On December 3, 2021, the Los Angeles Dance Festival/International began its three day run of streaming online dance films by choreographers from Los Angeles, France, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, Spain, Poland, and Brazil. This artistic fusion of nations was made possible with the hard work of Los Angeles based Deborah Brockus (BrockusRED) partnering with and supported by The Luckman Theatre, Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles, Seoul International Dance Festival in TANK (SIDFIT), and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles.
In addition, this year each Los Angeles based dance artist participating in the festival was asked to bring along a choreographer from another country. Brockus recruited films by dance artists from SIDFIT, Alina Sokulska (Spain), Marcat Dance (Spain), and Herve Koubi (France); LA based Sam McReynolds (GREYaRea) invited Brazilian artist Rafael Quintas; Rosanna Gamson (Rosanna Gamson/World Wide) brought along interdisciplinary artist and performer Jinglin Liao; Charlotte Katherine (Charlotte Katherine & Co.) arranged for Taiwanese choreographer Johnny Tu’s film to be included with the support of Adam Mickiewicz Institute Powered by Culture.pl.
The seven films on Program A are separated by an intermission with informative information by the directors of the Los Angeles Dance Festival (Deborah Brockus), SIDFIT (Moonea Choi), the Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (Wijin Part), and a virtual tour of The Luckman Arts Complex located on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles.
Program A opened with the visually stunning and extremely informative documentary about the making of ODYSSEY by French choreographer Hervé Koubi who calls this piece a “white ballet”. The film includes the collaborating artists discussing the story behind the work, the process of making it and how each was inspired by the other. Featured here are the choreographer Koubi; creators of the original score, opera singer Natacha Atlas and composer Samy Bishaï. Between their descriptions, we get a glimpse of the extraordinary dancing by the cast of ODYSSEY and the beautiful beige and white set and costumes designed by Guillaume Gabriel. This film is a treat to the eyes and wonderful inspiration for artists who wish to collaborate.
The dancers, costumes and set come together to visualize Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. Just from the few scenes of the work one feels the flow of the ocean, sailing between sea and sky which Koubi describes as Aladdin’s carpet, and the fusion of contemporary dance, gymnastics and breakdancing is breathtaking. One scene has male dancers appearing as whirling dervishes, only they are upside down and spinning on the palms of their hands. Hopefully, one will be able to see this full production in the USA one day soon.
The Musicians include Natacha Atlas and Samy Bishaï , Anissa Nehari and the dancers who come from a variety of Mediterranean backgrounds are Badr Benr Guibi, Giacomo Buffoni, Pasquale Fortunato, Vladimir Gruev, Oualid Guennoun, Lhatsun Lé, Bendehiba Maamar, Manon Mafrici, Nadjib Meherhera, Angèle Methangkool-Robert, Houssni Mijem, Ismail Oubbajaddi, El Houssaini Zahid.
CASA DA VOVÓ (Grandma’s House) choreographed and directed by Brazilian choreographer Rafael Quintas in and around his grandmother’s home, sadly did not hold my interest because it reminded me of the numerous dance videos made during the Covid pandemic by dancers performing in and around their residencies. The only difference is that there are ten dancers working closely together. This group of diverse performers move along a sidewalk leading to the house, on and around furniture in its living room, around a dining room table, on balconies, and perform a celebratory dance outside incorporating a long wooden bench that culminates Quintas’ memories of his grandmother’s home. The film is pleasant but not memorable.
The cast of Casa Da Vovó include André Falleiros, Bárbara Albuquerque, Beatriz Fructoso, Camila deCarvalho, Diego Cardallo, Giovana Zoltay, Karina Araújo, Nininha Albuquerque, Rafael Wisdson and Rafael Quintas.
Definitely the strongest dance film on Program A is PROCLAMATION choreographed by Sam McReynolds (GREYaRea) in collaboration with the extraordinary Shauna Davis. Not only is the performance by Davis wonderful to watch, but the entire composition of the film also helps keep ones focus on the screen, sense the energy behind the movement, and define the connection between Davis dancing on the California coast and scenes of people dancing in the street during protest marches for Black Lives Matter.
McReynolds apparently understands the practice of choreographing with and for the camera, and through this process he merges the energy of the people involved in the marches with the serenity of Davis’ demeanor while performing. Proclamation is a gem of a dance made for camera. The Director of Photography for the film is Alex Laya.
South Korean dance artist Eunkyung Seong is the choreographer and performer of NATURAL. The work, which is beautifully performed by Seong, appears to be very personal to her journey through life. Filmed at the Seoul International Dance Festival in Tank, Seong slowly makes her way across the stage with movement that ranges from introspective to outward joy at what she has accomplished. She makes use of three silver painted containers whose tops open. She sits on them, dances on them and even performs while wearing one covering her entire head. Though very enjoyable, Natural comes across as a dance that would be best seen live and in-person rather than on film. The energy of the movement and Seong’s strong acting ability would be better felt as well as seen in a theater or other venue such as at Tank.
BIR VARMIŞ / BIR YOKMUŞ was choreographed and directed by Los Angeles based Seda Aybay, the Artistic Director of Kybele Dance Theater. In Turkish, Aybay’s native language, Bir Varmiş / Bir Vokmuş is similar to “once upon a time” in English but adds a twist to become “once upon a time, once there was none”. The work is beautifully filmed inside a small studio with a string of white lights hanging above. Also edited by Aybay, Bir Varmiş / Bir Vokmuş ties together the memories of three characters, each on a separate journey of personal emotions, to find comfort from others.
The performances by Rachel Walton, Karlo Ramirez and Aybay are stunning and Aybay as indeed learned the power of stillness amid perpetual motion. The Music for the film was by Moments, with whispering sounds provided by Aybay. The simple but elegant costumes are by Pat Guillem.
The choreography by Demet Aksular and Ferhat Güneş for their film RE-SIDE is overpowered by the gorgeous coastal vistas of Turkey and a beautiful sunset. Though beautifully performed by MDTistanbul (Modern Dance Company Istanbul) members Alper Marangoz, Chiara Giorda, Demet Aksular, Gül Yilmazer, Huri Murphy, Mert Öztekin, Ozan Akgün, and Taner Güngör the storyline of migration goes astray somewhere along the way and the over utilization of unison movement with pastel blue chairs does nothing to improve the problem. If one is interested in a beautifully edited and visually stunning film, Re-Side is for you, but as a dance work I was left wanting.
Re-Side is directed and edited by Ferhat Güneş, Sound Design and Music is by Onur Seçki, with text by Murat Güneş.
Another submission from SIDFIT is 人 in 人2 – Querencia choreographed by Jaehyuk Choi. This film is long, but the substance and the action improve as it progresses. The action begins with six dancers entering the stage from in front of the curtain as it rises. They are all dressed in white and when joined by a seventh dancer they begin acting out scissor/paper/stone, hop scotch, hide-n-seek and other children’s games, while a solitary figure dressed in red lies motionless stage left.
When one reads the program, this piece is about bulls resting after fighting with the matadors in a bullring. This is not necessary to the enjoyment of the film as once the bit too long games section has passed, the seriousness of the choreography, combined with excellent performances by dancers Ye jin Lee, Su bin Kang, Han seul Choi, Yu na Kwon, Eun ho Lee, Ha hyun Kim, Jun hyuk Jang, and Jaehyuk Choi, along with the addition of glass globes lowering down from above, make for a very pleasurable experience.
The Los Angeles Dance Festival/International continued through Sunday, December 5, 2021. To learn more about the Los Angeles Dance Festival, please visit their website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Proclamation by Sam McReynolds in collaboration with Shauna Davis – Screenshot by LADC