Founder, Director Nicole Manoocherhri and Director Olivia Mia Orozco have put together a compendium of 17 short dance pieces for Day 1 of Los Angeles Dance Shorts Film Festival. During this time of Covid 19 this is yet another avenue for veteran and emerging artists to present their work for an audience hungry for culture. Program 1 was streamed on Friday Nov. 13th from 12:00am until 11:59pm.
In watching this two-hour marathon I found the work falling into three categories; first work that encompasses excellent well thought out choreography, dancers with real technique, and a clear point of view. Next might be pieces that show promise, utilization of good ideas and competent dancers. In the third category the work was inconsistent, unfocused and perhaps not yet up to the standard of such a festival.
The stronger films were:
“Breathe In” with choreography and direction by Melissa Barak of Barak Ballet is a beautiful timely piece and is the highlight of this Festival. Her choreography is full of joyous dancing by her classically trained highly proficient dancers. Led by the gorgeous dancing of Peter Chursin the movement builds as he contemplates the world in this time of Lock Down. The full cast joins him in this “expression of freedom and the longing for better days.” The top-notch dancers are Andrew Brader, Lisa Connolly, Jessica Gadzinski, Chasen Greenwood, and Stephanie Kim. The music by David Lawrence perfectly supports the choreography from contemplative to exuberant. The excellent filming and editing is by Selena Moshell.
The Northern Ballet presented “Ego” a film directed by Dan Lowenstein with effective choreography by Kenneth Tindall. This is a well thought out piece. The premise that we are not always who we seem on the surface underlies this concept. The dancers, Antoinette Brooks-Daw, Kevin Poeung, Sam Amos, and Jonadette Carpio play the young loving couple and their angry jealous alter egos. Tindall has used contemporary jazz, ballet, B-Boy, and Krumping styles to effectively convey his message. The jazz and ballet suit the flirtatious sweetness of the couple while the aggression of the B-Boying and Krumping clearly shows the dysfunction and even danger of the alter ego. The tension builds from the beginning to the sexy ending. The music and sound design by Dave Crowe is strong and underscores the action perfectly.
“Liminality” is a water ballet of unusual beauty and another highlight in this Festival. Created by Annali Rose the underwater dancer and perhaps Mermaid is also the Choreographer, Costumer and Co-Director. The breathtaking Cinematography and Camera Operation is by Jennifer Akalina Petuch who Co-Directs and the sonorous undersea music is by Lincoln Sandham. This is a bold piece of dance and filmmaking. “Liminality translates to “threshold” a place where you are not yet one or the other. This perfectly defines this piece as Annali Rose finds herself in a suspended reality. Fully utilizing the light piercing the water, the corral gardens and the depth of the water is an accomplishment in of itself, now add gorgeous balletic dance moves, a billowing costume, brilliant camera work and you have art. The enormous discipline in all categories it took to create this piece is remarkable.
Carissa Dorson directed “Alive.” Stuck in a mundane job at a Laundromat, a young worker dreams of dancing the day away. Unfortunately no credit is given for the dancer or choreographer who both do a nice job. The pop tune is just right with its languid tempo and lyrics that support the story. She longs to feel “Alive” which is well conveyed here with contemporary dance moves. It is a credit to the choreographer that the movement feels organic yet is clearly well planned. Again, no credits are given for the music.
Yet still intriguing but in need of some development were several works including “Beehive.” Directed by Luigi Coppola of Italy. Utilizing a beehive shaped cavern as his canvas Coppola with LineAria Contemporary Dance which specializes in flying, explores the space by suspending dancers deep into the hive. The dancers Roberta Calcagno and Lucia Folco, float, glide and tumble gracefully while being filmed from overhead bringing the viewer along for the ride. Costumes by Italia Furlan, with wings and black netting capture the essence of the Bees. The life of the Bee could be felt in the musical soundscape but no credit was available for the composer. Though fascinating and enjoyable in many respects the work felt truncated as if they had run out of energy. Without a more cohesive focus the location and the aerial choreography were not quite enough to fully sustain this piece.
“Underground” is not a dance film but a film about dance. Battling B-Boys is the premise but little dance is actually seen and what is presented is not exceptional. The film is more a documentary about the camaraderie and support these dancers receive from within this community. This premise could be developed into a full documentary and would be invaluable to the world of B-Boys and the underground dance culture. Hopefully this is the ultimate plan of Director Jun Bae. Featured dancers are East Side Union, Joseph Felix “Scarface,” Michael W, “Majin W,” Ricky Huynh, “Papa Ricks,” and Raymond Mora “Nasty Ray.” Music is by Haan808, Moody Good and Scientific.
