In a relatively short time, Stephanie Zaletel has directed szalt into becoming one of Los Angeles’ finest dance companies. I attended the company’s Gala Fund raiser at the MorYork Gallery in Highland Park this past Saturday to witness choreography by company members Lindsey Lollie, Jordan Saenz, Sarah Prinz, Amir Rappaport, Ariana Daub and Zaletel, with music composed and performed by Louis Lopez, and Katie Jost performing the music of Jonathan Snipes.

Lindsey Lollie – szalt dance – Photo by Sarah Prinz

Titled SZALT DANCERS CREATE//GALA, the evening was Directed and Curated by Zaletel and featured six sections, each created by a different company member. There was food, beverage and drawings for prizes. If you have not had a chance to visit the MorYork Gallery on York Blvd., it is an extraordinary experience. Owned and curated by Clare Graham, one could get lost in its maze of incredible sculptures for hours at a time. Performed in the round, the performers entered and exited mysteriously from a several of the gallery’s cleverly disguised areas.

The evening was the result of the company working together to explore new ideas. Each dance artist created a short work that was inspired by this experience and creative exploration. The very intriguing and absorbing results in these six works demonstrated how closely these women have grown artistically. The performance, however, lacked the cohesiveness and brilliance of previous works choreographed by Zaletel in collaboration with her dancers.

Stephanie Zaletel – Photo by Sarah Prinz

The first half of the evening included two works. Honey was choreographed by Sarah Prinz and performed by Lollie, Daub and Prinz. Beginning as a duet between Lollie and Daub, the work took on the feel of two women involved in a touching but complicated relationship. There was a repeated series of partnering moves that were manipulative or controlling.  As they were joined by Prinz, the group went to the floor to lie together as if in bed. The work later became haunting as Prinz softly and beautifully sang along with the lyrics “When You’re Smiling,” as the trio moved about the floor and into a complex sitting/standing tableau. The honey in this dance felt bitter sweet.

Susan was choreographed by Jordan Saenz and performed by Lollie, Daub, Prinz, Rappaport and Zaletel. As Lollie performed a pensive solo, Zaletel walks ghost-like across the space. She appears later with Sarah, then with Amir and finally adding Daub. The room was silent; enchanted by the atmosphere created by Saenz, but it ends with a shocking slapping sound that scatters all but Daub from the space. The piece ends with a meditative solo by Daub.

Zaletel then speaks to the room full of friends, family and donors as Prinz performs Zaletel’s work titled Memory crouched next to her. The movement is confined and pensive, and Prinz’s presence made it difficult for me to pay attention to what Zaletel was saying.

Lindsey Lollie – Photo by Sarah Prinz

Flight was choreographed by Lindsey Lollie and performed beautifully by Zaletel and Rappaport. The dance involved a white cube on which first Zaletel performed, before being joined by Rappaport. The movement included flying, propeller-like arms that were repeated for a very long time. Once on top of the cube, both performers executed windshield movements. They sat next to each other resembling astronauts inside a space capsule; sitting up and then reclining as their ship left earth and entered outer space.

Amir Rappaport choreographed the dark and sinister piece titled Tzav, lit solely by light ropes that cast an eeriness throughout the gallery. The dancers Prinz and Daub each sat in chairs attached to the ropes of light. Prinz went through a series of movements that repeated and accelerated as she performed them. She is invaded by Daub who takes over her chair, sending Prinz forward. Daub later returns ownership of the chair and performs a leg movement while bent over that took on the look of the long hand on a large clock. The definition that I found states that Tzav “is the 25th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה‎, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the second in the Book of Leviticus.” Rappaport also designed and created the lighting for Tzav.

The final work on the program was titled O, choreographed and performed by Ariana Daub to the wonderful a cappella voices of Linnea Sablosky, Cari Stevens, Cooper Wolken, Heather Lockie, Alex Wand and Steven Van Betten singing a beautiful song by Van Betten. Daub is eventually joined by Jordan Saenz. The work is sensual, meditative and provided a gentle close to a wonderful evening.

This was a beautiful evening of works by this very talented company. Their artistic voices are strong and their movement vocabular unique. The lovely pale pink costumes with a touch of red were designed by Sarah Prinz in collaboration with pants designer Sayde Harvey, and the music of Lopez and Snipes created a dynamic and often poignant atmosphere to the program.

The company is planning its next Los Angeles performance for August of 2018. I suggest that you go!

To view the LA Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.

Feature Photo by Sarah Prinz.