On Thursday September 26th, at the theatre space 2245, the La Dance Project presented the first night of works as a part of their 2019-2020 season. Led by artistic director Benjamin Millepied and associate artistic director Sebastian Marcovici, the La Dance Project is a company comprised of 12 Los Angeles based dancers. Their repertory is comprised of new works choreographed by Millepied, historic reconstructions, and new works by emerging choreographers. The company is known for collaborating across mediums and will also often feature guest visual artists, musicians, designers, film makers, and composers.

The LA Dance Project is made up of dancers that are not only outstanding technicians but also true artists who connect in a profound way with their movement and each other. This night’s performance was LA Dances: Program A, part one of their three-part season. The night featured Adagio in B minor (choreographed by Janie Taylor), Rising Water (choreographed by Gianna Reisen), Split Step (choreographed by Emily and Zack Winokur), and Chapter Song (choreographed by Kyle Abraham). Across the board, these all these pieces combined the use of lighting, sound, movement, and performance to create four unique and expansive universes on stage. It was effortless to feel present and entranced when viewing all four of these pieces. While the choreographers delved into very familiar concepts such as love, control, growth, and transitions, the specificity in their movement and interaction with each other composed detailed narratives that amplified the themes explored in these pieces.

LA Dance Project - Photo by Josh Rose

LA Dance Project – Photo by Josh Rose

The theatre space, 2245, adds to the magic of the performance. 2245 is where the performers rehearse, offer classes, and perform, all in the same space. The connection of the performers to the space did not go unnoticed in the abilities to connect with every element in the space. At the conclusion of the show, the concluding speaker also made the audience aware that the LA Dance Project was the first company in Los Angeles (see below) to have its own theatre space specifically created to present dance works. This not only alludes to the significance of the company in the dance community here in Los Angeles, but also how they have and will continue to create powerful spaces for dance performance and practice.

LA Dance Project - Photo by Josh Rose

LA Dance Project – Photo by Josh Rose

If there is one thing I can say about the evening of performances by the LA Dance Project is that it was fearless. Every element felt strong from the performance to the choreographic choices that were made. The attention and investigation it took to create these pieces made for work that reached audiences in a rare and profound way. I am thinking of the piece Rising Water, choreographed by Gianna Reisen, in particular. This piece explores the balance between love and control and how affection and humanness play into those relationships. Set to a sound score by Andrew Bird, the music is transformative and takes you to the mental places that one normally keeps quiet. There are many moments in this piece that bring up feelings of profound loneliness such as when dancer Daisy Jacobson is standing, facing the corner of the stage after the two male dancers in this piece have fallen to the ground. Dressed in all white, and taking deep breaths, it is a moment of confrontation with self and with the sometimes lonely and nervous feelings we fear to admit we have. Throughout the piece, the three performers dance between duets, trios, and solos as they cycle through connection and falling to the ground. It is a piece that will make you long for the ones you love or have loved and reconcile that as painful as it may be, our need to connect and feel loved by one another is something we need to feel human.

LA Dance Project - Photo by Josh Rose

LA Dance Project – Photo by Josh Rose

Another piece that stood out, the kind of piece that you think about for weeks after seeing it, was without a doubt a solo performed by David Adrian Freeland Jr. Freeland danced this solo to D.N.A by Kendrick Lamar with impressionable dynamism and outstanding lighting to match. There is a moment where the lights are rapidly changing colors, a moment that I can still see so clearly, and Freeland walks takes a few slow steps toward the audience, in a colorful button up shirt and white pants, with an incisive and permeating expression of serene vitality. The juxtaposition of very balletic movement to Kendrick Lamar was unique and made for an impressionable evolved piece. The solo was a part of Chapter Song, choreographed by Kyle Abraham, and created in close collaboration with the company. This piece is comprised of a series of vignettes that explore the feeling of transition by juxtaposing many elements of transition such as the personal with political and serious with comedic.

It came as no surprise that the creation of this piece relied on the collaboration of the performers as it felt like the part of the evening where all the performers had their moment to engage in work that was personal to them. The quick shift between these dance vignettes, with very different movement and music for each piece, made for a very thought provoking and lively last choreography. The piece takes you from laughing at the absurdity of something happening on the stage, such as one of the performers eating a granola bar while watching his fellow dancers engage in physically demanding movement, to feeling something deep from the simplest of moments between the dancers.

This was a night of four very strong pieces, all of which had many moments of beauty and darkness that were hard to shake after viewing. The night left me thinking and feeling for days after about what I had seen.

The cast for each work included:

Split Step: Doug Baum, Anthony Lee Bryant, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Mario Gonzalez, Daisy Jacobson, Rachelle Rafailedes, Gianna Reisen, and Janie Taylor.

Adagio in B Minor: David Adrian Freeland, Jr., and Janie Taylor.

Rising Water: Anthony Lee Bryant, David Adrain Freeland Jr., and Daisy Jacobson.

Chapter Song: Doug Baum, Anthony Lee Bryant, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Mario Gonzalez, Rachelle Rafailedes, and Gianna Reisen.

This performance is only a part of their 2019-2020 season and will continue to show throughout November. To purchase tickets to their next showing of Program A, click here

Correction since publication (Thanks go to Bridget Murnane for bringing this to LADC’s attention):  The first Dance Theatre in LA was founded by Lester Horton, Bella Lewitzky, Newell Reynolds and William Bowne in 1946. It had a school, company, and theatre (designed by Rudolf Schindler), located on Melrose Ave. It was the first of its kind in the country.

Written by Corrina Roche for LA Dance Chronicle, October 8, 2019.

Featured image: LA Dance Project – Photo by Josh Rose