Director Kate Mitchell’s film “Golden” is interesting for it’s daring look into the life of a middle-aged woman. After years of repetitive domesticity, represented by a mountain of peanut butter sandwiches, dancer Margret Tappan rediscovers her “emotional and sexual vibrancy.” The choreography by Kate Mitchell, and Bianca Cabrera works well enough but it’s the ability of Tappen who brings it to life. She is a well-trained powerhouse. The movement runs the gamut from aggressive frustration to the slow and sensual and finally to the frenzied climax. Though well done from the steamy music of composer Ben Juodvalkis, to the Camera work of Heath Orchard the movement did not develop fully and became repetitive. I for one would love to see the capable Tappen challenged to more.
Veteran dance maker Heidi Duckler brings us “For The Time Being” shot in the stunning Portland Rose Test Garden. Three dancers, Duckler, Conrad Kaczor and Keil Moton move through the seasons by merging in and through the garden. The choreography is simple and non-specific, more improv than set movement. I found their presence in this sublime place more distracting then intriguing. A tour of the garden would have been satisfying on it’s own. Duckler’s idea seems to intrude on the sublime beauty before us. It’s not enough to move around in a beautiful space and because there is no choreography per say this piece did not work for me. I did enjoy the garden and the music, soundscape by Davy Sumner and lovely cinematography by Szusanna Mangu.
When “A Hard Days Night” began I had high hopes as dancer, choreographer Thibaut Eiferman is a former member of the impressive Batsheva Dance Company. The theme is “Isolation” and that feeling is achieved as Eiferman finds himself alone in an abandoned house. But once again the only emotion on display is angst and the dancing felt improvised around average technique. As directed by Benjamin Hoffman and Mathieu Mondoulet who is also the cinematographer and sound by Marc Apruzzese nothing happens to draw in the viewer. More choreographed sequences built around expert technique would make all the difference.
Sexual ambiguity is the theme of “Nildyna” by director Jill Crovisier with dancer Andy Lin and music by Tiago Benzinho. No choreography credit is given but again the work has an improvisational quality. Lin is a good dancer and within the limited scope of his moves he does them well. Still without the program notes the viewer would have no idea of the concept behind the work. This is a rich theme that remains unexplored here.
Unfortunately several pieces did not live up to the overall standard of the above named work as they featured little to no dancing, poor technique, limited choreography and murky concepts. These issues not withstanding do not diminish their efforts to make dance in difficult times. The hope is that they can take what they have learned from these dance experiences and continue to grow.
Raven Jackson directs “Rotter” with dancer/choreographer Henrikke Sande Boger along with cinematography by Felipe Vara de Rey and music by composer Miguel “Maike” Calvo. This is a dancer in nature piece with no actual dancing.
“Dreams of Waking” with Dancer Tatiana Zamir and direction by Aeric Meredith-Goujon gives us a woman who emerges from body of water, moves to the shore and then returns to the water. Zamir is lovely and she moves well but her opportunity to move beyond and dance is lost.
A flamenco, bullfighter, jazz dancer sums up the idea behind “The Bull/El Toro.” This is a very poorly executed piece that does a disservice to each genre. The Dancer/Choreographer is Maria Avila with Direction by Audrey Bow. Maria Avila is also responsible for the musical track.
The most interesting thing about “Aetna/Net” is it’s setting, a traditional fishing village in Ghana. Culturally this is an intriguing piece but once again the dance is limited to a few organic moves, which leave us wanting so much more. The vibrant music is by the New Global Ensemble.
In “Control” Dancer/Choreographer Jeongyeon Yum who dances with Yujeong Lym places her piece in an architecturally cool modern building. With direction by Saemi Kwak along with Director of photography Yonghyeoh Jeong the building becomes more interesting than the stilted dancers and the elementary choreography. The music is by Yejun Shin.
“Daydreaming” is based on special effects rather than dancing. The movement is constrained by the need to stay within in a very small area in order to accommodate the pedestrian special effects. Special effects, cinematography and direction are by Peter Litwinowicz with choreography credited to Liz Roman and the dancers, Clarissa Ko, Gizeh Muniz, Jamie Nakama and Sonya Smaith. Music is by Jerome Lindner.
A Paris garden and mansion is the setting for “Teorama” directed by Massamiliano Bomba with Choreography by Julie Bour and cinematography by Giuseppe Favale. The setting is beautiful and the creative team has succeeded in producing many beautiful shots perfect for any high-end commercial campaign but the same cannot be said of the dancing. These are students from the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts. Again too much of the choreography is improvised and as students with incomplete training this becomes very basic indeed. The student dancers are Delisa Bass, Laura Davich, Justin Farmer, Alexandria Garland, Mia Givens, Shannon Hafez, Freeda Electra Handelsman, Jinglin Liao, Madison Lynch, William Mallet, Taliha Scott, Skler Spiegel. No credit was evident for music.
To learn more about the Los Angeles Dance Short Film Festival, click HERE.
Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: “Liminality” Created by Annali Rose – Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dance Shorts Film Festival