There are many forms of dance such as ballet, contemporary, jazz, etc., and then there are categories such as concert and commercial dance. Now in its eight season, Luminario Ballet of Los Angles meshes all those elements into one. Led by Judith FLEX Helle, Luminario Ballet presented BREATHLESS at the El Portal Theatre in the Arts District of North Hollywood, featuring women en pointe, men and women performing aerial feats, contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, tumbling and spoken word. It was commercial work merging with concert dance, something that is finally beginning to happen in Los Angeles. Much of it worked but some of it did not fare well, and overall, the evening wore me down by running far too long.

Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles – Photo by Paul Antico, Creative Antics

The premiere of TRAILS, concept and artistic direction by Helle, involved choreography by five dance artists and NASA images video projections and body mapping by Paul Ackerman, DanceBleue. The dancing competed with projections of outer space, fire rings, shaking Fault line maps and videos of floods and Tsunamis.  The work examined what humans are doing to the planet by creating climate change with overuse of chemicals, fossil fuel and other pollutants.

The section called Space was a lovely solo for Kelly Vittetoe by Damien Diaz that was danced in front of the NASA images. Fire, by Jennifer Curry Wingrove, was weak both choreographically and costume wise. It involved projections of a flaming fire ring and dancers waving red scarves as they revolved around a center figure. Other sections by Francisco Gella, Emilie Livingston Goldblum and Mathieu Leopold had beautifully made dancing, but it was difficult to relate the works to the projections behind the dancers. A shaking earthquake with lovely dancing en pointe somehow did not add up. Helle said during her welcoming talk that everything will be alright because we will continue to create art. This concept did not work for me in Trails. The cast included: Vittetoe, Sadie Black, Diaz, Amber Porter, Stephanie Kim, Isaac Huerta, Mathieu Leopold, and Windu Sayles.

With the exception of the opening duet, Listen to My Heart by Helle is a very strong work incorporating contemporary dance, ballet and aerial work. One thought that crossed my mind was pure movement dance for a two-ring circus. I mean this in the best way possible. One had to choose where to look, what to focus on and the dancing was wonderful. Helle has a beautiful way of mixing dance with the aerial work as when a woman spins down from above and continues to spin en pointe before ending in a lovely arabesque. The cast included Damien Diaz, Shannon Beach, Stephanie Kim, Adrian Hoffman, Isaac Huerta, and Windu Sayles.

Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles – Photo by Paul Antico.

Witch Piece is a promising work-in-progress choreographed and performed by special guest and aerial superstar, Dreya Weber. Before taking to the air, Weber spoke to her lineage of witches. It was both entertaining and informative. As Weber spoke, four “witches” performed behind her with thick branches that symbolized numerous objects from broomsticks to their being burned at the stake. Weber then took flight on her own broomstick, a large curved tree branch and made dancing in the air appear normal.

One of the strongest works on the program was choreographed by Jamal Story entitled If the If The Walls Could Scream. The work depicts different types of relationships; one where the man is reluctant but finally is smitten, a love/hate couple, as well as a love triangle. Highlights were a women’s trio and a duet between Evan Swenson and Stephanie Kim. Story’s choreography is very musical, open and honest, and he knows how to choreograph for women. The six wonderful dancers included Swenson, Kim, Damian Diaz, Adrian Hoffman, Kelly Vittetoe, and Sadie Black.

Choreographed by Helle and Story, The Last supper is a rock video in real time and features guest performers Sheila Joy Burford and Jamal Story as Mary and Jesus. The program does not say, but from her actions, I am guessing that this was Mary Magdalene and not Jesus’ mother, Mary. Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman who traveled with Jesus and his disciples, and there is one theory that she was married to Jesus and bore his child.

Burford is a gorgeous woman who has a BA in Dance and Psychology and works as a dancer, aerialist, gymnast, pole artist, burlesque star and yogi. Story is her counterpart. A strong handsome man who is also a powerful dance, aerialist and choreographer. The stage brightens when they work together.

Luminario Ballet’s “The Last Supper” – Photo by Paul Antico.

The Last Supper is very entertaining, and it has great moments of wonderful dancing, erotic images of Jesus and Mary moving together while suspended in blue material, and intense drama as Judas, performed very well by Adrian Hoffman, goes mad after he betrays Jesus. There are sections, however, where the sexy jazz dancing elements stray away from the story and move into strictly commercial performances. The other very talented cast members included Amber Porter, Kelly Vittetoe, Stephanie Kim and Isaac Huerta.

The socially aware and inspiring prologues to Trails and The Last Supper were performed by hip hop wordsmith Jonathon Rios. Rios was joined by Mike Rings for the prologue to The Last Supper. Jesse Baldridge did a great joy sculpturing each dance with his lighting designs and the costumes by Adele Sartori were very appropriate for each work and moved beautifully.

Feature photo by Paul Antico, Creative Antics.

To view the LA Dance Chronicle Calendar of Performances, click here.