Spectrum-Dance in LA @ the Madrid did a valiant job in putting together a performance of local dancers and choreographers Sunday night at the Madrid Theater in Canoga Park.  Deborah Brockus of “BrockusRED” along with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs are working together to bring the arts to the much-underserved West San Fernando Valley.

Deborah Brockus, Producer of Spectrum Dance at the Madrid Theatre - Photo by Emerson Chen

Deborah Brockus, Producer of Spectrum Dance at the Madrid Theatre – Photo by Emerson Chen

Unfortunately the City who now owns The Madrid has not yet renewed the website for the theater so information and advertising was nonexistent. Adding to this, the new law known as AB5 has impacted small dance companies with rules regarding free-lance workers. With these issues Ms. Brockus who produces, had an uphill battle but though sparsely attended the show went on and I’m glad it did.

First up was the work of choreographer Issa Hourani, a novel piece titled “A Bar In Jerusalem” with music by Einstein on the Beach: Trial-Prison Phillip Glass, Robert Schumann – Yo Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott, and featuring dancers Edu Hernandez and Derrick Paris.   The un-credited voice over was indecipherable and did not add to the proceedings. Working with two benches this simple well executed dance evoked images of Orthodox Jews having a sometimes fun sometimes heated discussion while having a few at the bar.  Entertaining, inventive and very interesting it was a nice way to start the evening.

Bethana Rosenthal and Evan Rosenblatt - Photo by Russel Mulock

Bethana Rosenthal and Evan Rosenblatt – Photo by Russel Mulock

“Soma” (excerpt) by Choreographer/Dancer; Evan Rosenblatt and Dancer/Collaborator; Bethana Rosenblatt with music composed by Vivaldi and recomposed by Max Richter (in what way is not entirely clear), was up next.  It’s evident that the Rosenblatt’s have a relationship as they moved together and apart.  Each person’s move seemed to be the impetus for the move of the other in a rippling effect that was quite effective. Developing this idea further and challenging the dancers with more complexity and edge could bring this piece to another level. Still, it was full of lovely moments, lyrical and easy on the eyes.

Less successful was “Scree” by Authentic: Grooves Choreographer: Jamie Carr and danced by Company Members Caitlin Barfield, Jamie Carr, Gaby Mulder and Matt Sagisi with music by Ashlee Blosser, Liz Chavez and Justin Timberlake.  A sci-fi soundscape filled the stage as the four dancers improvised in their own private world.  Each moves well but because there did not seem to be a clear concept or actual choreography it became repetitive and less interesting than it might be.  Even when the dancers leave their space and interact with each other there is no connection. The lack of an idea that the audience can decipher and music that becomes a drone eventually leaves us cold.  These dancers seem capable of more.  I did appreciate that one dancer was clearly quite pregnant but was included and not hindered in the slightest this, added a lovely note of humanity.

Julienne Mackey of BrockusRED - Photo by Emerson Chen

Julienne Mackey of BrockusRED – Photo by Emerson Chen

“Via” with choreography by Deborah Brockus and dancers Julienne Mackey and Hailey Transue followed.   The East Indian influenced music by Talb Beat brought energy to the stage.  The well-trained performers do all that is required with ease and diligence.  The contemporary choreography was interesting throughout but was lacking the Indian influence expected from the musical choice. Though a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors was played where it led was a mystery. Were they competing friends?   Brockus knows how to construct a dance and because of this it was possible to enjoy and appreciate the work without knowing it’s exact intent.

Alan Perez – Photo courtesy of the artist.

The highlight of the evening was “Nix” a dance of friendship and perhaps love, by choreographer Alan Perez, danced by Perez and Robert Gomez.  The lush saxophone driven music was by Rodrogo Asha.  Both Perez and Gomez have an ease of movement that made this piece a joy to watch.  The choreography was simple but emotional as the two dancers play out this friendship.  Their sense of joy and connection allowed the audience to connect with them.  The music too filled the space with melody more of which would be welcome throughout the evening.

Lost Yourself Tonight by choreographer Mallory Fabian was the final piece of the night.  The music by Janel Blanco Jean-Bart was more of a soundscape with vocals that did not inspire and felt too similar to much of what we had heard throughout the night.  The dancers Sara Hartless & Darby Kelley did their best with the basic choreography, but did well with the interesting and difficult to execute floor work.  Unfortunately the piece itself did not sustain its energy and seemed to lose its way.  Inspiration often comes from the music and the lack of an inspiring track may have been part of the problem.

Mallory Fabian & Darby Kelley. Photo by Tom E. Kelley.

Mallory Fabian & Darby Kelley. Photo by Tom E. Kelley.

Deborah Brockus is to be commended for bringing dance and culture to Los Angeles for two decades.  Now it is her mission to work with the City of Los Angeles in bringing the arts to The Madrid, a good but under utilized space. She has a vision for the West San Fernando Valley, one that we can only hope will be well supported as we move into the future.  I for one am looking forward to what she brings to us.

Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle, March 5, 2020.

To visit the BrockusRED website, click here.

To learn more about the Madrid Theatre, click here.

Featured image: Olivia Perez of BrockusRED – Spectrum Dance at The Madrid Theatre – Photo by Emerson Chen