Like the persistence of artists throughout the ages, The Bootleg Theater presented BlakTinx Dance Festival led by Director Licia Perea, looked hardships and setbacks in the eye and refused to be defeated. Before COVID-19 the festival was scheduled to be performed live at the Bootleg Theater, but due to state mandated closures, the festival was under threat of being cancelled. When the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs offered its support, Perea reached out to BlakTinx alumni to create videos in response to the pandemic. The response was overwhelming and the online version of BlakTinx Dance Festival was scheduled for Saturday, June 6, 2020 under the title Dancing On the Edge.
As the date approached, Perea sent out the following press release: Bootleg Theater presents Dancing on the Edge a curated video collage of dance pieces created by LA BlakTinx alumni choreographers. During what began as a project dealing with the Covid crisis, we witnessed the horrific death of George Floyd and the protests that ensued against police brutality, social inequality and the Black Lives Matter movement. We needed to take a pause and postponed to honor our Black choreographers in BlakTinx.
Divided into four 20 minute programs, Dancing On the Edge was finally premiered on YouTube this past Saturday, June 20, 2020 and are still available for viewing. The programs included new works created in response to the COVID-19, along with new and archival works presented at the Bootleg Theater that focused on social injustice, police brutality, inequality and the Black Lives Matter movement. The list of choreographers who submitted their work were Anthony Aceves, Bernard Brown, Sofia Carreras, Joshua Estrada-Romero, Regina Ferguson, Kassy Francis, Michelle Funderburk, Primera Generación, Nancy Rivera Gomez, Vannia Ibargüen, Irishia Hubbard, Brigette Dunn-Korpela, Keilah Lomotey, Amber Morales, Rubi Morales, Andrea Ordaz, Yarrow Perea, Alan Perez, Dorcas Román, Eluza Santos, Stacey Strickland, Maura Townsend, Shantel Ureña, Sadie Yarrington, and Briseyda Zárate.
In this review, I will focus on Program One with seven works choreographed by Keilah Glover-Lomotey, Brigette Dunn-Korpela, Andrea Ordaz, Yarrow Perea, Alan Perez, Vannia Ibargüen, and Kassy Francis.
State of the World by Keilah Glover-Lomotey of Go To Heaven Dance Company, investigated the ever shifting emotions that everyone has experienced throughout this pandemic by being quarantined inside our homes for months on end. Glover-Lomotey began by celebrating being able to work at home and enjoying the time alone. This quickly morphed into boredom, loneliness and then anxiety. Finally, she joined two male friends – all wearing masks to release their pent up energies by dancing in their neighborhood streets and sidewalks wearing black and gold masks. The video was short and well edited, and Glover-Lomotey got her point across well. Although the performances were good, the choreography (performed to WIZ soundtrack, Janet Jackson, Cardi B/IMarkKeyz, and Future), however, was somewhat banal.
Brigette Dunn-Korpela, Artistic Director of B. Dunn Movement/Dance & Theatre Company submitted excerpts from her stunning and beautifully crafted Add Water & Stir that I first saw at the Bootleg Theater in the fall of 2017. The movement is aggressive, with a wonderful section that expresses three separate emotions via a solo and two separate duets. Incorporating text and spoken word, Add Water & Stir refers to the brutal killings of Tamir Rice, Emmett Till and Eric Garner, and Dunn-Korpela makes visual references to other cultural events and American symbols. The dramatic music mix and soundscapes that includes sirens, and the stark set by Shannon Knox add to the power of this work. Throughout the piece a cartoonish white woman wearing a rubber wig sits at a table on stage left mindlessly mixing together a cake batter. Reminiscent of the Stepford Wives or the 1950s version of a housewife, she is obviously oblivious to the struggles of minorities around her, but slowly loses her grip on reality.
Dunn-Korpela creatively blends together abstract movement with stark life-like situations which provide an excellent showcase for her talented company members Brance Souza-Rehearsal Director, Whitney Jackson, Cynthia Anderson, Kestrel Leah-Actress, Dominique McDougal, Robyn O’Dell, Joan Padeo, Dion Pratt and Ashlee Williams.
Como los Pájaros (Like the Birds) was choreographed and performed by Andrea Ordaz, founder of A. Ordaz Dance. This was shot in black and white with the camera facing the sky with only the natural sounds as a music score. Though brief, Como los Pájaros was an intriguing look at what the world is collectively seeking, the ability to move about freely.
Yarrow Perea choreographed and performed in her charming but uneven film Flamenco Fallout. Longing to dance, Perea selects a costume, puts on make up and ventures outside to perform her Flamenco on a small wooden platform placed on a bridge over a small backyard pond inhabited by fish and a turtle. Perea drew her inspiration from lyrics of the song “Fallout” by Days N Daze, Perea moves through a limited set of Flamenco footwork and upper body moves that sometimes demonstrate her frustrations at being forced to live inside. It was, however, the editing by Jose Garcia Davis that gave this video a much needed boost; especially the superimposing of Perea’s footwork onto the back of her pet turtle. In a situation with so many challenges facing the artists, Perea giving her camerman a high five at the end came across as unprofessional.
Vannia Ibargüen releases her frustration of being confined at home with humor in her new film Folding, performed to music by Andre Rieu. Bored by the mundane chore of folding her laundry on top of her bed, Ibargüen takes to leaping and diving off her bedside table into the pile of clean clothes. The dives are filmed in slow motion and the humor is very well timed. Ibargüen was the choreographer, performer and the editor of Folding.
Time up the River; Interior was choreographed by Alan Perez for himself and Robert Gomez. Filmed in a small empty room with mirrors, the two men manage to dance with great freedom and grace by utilizing every inch of that limited space, including the ceiling. It is a solo and duet by two gay men who are allowed to express their true selves in the confines of their home during a pandemic. Filmed by Christopher Lopez and choreographed to music by Mother’s Space – Troll Hammer, this is a wonderful expression of self-worth performed by two beautiful dancers.
Living in quarantine during the pandemic, Kassy Francis expresses her need to respond to the current and ongoing social injustice through her new video Called to Action. Choreographed and performed by Francis, she describes it as “A Visual by LuVpEaCeNsOuL MoVeMeNT” inspired by the song “Black America Again.” Though her choreography does not involve a wide range of movement and those she has chosen are limited by the confines of her home, Francis’ frustration, anger and resilience comes through loud and clear. The latter sentence of her spoken words stood out for me. “(….) I came to the conclusion that I am an example of “Rewriting Black American History” through way of my trials and then triumphs, and living my purpose to overcome, and still Rise knowing the memories of lost souls will never be forgotten and never in vain.”
Written by Jeff Slayton for LADC, June 21, 2020.
Featured image: BlakTinx Dance Festival – Screen capture by LA Dance Chronicle