Dance artists and curators Alexx Shilling and Devika Vasanthi Wickremesinghe took their inspiration for the Hi, Solo series, 10 artists – 1 city – 3-minute solos, from New York choreographer and dancer Mark Haim. Recently taken over by co-curators by Alexsa Durrans and Miles Brenninkmeijer, Hi, Solo #8 took place on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 8PM and 10PM at the Pieter Performance Space in Los Angeles.  I attended the first performance.

The Pieter Performance Space is a lovely space with limited seating that has become a creative hub for many inspiring artists to teach, rehearse and present their works. The Hi, Solo series is a non-monetary donation performance, but the audiences were encouraged to donate books, clothing or food and beverages for the studio’s free boutique, library and bar.

The artists who performed their 3-minute solos were Anjali Vaswani, Asphodèle, Gracie Winston, Gregory Barnett, Heidi Prendergast, Jay Carlon, Jerome AB, Jessica Hemingway and Maya Gingery. Due to illness, the tenth choreographer, Austyn Rich was unable to perform. Though I strongly agree that the concept of the series is important, and I applaud everyone’s efforts, most of the solos came across a little too much like solo composition class studies.  A couple of the solos showed potential and one presented a powerful social message.

The solos that stood out were Jay Carlon’s did you conquer it?, Jerome AB’s Feelings Matter, Bro and Maya Gingery’s I have something to say and I’m saying it. These three solos made strong statements of internal exploration, social commentary and personal introspection. They were well crafted and memorable.

Jay Carlon had the audience take out their cell phones and set their stop watches for 3 minutes. He told us that he started out as a wrestler and had us form a circle around him, which helped create a competitive arena-like atmosphere seen at wrestling matches. As he moved through movements recognizable from such matches, Carlon related personal struggles and conflicts as the son of an immigrant family which causes cultural clashes for a gay man. At times, one could almost see his invisible opponent, and we laughed at his gay humor about a certain favorite wrestling maneuver.

Jerome AB, Photo by Alexx Shilling

Jerome AB, Photo by Alexx Shilling

Back in our seats, the lights came up on Jerome AB standing next to one of the studio’s four wooden pillars, his head encased inside a long, stretchable black fabric tube whose other end was attached to a second pillar. As we listened to the spoken words of a black activist artist, AB struggles to free himself, pounds out his frustration on the pillar and quietly succumbs into a seated submission. In just 3 minutes, AB expressed generations of an entire people’s struggle. It was a very powerful work.

Dressed in a long black sleeveless dress and performing to music beautifully performed live by cellist Prudence Rees-Lee, Maya Gingery took us into the depths of her character’s introspective thoughts. Her solo, I have something to say and I’m saying it, clearly visualized these internal feelings by utilizing simple arm, hand and torso movements. As Gingery slowly walked upstage and into the darkness, one felt the price she paid for stating her case.

Some humor could be found in Angela Vaswani’s mostly verbal, mike drop solo Insecure…..Bitch, Gracie Winston’s anti-MAGA work What if we kissed at…. Hi, Solo, and a chuckle or two was evoked from Jessica Hemingway dressed like a ’70s teenager in It goes with your weird dance. Serious dancing was performed to jazz music by Heidi Prendergast in her dance titled In the Mud, but was hindered because she chose to primarily move through the standing audience as they aimed their cell phone flashlights on her. In the Mud was a good choice for the title, but as presented, not a good way to see her dance. The flashlights were deemed useless due to the theater lights remaining at full.

Prior to her solo titled Love Yourself, Asphodèle informed us that she was injured but that she would perform. I appreciated the effort, but her singing and small in place movements left me wanting. Gregory Barnett’s All these moves won’t keep a man because no man is worth it, seemed simply a self-indulgent excuse to show off his body covered only by a pair of white sheer boxer briefs.

For more information on the Pieter Performance Space, click here.

Featured image: Gracie Winstonin What if we kissed….at Hi, Solo –  Photo by Alexx Shilling