Presented by Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in partnership with Poets in Motion, Topia: The Something in Between directed by Jessie Lee Thorne in collaboration with Anna Tse, and Laja Field was an exquisite deep dive into the human condition.

Topia: The Something in Between is a complex dance-theater production that highlights the realities of mental illness and its harsh effects on the individual and those around them. With a script written by Laja Field in collaboration with Jessie Lee Thorne, Justin Thorne, and Kaia Makihara, the dancers expressed anguish in both physical and emotive ways. Featuring performers Kaia Makihara, Laja Field, Keilan Stafford, Annalise Gehling, and Jessie Lee Thorne, the ensemble did not hesitate to invite the audience into their vulnerable display.

The work began with a red couch, staircase, and desk framing the back of the stage as the performers sat themselves amongst the audience. From the beginning, I felt an immediate relationship to the performers which only grew to be more personal as the performance went on. Lighting Designer Katelyn Braymer captured intimacy in new ways by highlighting, at times, only the dancers faces as they lay collapsed on the ground. The set and costume design amplified the realistic nature of the work by representing the dancers as average people managing their everyday battles.

Jessie Lee Thorne's Poets In Motion - Photo by David Orr

Jessie Lee Thorne’s Poets In Motion – Photo by David Orr

The use of spoken word accompanied by robust choreography allowed the powerful narrative to speak for itself. Performers had moments of monologue that gave an insider’s perspective to various struggles around the themes of depression, mania, dissociation, and numbness. These were accompanied by movement that reflected the turmoil being expressed through the narration. Thorne’s choreography, in collaboration with the dancers, highlighted the athletic nature of dance through robust partnering and expansive floor work. Each choreographic choice was thoughtful in that it displayed empathy as the ensemble interacted with one another. At various points throughout the show, the cast displayed immense support to one another through the use of partnering that exemplified risk in weight bearing and trust. This choreographic choice reinforced the narrative of the necessity for community and support as one deals with internal darkness.

Topia: The Something in Between was a raw display of humanity and its delicate nature. Aspects such as impactful monologue, thoughtful choreography, and prolific narrative enveloped universal feelings into a beautiful conglomeration of truth. An expertly crafted show that was performed by committed and vulnerable artists, Thorne successfully brought topics of darkness into the light.

To see videos of Jessie Lee Thorne’s work, please visit her YouTube page.

Dance at the Odyssey continues through February 19, 2023 with Suchi Branfman’s “Dancing Through Prison Walls: DATA or 7 ways to dance a dance through prison walls”  (February 10 – 11) and DaEun Jung’s “BYOULNORRI” (별놀이) (February 17 – 19).  For more information and to purchase tickets, please click HERE.

For more information on The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, please visit their website.

Written by Rebecca Lee for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Dance at the Odyssey – Jessie Lee Thorne’s Poets in Motion – Photo by David Orr