The Wilks Vine Street Theater was built in 1927 and has since had reincarnations that included The Mirror (1931-1933); In 1936 it was purchased by CBS for a local radio station and used as a live performance radio auditorium for Lux Radio Theatre hosted by Cecil B. DeMille, – CBS Radio Playhouse; The Huntington Hartford Theatre (1954); The Doolittle (1964); and in 2004 it became The Montalbán Theatre in honor of film and television actor Ricardo Montalbán. It is a beautiful theater in a wonderful location with ample parking next door, as well as other nearby parking, and yet it is rarely utilized for presenting dance.

Mary Grace McNally - Photo by Jenna Maslechko

Mary Grace McNally – Photo by Jenna Maslechko

January 15 – 18, 2020, this lovely theater was the venue for the 2020 Capezio A.C.E. Awards as part of MOVES at The Montalbán that was produced by Capezio and Break The Floor Productions. On the third night of MOVES at the Montalbán I attended the evening-length work of 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards winner Mary Grace McNally, a New York based dance artist and Artistic Director of MG + Artists. The work that she presented was titled WHEN IT FALLS, and although there were truly inspiring moments and sections, the overuse of certain movement themes, simplistic crossings and a forced ending, weakened the overall effect.

McNally’s movement vocabulary for this work involved twisted bodies, jerks and spasms that spoke clearly to her introspective theme of resisting change vs moving forward, but soon became far too recognizable and predicable. About three quarters of the way through the one-hour work, classroom like crossings appeared as filler or creative vamping rather than portraying any sense of moving forward toward a resolution.

McNally’s choreography was very musical and her movement beautifully wove in and out of rhythms, working slowly within fast musical passages or vice versa. She also knows how to present dramatic situations, personal conflicts and her “transitions” between sections were seamless. Organized chaos was powerfully condensed into driving unison phrases, and quiet solos stood out against dancers performing fast or high energy dancing. Following a very theatrical scene with falling snow and dancers performing to Purple Rain by the late musical artist Prince, however, McNally insisted on forcing the ending by having her cast pry their way underneath the front curtain after it had come down and walk into the audience as the lights faded.

The original score by Ryan Vettel was one of the assets of WHEN IT FALLS, and the stunning Lighting Design by Technical Director for MOVES at The Montalbán Nick Robinson provided an infusion of energy and dramatic flair lacking in a few of the work’s sections. Not so wonderful, or becoming, were the costumes that consisted of what appeared to be thrown together street clothes.

Cast of "When It Falls" - Choreography by Mary Grace McNally - Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

Cast of “When It Falls” – Choreography by Mary Grace McNally – Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

Haley Sung and Gabriella Sibeko stood out among the very talented cast of WHEN IT FALLS that included Rebecca Corrigan, Catie Leasca, Mary Grace McNally, Jordyn Santiago, and Madeline Wright.

The 2020 Capezio A.C.E. Awards winners were announced on the opening night of MOVES at The Montalbán. Award for outstanding choreography was the choreographic team Grayson McGuire & Shiori Kamijo, who received a cash prize of $15,000 to be used towards the production of their own show at next year’s MOVES at The Montalbán. The runner-up and recipient of a $5,000 cash prize was Noelle Marsh, and there was a tie for second runner-up, each receiving $3,000, between Sarah Steben and Brandon Croisetiere.

Boots (Grayson & Shiori) 1_ Break the Floor Productions At What Point (Noelle Marsh) 1_ Break the Floor Productions Wipe Your Feet First (Brandon Croisetiere) 2_ Break the Floor Productions Talk Is Cheap (Sarah Steben) 1_ Break the Floor Productions
"Boots" by Capezio A.C.E. Awards first place winners Grayson McGuiire and Shiori Kamijo - Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, January 20, 2020.

For more information about MOVES at The Montalbán, click here.

To visit The Montalbán website, click here.

Featured image: Cast of When It Falls – Choreography by Mary Grace McNally – Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions