Deborah Brockus is a fixture in the Los Angeles dance community. Between establishing her company in 1994 and rebranding it in 2013 as BrockusRED, she’s woven herself into the network, providing studio space, producing festivals, and creating her own works. She’s our resident dance matriarch: with Brockus around, we’ll have no problem getting our dance fix. Now, she brings us a Los Angeles Dance Festival (LADF) in its seventh season, complete with two stages and a harmony of emerging and experienced Los Angeles locals.
LADF was born of a conversation between Brockus and Matt Wells, who was chief operating officer at DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion® at the time. The idea came in January, and the first festival was in full swing by April, with 16 companies on the list. Brockus said she felt the need to highlight the dance work that was slipping under the radar.
“It was kind of a misnomer that there was no dance in Los Angeles—there was so much that nobody knew about,” she said. “We have so many amazing companies here that are touring all the time, but at the time none of them were performing in L.A.”
Throughout the next few years, the festival expanded, moving to bigger and bigger venues and incorporating more and more growing companies. Last year, the festival was in March and highlighted all female work. This year, it returns to a broader spectrum, highlighting 21 acts on the main stage at the Luckman Theatre and 23 in the FRINGE Diavolo Performance Space. Next door to Diavolo, master classes will be offered at Brockus Project Studios.
On the main stage, Brockus organizes by genre, so that if an audience member chooses a program for one company, they’ll like the similar aesthetics or motivations of the others. She selects seasoned professionals for the Luckman stage, creators she has worked with before or that come highly recommended. Bret Easterling, for example, of BEMOVING, is new to to the city and just settling after several years with Batsheva, but Brockus could tell he had already put down roots.
“I want an artist who is in love with this community, that wants it to become their home, and I got that sense from Bret,” she said. “He is a newbie to L.A., but he has unpacked his suitcase.”
With Easterling on the main stage on Friday, April 12 are DIAVOLO | Architecture in Motion®, Ate9, BODYTRAFFIC, Ido Tadmor, and String Theory. The following night you’ll catch Invertigo Dance Theatre, Backhausdance, Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow, Kybele Dance Theatre, BrockusRED, and ROSANNA GAMSON/WORLD WIDE, and HD Theater. And Sunday, the last night at the Luckman: Kevin Williamson + Company, Rosanna Tavarez/LA DANSA DANSA, CARLON, Pennington Dance Group, Iris Company, Bryn Cohn +Artists, and Acts of Matter.
In addition to these artists, this first weekend will feature dance photography and visual art by Cheryl Mann, Densie Leitner, Taso Papadakis, Joelle Martinec, and Marie Elena Martingano. Colleges and local youth programs will perform site-specific work in a preshow format each night before the curtain rises.
At the FRINGE Diavolo Space April 26-28, several up-and-coming choreographers will present their new works each night. Among them: fabe dance, Nanette Brodie Dance Theater, FUSE Dance Company, and more. The FRINGE space also features a collaboration with the Seoul International Dance Festival in Tank, which will exchange dancers with the LADF dancers this year. Several main stage and FRINGE performers will offer master classes, as will szalt (dance co.), Los Angeles Contemporary Dance, Hysterica Dance, and Nancy Evans Dance Theatre.
“FRINGE is a way to explore a lot of up-and-coming choreographers, in a fun and funky setting,” Brockus said.
She doesn’t see LADF as your typical ‘fly in, perform, fly out’ dance festival. It functions to encourage overlap, investigation and celebration within the unique community that is Los Angeles. The festival performers span a wide range of styles in Los Angeles dance, and both the concert and commercial dance industries, and Brockus finds them united by the flavors of Los Angeles.
“I think that we are very different because we’ve been ignored. We don’t have funding, we don’t have theaters, we don’t have venues,” she said. “There is a certain survival that happens here and a certain ferocity in our movement.”
This particular Los Angeles style is what brings life to the festival and the movement, churning all of its personalities together to show what the city has created.
“I call it ‘masala,’ the mixing of all the different spices, that makes that LA feel. We move big, we move vibrant, we have joy. That’s what LA dance means to me, and I’ve been a huge champion of it from the beginning.”
For tickets to the main stage event at the Luckman, April 12-14, visit the Luckman website.
For tickets to the FRINGE Diavolo Space, April 26-28, click here.
For tickets to the master classes at Brockus Project Studios, April 5-7 and April 27-28, visit the Brockus Project website.
Feature image courtesy of LA Dance Festival.