Ryan Heffington of “The OA” fame has created a hot spot for dance in LA.  His space “The Sweat Spot” on Sunset where Hollywood, Echo Park and Silverlake collide was the setting for a night of eclectic dance offerings. A party atmosphere took over the large studio/black box area with a boisterous mostly young crowd, loud funky music and free booze.  Full to capacity and more, the room readied with anticipation as the curators Denna Thomsen and Zak Ryan Schlegel took the stage.  In lieu of informative hosting Deena who seemed to be the primary speaker used this opportunity to garner attention for herself using the F bomb as her primary vocabulary word.  She was neither funny nor clever and left the audience in a vacuum.  Apparently each choreographer had been asked, “Does every performance deserve applause?”  This I’m guessing was an attempt at a through line but the answers were nebulous and inconsequential especially when told to “F…king” applaud or don’t “F…king applaud.”

Before the hosting began a large group of 19 performers, wearing maroon pants and white T-shirts, had preset themselves in various positions around the stage area.  This then was the beginning of the first piece, “Slauson Rec.”  Unexpectedly no one in this group had any dance training and though no credit was given for the choreographer I did find out that he is an actor who also has no dance training.  Still this can make for interesting movement, story and staging if the inspiration is there.  Unfortunately no such thing happened.  Most looked unsure and uncomfortable in the little that was expected.  There was some spoken word that was indecipherable and the glimmer of an idea when a series of fast clacking noises pierced the soundscape and the performers fell to the ground as if shot.  Perhaps with the expertise of a real choreographer such as Ryan Heffington this piece could have been made impactful instead of lost and unfocused.

Kathryn Burns an Emmy Award winner for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” created “Diamonds” for her three excellent dancers Liv Mai, Ashleigh Wilson-Clarke and Traci Swartz.  While a “Ballerina” does her classical exercises two female dancers with less than classical ballet bodies dance in their own modern style. Comparison of the lovely long lines of the ballet clashes with the athleticism and freedom of the contemporary until slowly they begin to take on the style of the other and dance together.  This is a slight but pleasing piece with music by Laura Mvula.

Sam McReynolds is the choreographer and star of “Look What I Can Do” with music by Three Oh Sees.  Wearing a black apron style dress McReynolds holds the stage with his quirky often silly dancing.  Don’t be fooled by his charm, there is pathos and real technique underpinning his work.    Engaging and fun it’s as if he’s saying “this is ME and I wear a dress, I bet you like me anyway. “ I did for sure.

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Congress Volume V - Sarah Prinz and Rebecah Goldstone in For the Hands" - Photo: THE1POINT8

Zita” a Tango by Mayte Valdes and Carlos Barrionuevo with music by Astor Piazzola tried to be everything all at once.  There was fast footwork, intense passages, and lifts but real passion was lacking.  Needing to concentrate on so many elements made this seem like hard work.  Barrionuevo’s footwork could be stronger and the lifts could be cleaner.  By streamlining the choreography and leaving more time for connection the potential for something wonderful is real.

A high point of the evening was Rebecah Goldstone’s clever “For the Hands.”  Dancing with equally talented dancer Sarah Prinz both shone with precise articulated movement and serious technique.  The fun started with the “Mambo Mambo Mambo” track then morphed into what sounded like Asian techno pop which accompanied their accomplished floor work.  Like twins their timing was impeccable as they mirrored each other perfectly and smoothly executed the complex choreography.  Goldstone has a different take on movement and does not go for the obvious.  She’s someone to watch.

Boi Boy “Superstars” are a quartet of very young fantastically strong hip hop dancers working to “Superstars” by Migos.  The dancers, Marcus Leong, Toshiya Nara, Saya Tanaka, and Jose Boy Boi Teng are precise, hard-hitting and aggressive with every move.  Surprisingly there is the influence of lyrical jazz throughout the piece that makes it all the more interesting and keeps most of it from being repetitive.  This lyricism makes Boi Boy’s work unique and could help him to distinguish his work from the crowded field of street choreography.

In silence we see a lone distorted figure writhing on the floor. Slowly she rises to standing.  A Mexican ballad by Amalia Rodriquez fills the space and Jen Rose, dancer, choreographer begins what appears to be a largely improvised piece.  It’s difficult to understand her motivation as she moves with great physical force from floor to standing but with little purpose.  Her actual technical ability is hard to calculate and she confuses the work by occasionally lapsing into an East Indian style dance.  More thought to the message might help this feel less indulgent and bring her true ability into focus.

B4 The Night Is Through” choreographed by Tucker Barkley is a knockout and a great way to finish the evening.  Dancing as if their life depended on it are his dancers Stephanie Mincone, Macy Swam, Jake Landgrebe, Evan Debenedetto, Grant Gilmore, BJ Pallin, Swagg, and Yreil Recamier with music by Jesse Boykins III and A. Chal.  This wild, fast, athletic work is in a class by itself.  I would call it Maniac Street Dancing.  Barkley creates a narrative with his dark pallet and a foreboding sense of dread.  It’s as if the earth has erupted and spewed this frenzy of dancers onto the stage. Never flagging the dance builds in intensity from its first moments to the ferocious finale taking the audience along for an exhilarating ride.

Unfortunately the curators introduced each section and once again Denna Thomsen seemed to think that using the F word over and over made her edgy.  Along with her peculiar stance and odd mumbling introductions she was a distraction.   Zak Ryan Schlegel was more likeable but neither host provided information or enlightenment as to what or whom we were about to see.

Excluding the hosts this was an enjoyable evening with a great vibe and is an important and positive platform for LA artists.

Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle, August 26, 2019

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Featured image: Sam McReynolds in “Look What I Can Do” – Photo: THE1POINT8