At Stomping Ground LA on Saturday evening, a full house was unseated by a local power outage. The production team rallied and reorganized, though, and almost everyone returned Sunday night to support an outstanding program of queer art.
Front of house featured visual art by San-Diego-based dancer and creator Jasmyn Hamblin, a signature mark of director/producer Derrick Paris’ VOICES programs. Though the Stomping Ground circle is primarily made up of movement artists, there are always several mediums present — a chance to show up for your community in different ways, a chance to discover other practices.
Megan Fowler-Hurst and Nohely Gomez’s No Strings Attached opened the show with a dark foray into pleasure and attachment. Projections by Fowler-Hurst decorated their exploration, the two artists leaning into weight-sharing configurations while linked by a rope connecting their harnesses. Painting dynamics with their levels, they stated their presence and their kinks unflinchingly through movement, vocals, and allegory.
Lily Chumas’ film Red Football appeared next, featuring soloist Harper Jewel Harris among dancers Abbey Raymone, Aleari Reed, Autumn Jones, Cassie Cavanaugh, Haley Grier, May Lim, Mengeh Windlander, Nia Miah Mason, Olivia Vannucci, Reagan Brummett, Sadie Guthrie, Sam Chavez, Sam Perna, Sasha Serdyukov, Tayley Shewmaker. Chumas’ vision shone bright through direction, choreography, videography and editing all her own. Expert coloring and punctuated movement put the story over the top, an impressive feat of creativity and execution.
In Brian Golden’s Row Your Boat, dancers Donny Collinson, Spenser Seebach, and Santiago Villarreal wowed as the rowing team. Elastic spine sensibilities made their way into choreography like I’ve never seen before, and one spin by Collinson — a blow-up doll in his hand functioning as a vertical mirror image — made the entire audience gasp. The score, written by Golden and composed by SHOCKEY, flipped between sincerity and camp, a few phrases on fleeting exchanges particularly resonant.
Jordyn Santiago drew attention with electric ease in her solo, all there is. Pushing and pulling between gorgeous shapes and exponential emotions, she deftly illustrated the lifelong code switch through technical mastery and undeniable presence. And in the musical switch from Peggy Lee to Pop Smoke (Frankie Reyes in between), she managed a narrative simultaneously personal and universal.
Sam McReynolds and Annalise Gehling took the stage next for McReynolds’ I wanted to make something happy. Gehling danced each of McReynolds’ phrases with subtle shading, filling in the complexity of the anti-heroic journey with a long note here and a breath there. McReynolds, in their shadow, echoed fragments of the movements, taking on sameness and difference in the conflict. Difficult subject matter took on beauty, specificity, as they met each other with tension and found tenderness underneath.
Surrealist respite came just before intermission in the form of Gia Bella and Kyra Cole’s Beautiful Balds. Keilan Stafford and Ryan Green joined Bella and Cole as a quartet in bald caps, sparkling with commitment to the character. A fête for four took place unabashedly before us, comedy in many applications. Musical timing, movement stylings, even tableaux lent laughs.
After the break, Kearian Giertz brought the attention back to them with almost flippant ease for nonchalant, a program highlight. The cavalier attitude with which they wrapped us around their finger was astounding, their talent abundant as they wove in and out of dialogue and movement. Somehow just as supple as their movement, Giertz’s voice rang sweetly over sound by Jacob Sweet, in time with angelic imagery made with Nico Hurtado. The house went wild, and for good reason.
B Gosse’s 555 flipped the mood again, summoning rage and release to none other than Ethel Cain’s “Ptolemaea.” In the spontaneity of the movement, there was a palpable conversion: raw anger to channeled power, the ensemble headbanging with utter abandon. When they reconvened in formation — Gosse in front, flanked by Alucard Mendoza, Sierra Fujita, and Maija Knapp — their ritual complete, the energy was collected, potent.
Casey Shea and Mason Gray found their own abandon in their co-creation fuck girls growl, a duet centered on Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ anthem “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” Crashing into each other and releasing softly, they stunned in the in-between moments, a slow motion section evoking the peak of satisfaction.
Barreling in with microphone in hand, Ryan Opton’s concise and hilarious Kent Kant the Klub Kid pandered brilliantly to its audience. Opton’s vertical format comedy made its way onto the stage in full dimension, almost demanding laughs at the act break in the passive-aggressive way that only Los Angeles partygoers can — leaving us a little scared and a lot entertained.
another room by Jen Lacy cleared the room of all that came before it, no bells and whistles, just Lacy and her determined force. To describe her quality as quiet strength would be to underserve the beauty of her steadiness. Thoughtful and deliberate, she worked her way into the dirt and out of it, calling the light toward her with striking control.
Though Sade Keinu’s cast was unable to make the rescheduled evening, they did share an excerpt of their work Playboy, and the inspiration behind it. Keinu’s imperative work was made in remembrance of Tommy Playboy, their sibling, who lived to dance. It encompassed the anger, grief, and celebration of Playboy’s life — and though we had to miss the piece, we shared a moment knowing their legacy lives and dances on in Keinu.
Augustine Perez’s Transcend closed the night in celebration, a classic take on glitz and glam. A nightlife party dedicated to those we lost in the AIDS epidemic, the piece honored the joy of all who came before. Dancers Brandon Maxwell, Mark Daftari and Gretel Falkenstein joined Perez for punctuated dance breaks and luxurious lines. And in true disco fashion, confetti rained on a final unison moment that led us straight into a bow and a DJ set from Stafford.
From producer/director Derrick Paris and co-producer Shea, Stomping Ground’s Queer VOICES was another monumental effort in supporting and spotlighting marginalized artists. I’ve said it before, but the volume of representation in these showcases gives artists permission to speak to nuance within their identities. These wildly talented, multifaceted artists not only can make queer work, but can make work about their queerness in an explicitly safe space, and we as an audience can learn about the range and complexities of the queer experience. This is the joy of existing in a community that protects queer lives, queer rights, and queer art.
To learn more about Stomping Ground L.A., please visit their website.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: VOICES – No Strings Attached by Nohely Gomez & Megan Fowler-Hurst – Photo by Victoria Roman.