Wednesday, July 24 was the opening night of Moves After Dark 2018 presented by The Los Angeles Music Center and lead sponsor, Center Dance Arts. I attended the second night and felt that this was the strongest group yet to participate in this series. Three Los Angeles dance companies were selected to perform in and around different areas of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The audience was divided into three groups to watch the companies perform. Group one wore black wrist bands; group two, blue and my group, three, wore white bands. Each group experienced the companies in different order and throughout there were wonderful staff members who graciously lead each group to where they needed to be, including elevators for those who could not navigate the many stairs cases.
The order in which our group experienced the performances was first Mixed eMotion Theatrix, with choreography by artistic director Janet Roston; second Clairobscur Dance, with choreography by artistic director Laurie Sefton; and third Strange & Elegant Dance, with choreography by artistic director Holly Rothschild. Three very different styles of dance by three well established and talented choreographers. All three companies included a cast of some of Los Angeles’ strongest dance artists.
Mixed eMotion Theatrix began in the Disney Hall’s Keck Amphitheater and moved into the tree lined area known as the Blue Ribbon Garden. Janet Roston chose to take the audience back into the 1920s era with a work titled Gatsby Redux; obviously inspired by the 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The piece had a garden party-like atmosphere with beautifully detailed costumes by Allison Dillard. They were a gorgeous off-white and in the fashion of that era; Charleston-style dresses with head bands for the women and very smart white slacks and shirts for the men.
Performing in duets, trios, quartets and group of nine dancers, Roston expressed social dance, love duets, and three men, one-woman section where the woman was carried about and courted by potential suitors. At its conclusion, she chose one man and they ran off together into the garden. Roston’s movement spoke to the 1920s Charleston/flapper era but without copying it directly. There were wonderful partnering moments and the dancers related to one another and maintained their party goer characters throughout.
The work was enhanced by an array of old 1920s animated cartoons and Art Deco projections by Joe LaRue, and a lively music and sound design by Mark Governor, mixing together familiar songs of the era. The stunning dancers were Alexandra España, Robert Gomez, Ava Gordy, Leah Hamel, Jacqueline Hinton, Dominique McDougal, Michael Quiett, Daniel Valentine, and Tiffany Wolff.
From there we walked through to the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s towering stainless-steel lined hallways to view the performance of Concert Walls by Laurie Sefton. Along the way a lone dancer, understudy Natalie McCall, was quietly performing in a small inverted and curved area, her movements reflecting its shape and hardness. At one landing a couple performed to music performed by cellist Sophie Mathieu. Continuing along, a group performed to guitarist Eric Pham and finally at the smaller Carson Amphitheatre, percussionist Tristan Peterson. All the music was composed and synthesized live by Bryan Curt Kostors.
Sefton’s movement absorbed the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s austerity and its sensuality of curves that, although stationery, felt like a canyon of metallic waves flowing by as one passed through them. As one traveled down the stairs, dancers appeared in the distance as small figures dressed in bright colors; giving a totally different perspective to the movement and animating the space. We passed two male dancers, each supporting a woman as they walked upside down along a curved steel wall.
As the audience filed into the Carson Amphitheater, dancers’ movements visualized different layers of Kostors music, as they performed in a shifting variety of solos, trios and duets. A lone woman moved silently and tightly against one wall and then later a different one, as if emotionally troubled; one hand brushing at her face to quietly accent her inner thoughts.
Sefton’s movement used arm and leg movements that arced, and then broke into angles that worked in opposition to the many curves surrounding us. At one point, the dancers performed in a ritualistic circle, only to break off into three different rhythmic groupings, again making use of all the different layers of Kostors’ score. The work was tense, exciting and visually inspiring, and it received the loudest audience response from the group that I traveled with.
The beautiful cast of Concert Walls included Ellen Akashi, Camila Arana, Samantha Blaz, Sophie Diamond, Isaac Huerta, Clay Murray, and Haylee Nichele.
Holly Rothschild, artistic director of Strange & Elegant Dance, chose the Hall’s Grand Avenue stairs to present her work entitled Under/Current to a melancholy music score by Luke Rothschild. Also costumed in white, but with a very different style of clothing, the dancers began by walking slowly up the stairs as one man performed alone at the top. Rothschild’s movement was often quiet, low energy, but with a tension from within the performers that spoke volumes. The characters appeared to be traveling through time and toward a common, unspoken place that only they knew existed.
The choreography explored all areas of the stairs, including a wonderful upward traveling diagonal in which the group of travelers aided one another under and over the railings as if maneuvering obstacles put there to impede their journey. Dancers intently slithered down the cement stairs like stalking creatures, or quietly walked down with piercing, definitive expressions on their faces. Women were transported on the shoulders of men up and down sections of the stairs. Fluid, linear and highly technical dancing took place at the bottom, on and at the top of the stairs.
Under/Current left the impression of a world different from that of those observing. It was eerie without being scary, but it exuded a sense of other worldliness. The cast who not only danced with great skill, but who held that tension throughout the work were: Genevieve Carson-Baker, Lavinia Findikoglu, Kearian Giertz, Tess Hewlett, Genna Moroni, JM Rodriquez, Carissa Songhorian, and Jamal Wade.
Moves After Dark 2018 repeats next weekend, 7/31 and 8/1 at 8:30 pm. For information and tickets, click here.
Featured image: Moves After Dark 2018 – Clairobscur Dance – Photo: Roger Martin Holman for LA Dance Chronicle.