It was the 2018 performance at Pieter Studio titled Gold Series that led to the formation of the Gold Collective by Los Angeles-based dance artists Madison Clark, Sarah Leddy, Carol McDowell, Daniel Miramontes, and alexx shilling. At ARC Pasadena this past weekend, Gold Series No. 2 featured works by the Collective, three local artists and two choreographers from the east coast.
The program began outside in the parking lot area of ARC Pasadena with a “site responsive dance work” titled CONFLUENCE, choreographed and performed by Los Angeles based artists Heyward Bracey, Rosemary Candelario and Nguyên Nguyên. As I approached the venue, three performers dressed in white cloth and white designs painted on their chests, backs and legs, moved very slowly in separate areas of the lot. Nguyên Nguyên quietly paced along a long path of white pebbles, often sweeping or hitting them, and himself, with a straw broom. Candelario stood in a narrow flower bed next to the building alternately shifting around foliage and dipping her hands into a large bowl of water. Bracey, located upon a small planter on the opposite end of the white path, stood quaking as he held two portable lights focused toward his body. The atmosphere was meditative but the Sound Design by Kio Griffith of familiar American songs that made these two worlds collide.
As the trio entered the building and walked slowly through ARC’s lobby, Candelario handed out small pieces of gold and silver mylar as if they were gifts from the gods. Nguyên was close behind her with bits of white pebbles still stuck to his back and Bracey followed with lowered eyes. This was east meeting west, nature meeting man made, and a feeling of souls passing through time.
After this peaceful and hallowed experience, Tyler Rai’s glacial erratics (for those who harbor) drove us back into the land of self-indulgence. throughout the entire piece, a large boulder lay inside a glass bowl on stage right but Rai never once acknowledged or came in contact with it, diminishing any symbolism that it may have presented. What began as an interesting aboriginal dance, she dropped the idea to skip, stomp, shake and rolled around while dressed in a coat of gold tinsel slowly molting to the floor.
Rai is based in Amherst, Massachusetts and her work is often improvisational. Her program notes stated that “‘glacial erratics’ is an ongoing grief ritual for the glacial bodies of this earth.” Perhaps had the dance been performed outside where many of her works are presented, it would have held more relevance. Glaciers and icicles are white not gold, and grief does not come with a slight grin on its face.
Golden Nuggets was listed as a bricolage of practices and consisted of three short works separated by engaging movement ideas. Noetic Gestures, directed by Carol McDowell, first involved alexx shilling performing an intriging solo with her eyes closed while the rest of the cast moved along the edges to protect her from harm. The solo was repeated by Rachel Lopez, eyes also closed, while Madison Clark spoke into a microphone with glib-like descriptions of the movement. Though the solos were identical, this serious vs. humorous provided a completely different take on the experience. The choreography combined quiet gestures with large, bold and space covering movements that both shilling and Lopez performed fearlessly.
Performers shed their clothing accessories and placed them upon alexx shilling and Daniel Miramontes who began a relationship building duet which they collaborated on titled Soft Rise. As they moved the excess clothing fell from their person and the two found each other via crawls, sitting side by side exchanging tentative glances, and finally moving together as a couple. Simple pedestrian movements morphed into large, space covering and airborne dance phrases that exposed a wonderful performance chemistry between shilling and Miramontes.
The transition that followed appeared as a satirical look at varying elements of society. The cast moved around and across the space with striding walks to music often favored by performers like Madonna. One dancer in particular, Michael Thurin, strutted, his hips swaying and eyes staring at the audience, like a proud gay fashion model.
What unexpectedly followed this parade of energy was a somber work titled Harbor directed by Sarah Leddy. Performers Clark, Leddy, Lopez, McDowell, Miramontes, Wilfried Souly, shilling and Thurin crossed the stage with forward or backward leans that almost stumbled into short runs to the voice of Ysaye Barnwell, former member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, speaking the lyrics of “Would You Harbor Me?”. The halting moves gathered into a group that caught, cradled and protected Lopez as she slowly collapsed in different directions. The work’s movement was simple, personal and yes, pedestrian, but the message was extremely poignant and relevant to what is currently taking place with minorities in need of sanctuary.
This collection of nuggets was wonderful and I enjoyed watching each performer, but overall it felt a little untidy and uneven. I thought back to the 1970s improvisational dance collective The Grand Union in New York that helped launch the post-modern era and wondered if such a movement could blossom out of the Gold Collective. It remains to be seen.
X01RA7R was choreographed and powerfully performed by Bronx born and former member of Ailey II, Richard Rivera. With the title seemingly tattooed on his forearms and wearing dark sunglasses, Rivera took the audience through a series of emotions that abstractly and virtually looked into the minds and hearts of the incarcerated. His movements were controlled, sometimes fluid, but always held close and filled with humanity. A clock loudly ticking provided a sense of time passing for both the incarcerated and for friends and family waiting on the outside. This constant ticking and the voice of Barak Obama explaining America’s incarceration rate spoke mightily to Rivera’s printed program question, “Once aware of a situation, how much will it take before we act on making a change?” Rivera never overplayed his message, but slowly revealed it through gestures, defying stares and a striking performance.
Next came an equally commanding dance titled mine., choreographed and performed by Madison Clark in collaboration with Colleen Hendricks. Clark and Hendricks were costumed alike, wonderfully matched technically, and totally in sync during their mirrored solos and unison work. The dance was dramatic, but the two never let their facial expressions control what we could clearly sense through the choreography. There were gestures and postures of defiance, struggle, tension and resolve, but the movement was primarily large and beautifully executed.
When Clark and Hendricks leaned against the theater’s brick wall, I was concerned that an over-used ploy might come into play, but instead they conveyed a clear feeling of support and security. mine. was a dance that I would enjoy seeing again.
To close, CONFLUENCE continued onstage to explore humanity’s search for or lack of balance with nature; in this case the ocean. Long poles, bagged water, portable strobe lights and a very large sheet of gold mylar were used to symbolize these elements. Bracey, Candelario and Nguyên were similarly dressed in white skirts with trains made of black garbage bags, and the ocean sound score by Kio Griffith added images of timeless ocean waves crashing ashore.
Though I longed for a little more distance between the performance and me, observing these three was a huge part of the work’s strength. The care taken with each move, each placement of a prop and exactly how a foot came in contact with the floor was captivating. The western world’s sense of time is harsh in comparison to that of much of the East. As this piece progressed, I yearned for the world around me to become less hurried.
Kudos to Lighting Designer Courtney Ozovek who artfully gave each work its own look, place and time.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, November 18, 2019.
Featured image: (L to R) Heyward Bracey, Rosemary Candelario, Nguyên Nguyên – CONFLUENCE- Photo by Taso Papadakis,