The third and last week of REDCAT’s 17th Annual New Original Works (NOW) Festival was scheduled for December of last year but postponed due to Covid precautions. On Thursday, January 28, 2021 I attended the online premiere of NOW Festival Night 3 featuring works by Los Angeles artists Maria Garcia and Samantha Mohr, DaEun Jung, and Genna Moroni.
Created, directed, written and designed by live artist and costume designer Maria Garcia, Laocoӧn with Cabiria at 9 was choreographed, performed and devised by Samantha Mohr. Also important to this production was the Director of Photography and Editor, Wes Cardino whose projected visuals performed an integral part in this complex and ambitious work. A Vatican Museum tour guide named Cabiria starts off explaining to us about the Trojan Horse and the fall of Troy. Cabiria then experiences a nightmare during which she is confronted by a Trojan Soldier who looks just like her, and who beheads her. While doing her job as tour guide, Cabiria appears obsessed with this story and the priest Laocoӧn and we witness her emotional journeys through spoken word, movement, film and photography.
This is a vast undertaking to accomplish in one work that is not full-evening length, but Garcia, Mohr and Cardino did a great job guiding us through this complicated story. The visuals throughout were stunning, the vibrant red costumes, the luscious projections, and the outstanding lighting. What was not so convincing were the Trojan warrior’s armor and helmet during close-ups and the execution of some of the battle. What did work quite well was Cardino’s film editing of Cabiria’s beheading.
Not my favorite piece on the program, I believe that this work needs time to mature. The choreography was good, but the dancer has yet to own it. The acting was strong and production-wise, everything appeared well rehearsed. The long final pose of Mohr lying in a pool of light while we listen to the music, however, should be looked at. As is, it felt like a never-ending conclusion. Laocoӧn with Cabiria at 9 was performed to Music by Grace Freeman and Wes Cardino. The Camera Operator was Christian Baker.
In the program, DaEun Jung wrote that she built a compositional system inspired by Merce Cunningham’s “chance operation” and the Korean alphabet, Hangul which was invented in 1446 by King Sejong the Great, the fourth king in the Joseon dynasty of Korea. Jung assigned her segmented moves of classical Korean dance to each morpho-syllabic block of the alphabet. Jung’s new work Byoul Part 1: 246 at 40 consisted of 246 syllables, moves, and beats at 40 per minute.
Jung obtained a BA in dance and minor in Korean Literature from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea and an MFA in Choreography at the University of California, Los Angeles where she was also awarded the Westfield Emerging Artist Award. She has performed in Asia and Europe with Gyeonggi Provincial Dance Company known for its traditional and contemporary Korean dance repertoire. This dance background is evident in her precise and elegant performance during Byoul Part 1: 246 at 40.
Five geometric shapes were seen floating in the galaxy with stars and planets of varying sizes drifted by. A musician appeared in one of the smaller shapes and a vocalist in the other. Eventually Jung appeared in the larger performance area and the two remaining rectangles were soon filled with numbers ticking off different elements of time and syllables. This effect presented both a new age and a sci-fi flavor to Jung’s traditional and postmodern infused work.
Jung moved with the grace and elegance of her Korean dance training, but with the edge of her exposure to modern/contemporary dance styles. The softly shuffling feet in pink socks, the head tilts and flowing arm movements were interrupted and dissected by a single turn, a pause, a sharp and quick deep plié and long sections of repetitions of the same brief movement phrase. These repeated movements varied and became longer and more complex as the piece progressed, resulting in a true fusion of dance vocabularies and senses of time passing. Jung’s movement worked in coordination with the clock-like electronic score of Daniel Corral and the clear, crisp vocals of Melody H. Sim (Shim).
Byoul Part 1: 246 at 40 was mesmerizing and I enjoyed trying to figure out the relationships and/or contradictions between the three artists. My only complaint was the very informal ending with Jung walking off as if just finishing a set of exercises at her gym instead of a stunning performance.
Before venturing out on her own artist path in film and theater, Genna Moroni began her professional career in 2010 with BODYTRAFFIC and then for seven years, 2012-2019, as a founding member of Ate9 Dance Company. In her beautiful and powerful work titled More, Moroni explores the emotions and reactions to failed or incomplete relationships through the exceptional talents of five women, Maija Knapp, Marcella Lewis, Moroni, Nadia Muhammad, and Gigi Todisco.
Each solo was filmed inside a white walled area with a black, empty ceiling. This stark set by Moroni and Alex Constable caused a real sense of confinement that was perhaps enhanced by the isolation everyone has endured over the past eleven months of the pandemic. This simple white set, however, became a living environment via the extraordinary lighting of Matthew Jones. He carved the space, gave it depth and washed it with vibrant colors to give each solo its own personality.
Todisco’s solo was introspective, exposing and emotional. Her black and white costume became a tool for describing her feelings, and at times she was as percussive as the music score. Her character began showing signs of paranoia but morphed into aggression and resolve. It was a wonderful performance. Muhammad’s movement was more frantic and desperate and she demonstrated a fearlessness and risk taking that only comes from trusting oneself and sacrificing one’s ego to the movement. Jones lighting here was exceptional, blending soft blues with harsh white edges.
Elegant and statuesque, Lewis began her solo with contained, soft and seemingly private thoughts with the sound of whispering in the music score hissing around her. As the solo progressed, however, Lewis broke out of her fear and moved as aggressively as the percussion sounds that were driving her. The music for the fourth solo performed by Knapp was wilder and the music provided a Spanish flavor to it. Her persona was multilayered and the movement became tighter and almost frantic. She appeared trapped but determined to survive.
Choreographer Moroni’s solo was a compilation of all the previous personalities and we got to see, and feel, her acting abilities. She is a beautiful mover and this new work offers promise of much more wonderful dances ahead. The one element that disturbed me in how More was presented was the camera work and editing by Robin Gonsalves. Parts of movement/choreography and performance were chopped off and the work became a bit more about the editing than I felt necessary. What was spectacular were the performances by all five dancers; the lighting designs by REDCAT’s Matthew Johns; the costumes by the dancers and Savanna Chonis; the set by Genna Moroni and Alex Constable; and the dynamic and rich original Music by Adam Starkopf and Joe Berry. Brava Genna Moroni.
To learn more about REDCAT, click HERE.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Genna Moroni -Photo by Silvia Grav – Courtesy of REDCAT