Kate Coleman, Nicole Hagen, Ryan Ruiz, Drea Sobke, and Tiffany Sweat. The incredibly powerful and strong dancing left a quite an impact. The stage had a stark white floor and white backdrop with ambiguous large white shapes placed around the room. It took me a few seconds to realize that the white shapes were dancers. Soloist Jamila Glass’s dark skin created a strong contrast with the white space around her and the lighting cast large and compelling shadows of Glass’s figure against the back wall. Intense and almost menacing music with a heavy rhythm began and the dancers. dressed in all white with white masks over their faces, begin to shift their positions. Glass who was sitting on top of a bridge created by the dancers stood and slowly walked toward the audience, her gaze striking, self-assured, and unapologetic. This dancer had the capability of making even the simplest of movements such as walking towards the audience, a gripping experience for the viewer.
There was an interesting shift in the work when the dancers in white began to control more of her movement and it appeared that she had lost some power and strength. The dancing and choice in costumes along with a musical score that contained some politically charged lyrics conveyed a powerful message of social dynamics and systems that impact our communities. However, it was Glass’s vulnerability in her character on stage that took that idea further to investigate how these systems impact the individual in terms of their identity and emotional well-being. The program notes read, “Tainted is a creation based on the idea of immigration and one’s identity in a new blank space. The piece looks at the transformation within oneself and how it affects others.” I felt it was difficult to do this piece justice with too much description. It was truly incredible to watch and struck me with awe on several occasions. Tainted compelled critical thought and feeling without having to force the content or make the subject easy to digest. It is work like this, with such strength and clarity that remind us how dance and performance are remarkably capable of generating change and provoking thought.
The third piece was Naneh, choreographed by Roya Carreras and featuring dancers Christian Beasley, Genevieve Carson, Jamila Glass, Tess Hewlett, Malachi Middleton, and Drea Sobke. It opened with a strong rhythmic group choreography, and the costumes reminded me of photos one sees worn by European immigrants in the 1900’s. Both the music and costumes alluded to a strong cultural influence within the piece. There were motifs of struggle and dancers holding babies. The use of symmetrical formations and simple, repetitive, and rhythmic movement seemed to hint that the dance was inspired by folk dance. The program notes read, “‘Naneh’, meaning mother in Farsi, unveils and peels apart the idea of motherhood and the matriarchy.” There were very beautiful duets between the women and made use of feminine movement to transcend stories of strength and resilience.
There was definitely a feeling of ancestral knowledge that influenced the dancers. It made me think that each was connecting to someone from their past who had struggled, mothered and persevered in order to survive. There appeared, however, to be more of a disconnect in this piece in terms of how the dancers connected to their movement and the audience. The work did not allow the space for the dancers to be individuals and it may have impacted their connection to the piece overall. This piece had a strong foundation; however, the concept became lost and diluted due to length. Naneh had a very strong start but perhaps more could be said with less and had as strong of an impact.
Upon seeing this performance, I think that the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance company knows how to end a show. The last piece premiered was titled GLHF, choreographed by WHYTEBERG and featured dancers Hyosun Choi, Nicole Hagen, Malachi Middleton, Ryan Ruiz, Tiffany Sweat, and Angel Tyson. Seconds before the show began there was a sense in the audience that something exciting was on its way because a woman handed out video game controllers to two audience members on either side of the audience. With strange electronic music playing, they selected what seemed to be random letters and numbers that were projected on the back wall. The suspense of what was to come definitely enlivened the audience with whimsy and giggles.
The performers entered stage wearing fantastic and bizarre superhero costumes. Their costumes seemed familiar, but they had a retro quality that made their characters appear alien and unknown. I cannot emphasize how fun this piece was to watch. The humor made it really accessible to the audience, which was an extraordinary way of building community amongst the audience and a relationship between them and the performers. GLHF progressed as the dancers battled one another and featured their awesome and hilarious superpowers. The dancers had a strong sense of individuality and a strong connection to their alter egos.
I greatly admire the devotion of this company to their mission to build community with an audience in order to engage and educate through dance. All four of these pieces in very unique and different ways sought to connect with audience members in order to provoke thought and or build community. Being able to challenge an audience and build a relationship at the same time is no easy task and LACDC did so successfully. The company has a unique and transformative way of shifting an audience’s perspective and feelings through innovative, honest, and emotionally driven works.
The LACDC performance included Artistic Direction by Genevieve Carson, Managing Direction by Napoleon Gladney, Lighting Design by Ric Zimmerman, Costume Design by Kelsey Vidic, Assistant Costume Design by Daniel Miramontes, and Set Design by Genevieve Carson.
This is the final week of Dance at the Odyssey 2020. For information and tickets, click here.
Written by Corrina Roche for LA Dance Chronicle, February 6, 2020.
To visit the LACDC website, click here.