When I become so engulfed in my own memories and stories, that I cannot recall specific moments or movements, I know the performance was more than just good. A good performance keeps one engaged in the present, keeps the brain craving the next burst of serotonin, but a great performance disengages you from your body completely, and your heart takes over. You go somewhere else entirely. My expectations were already quite high walking into the space as Benjamin Millepied’s creative, and dare I say genius, work and reputation supersedes him, and he did not disappoint. In Benjamin Millepied’s new dance work Be Here Now for LA Dance Project on April 15th, the audience was hit quickly with an energy unmatched. I was not expecting a sonic speed transportation onto a brand new planet, and needless to say, it’s good to be an alien on earth again.
Without a doubt, the choreography for Be Here Now was inspired by, and a direct reflection of, composer Andy Akiho’s recently released music Seven Pillars. I will say, despite the composer’s brilliant notes, it does take some getting used to. There is a jarring tone and pitch level that is definitely not heard in everyday life, which is probably why I enjoyed the external of it, the foreign of it, the feeling of being an outsider trying to enjoy something new. On its own, it’s interesting, but couple it with LADP dancers Doug Baum, Marissa Brown, Lorrin Brubaker, Courtney Conovan, Oliver Greene Cramer, Daphne Fernberger, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Mario Gonzalez, Sierra Herrera, Daisy Jacobson, Payton Johnson, Shu Kinouchi, Peter Mazurowski, Vinicius Silva, and Nayomi Van Brunt and you have something exciting. Each dancer’s energy lifted the next dancer’s energy, which caught on to the next, and then the next, and suddenly the energy exchange between performer and audience was in a continuum of vivacity. If you listened and watched closely enough, you could see the performers send cues to each other, either through a countdown of “…and 1, 2, 3, and…” or a simple look, so they could lock eyes and be in the same breath before lunging forward together into the present unknown.
Within the seven segments of dance, entr’acte by Caroline Shaw, the simple yet effective lighting by Michael Rathbun really struck. Moving in colors of charged blue, neon green, and simple white, we were taken into worlds of deep emotion. Using soft edges, cut edges, and edges in between, I almost forgot what the original floor plan looked like. There were times of no boundaries, and times of small circle surfaces so inclusive it felt as though one misstep and a dancer could fall off the edge. Rathbun is someone I would love to see more collaboration from, as his lighting design was like a spider’s web in the wind; constantly shifting and floating from scene to scene to keep everyone together and caught in the present moment.
Be Here Now reminded me so much of why I love dance to begin with. Even though I know the choreography has been rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed again, it felt as though each dancer did not know what step was coming next. There was a real base in remaining current on stage, as if there was no preconceived notion, no pause to catch on, no thought beforehand….just heartbeats, breath, and leaps of faith. I knew, sitting there with my fists clenched, that this moment would never happen again. It’s very rare that a night of performance so electric can remind you that lightning can’t strike twice. I was briefly reminded of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Dance Company’s D-Man in the Waters of which exhaustion hits the body with such a force, that you retreat to the community of your peers and friends to push through. LADP carried each other through the performance in smiles, in the floating feeling of “you’ve got this, I’ve got you.” I could feel the fatigue in a duet lift, and the draining of physicality that a dance of high repetition brings on. And yet, instead of sensing them fall, I felt them grow stronger. Be Here Now was like watching a family be born in 60min.
Unlike a traditional ballet, the performance had no real plot or aboutness, and I absolutely reveled in the abstract. It is a refreshing turn of events when you’re given the space to insert yourself within the performance, when each audience member can leave with a completely different experience and context than another. I was within the dance, and the dance was within me. I felt synced, understood, and changed. I traveled outside of myself, and I traveled within myself, and that is what dance should be. That is what it means to dance. That is to Be Here Now.
New performance dates for Be Here Now were recently posted: April 28 – June 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 at L.A. Dance Project Studios – 2245 E. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90021.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please click HERE.
To learn more about L.A. Dance Project, please visit their website.
Written by Grace Courvoisier for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: David Adrian Freeland, Jr. in Be Here Now by Benjamin Millepied – Photo by Lorrin Brubaker for L.A. Dance Project
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