Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet presented the world premiere of Seeds of Rain, followed by an encore performance of the historic work, Naivete of Flowers, on Saturday, August 13th 2022 at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State LA. The evening left audience members with an awe-inspired feeling of hope and renewal.

The program featured an ensemble of dancers who showcased effortless rigor in their technical abilities. Dancers swept the space wearing yellow and blue unitards, undoubtedly symbolic of the Ukrainian flag in this performance dedicated to unified hope.

Rogers’ choreographic choices have the dancers flowing in and out of the landscape with an ease like water. Artistically and analytically crafted transitions give way for the dancers to dynamically take charge of the grandiose space. With movement weaving in and out of each other, there is a clear, unified relationship between the cohort of dancers.

"Seeds of Rain", choreography by Raiford Rogers - Photo by A Trelease

“Seeds of Rain”, choreography by Raiford Rogers – Photo by A Trelease

Paintings by Mike Nava were projected onto the dancers and the backdrop of the stage, creating a vibrant landscape for the movement to inhabit. Accompanied by the musical gifts of Philip Glass and Zbynek Mateju, organist Mark Alan Hilt, and pianist Helena Sucharova Weiser, the environment of the performance was expertly curated to leave the audience in a state of serenity. The musical score offered grand feelings as the piano and strings converse in a dramatic yet playful nature that often reflected the sounds of rain. Both Rogers and the dancers have a keen ear for the dynamic changes in the music. Both choreography and performance showcased the tender attention to shifts of tone, texture, and energy.

Laura Chachich and Bobby Briscoe in "Seeds of Rain", choreography by Raiford Rogers - Photo by Mike Nava

Laura Chachich and Bobby Briscoe in “Seeds of Rain”, choreography by Raiford Rogers – Photo by Mike Nava

The dance company wears the label of modern ballet. Rogers’ work incorporates the apparent breath of Graham and Cunningham while riding atop the movement vocabulary of ballet. There was never a question of if these were ballet dancers trying to do modern, or modern dancers trying to do ballet, but instead an effortless display of attention and respect to both disciplines from the choreographer and performers.

Rogers crafted an architectural performance using geometric shapes within the body and staging. Angular and precise, each stepping foot felt delicately thoughtful. With an apparent strength, dancers used the extent of each limb as they flew through and around the stage. From ensemble work, to duets, to eye catching solos, the performance felt like an intrigue of dialogue between the elements. Each duet showcased the strength that is required to not just support a person, but also the strength it takes to be supported. This display of relationship felt monumental within the context of the piece.

 Rogers Modern Ballet in "Seeds of Rain", choreography by Raiford Rogers - Photo by Mike Nava

Rogers Modern Ballet in “Seeds of Rain”, choreography by Raiford Rogers – Photo by Mike Nava

The performance was crafted in detail that embodied space, time, and energy. The dancers retention of material is an admirable task as the choreography at times felt repetitive to the audience’s eye. The choreography left room for challenge to take place in regard to the sequencing and incorporation of surprising elements among movement choices. Rogers has curated an incredible opportunity to use modern ballet as a tool to begin breaking down the constructs that classical ballet has reiterated for so long. It would be of great excitement to see Rogers create in a less reliant realm of gender roles within the context of partnering, phrase work, and even costuming.

It was an evening of dancing that was expertly performed and hypnotically produced. Both choreographer and performers showcased masterful skill in endurance, strength, and quality. Rogers’ effort to produce work that exemplified unity and hope was a success. Each detail of the performance   upheld the underlying message in a respectful yet empowering way.

Tetyana Martyanova - Photo by Randall Hobbet

Tetyana Martyanova – Photo by Randall Hobbet

The very talented ensemble included Sadie Black, Bobby Briscoe, Joshua Brown, Sara Pena Cagigas, Laura Chachich, Lester Gonzalez, Hanna Keene, Tate Lee, Thel Moore, Tigran Mikztchyan, Elise Pekarek, Jasmine Perry, Mate Szentes, and special guest Tetyana Matyanova. The incredible lighting design was created by John A. Garfofalo and the painting progression created by Mike Nava.

The storm will pass, the dance will continue.

To learn more about the Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet, please visit their website.

To learn more about the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, please visit their website.

Written by Rebecca Lee for LA Dance Chronicle, August 14th, 2022.

Featured image: Guest Artist Tetyana Matyanova in Seeds of Rain, choreography by Raiford Rogers – Photo by A. Trelease