On Saturday, October 20, in Pasadena tucked away just off Colorado Blvd. is the lovely and spacious black box theatre, ARC Pasadena, where we saw a wonderful, aesthetic and inventive evening of dance called “2 Companies, One Stage.” This evening of collaboration with the Nancy Evans Dance Theatre and Jacksonville Dance Theatre delighted the audience, including a young aspiring dancer and dance critic of approximately four years old.  It was quite clear which pieces were her favorites and I will take her lead.

Walking into the black box theatre we are treated to a beautiful expansive dance stage with lovely old red brick walls surrounding it.  It was quite clear that the creators of ARC were there to “support and nurture an appreciation of dance by providing state of the art facilities for dancers, choreographers, …”  It was impressive and true.

When we were seated and settled, the lights dimmed in the audience and a single spot slowly came up on the stage where we were introduced to the first piece of the evening, The Things They Carried.  The choreography is a collaboration by Kristen Sholes Sullivan and Amalia Rivera.  Miss Rivera is standing in the center, and fastened to her waist, a carousel of white streamers surrounding her and attached to the floor at various lengths.   We see her begin to struggle to move out of her ensnarement.  As she strives to pull away, we see some of the streamers resist and pull back, some snap.  Fascinating music accompanies the struggle.  The New Millennium String Band carries us from Rock for the New Millennium to Loin Cloth and finally a gorgeous Benjamin Britten piece from A Ceremony of Carols.  We see her effort is the burden of attachments, which eventually leads to total entanglement and thus immobility which ends the piece in total entwinement.    As Amalia indicated in a Q&A afterwards, this piece provided an expression of the tremendous change when becoming pregnant, and in turn, the tremendous effects on the body, the mind and spirit.  It proved to be a metaphor for her own human struggles, successfully conveyed to the audience.

Our next piece AUTOMATA choreographed by Jenn Logan was inspired by NEDT’s road sign prompt series.  Her prompt was “Right Turn Only.”  Which, as Ms. Logan explains, meant “every turn, rotation or pivot…moves to the right…. the movement took on a mechanical feel.”

It’s a captivating piece with manikin-like sprites played by Katrina Amerine, Winter Bosanko, Amber Danels, Nel Dilworth, Jen Hunter, Karina Jones, Breanna King, Hilary Libman, Tiffany S. Santeiro, and Tess Sturgeon wearing various light skin colored leotards, tight-like panty hose, sheer skirts, mid drift tops, and skull caps. They’re bathed in amber and white lighting expertly designed and executed by Asra King Abadi and Angie Vaughn.  The dancers are laser focused with nearly immovable rounded arms and, at first, stiffened limbs.  They’re kneeling and wakened to a ticking clock, with music underscoring the movement by Hildur Gudnadottir, Rennur Up, and Opaque which creates a contemplative pulsating undertone, which counters the movement on stage. It is edited by the multi-talented Jenn Logan and beautifully holds the performers hostage to the mesmerizing sounds.   The staging is elegant, intricate, and inventive.  The partnering, duets, pas de trois, pas de six, are captivating.  The dancers move into a type of Greek Chorus, attempting somehow at humankind, but begin fading back to their manikin norm, thus ending this captivating and unique piece.

Untitled, a Pas de deux choreographed by Nancy Evans Doede and Rebecca R. Levy, with dancers Jenn Logan and Tiffany S. Santeiro, both tall long-limbed performers.  In this piece they take on a unisex feel, wearing blue shirts and black pants, and partnering each other, as though weightless.  One character attempting at communication and the other aloof.   This technically well-done piece presents many levels until finally, in silence, they dance off into the darkness.  The beautiful piano music of Robert Schumann: sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 22: ii. Andantino, baths the piece in a kind off distant yearning, which is expertly done by Logan and Santeiro.

Everness, choreographed in 1978 by the brilliant Nancy Hauser, reconstructed by her daughter, Heidi Hauser Jasmin, and Rehearsal Directed by Nancy Evans Doede, a student and colleague of Nancy Hauser.  This piece is reminiscent of Mary Wigman, and surely honors and connects us to the great traditions of our dance past and so respectfully and beautifully performed by five stunning young dancers; Katrina Amerine, Noel Dilworth, Ashleigh Doede, Karina Jones, Jenn Logan.  Together, the musicality and sensitivity was a miracle.  The brilliance of style and lyricism left me yearning for many more such moments in dance.

Starting onstage with a single dancer so exquisite, in a simple blue leotard dress, I was stunned by the sheer emotionality of what appeared to be a simple, yet intricate gift. It was such a rare, beautiful experience when the dancers slowly appeared and began their variations on the initial theme to the Chopin and Heitor Villa-Lobos music.  They moved in figures that represented infinity in its ultimate.  It appeared clearly to me that this piece was a prayer, and when the dancers began whirling like dervishes hoping to find god at every turn, it was transcendent.  Thank you, Nancy Evans, for this gift to us all in this complex time, this complicated world.  Everness is a gift to remember.

She was here, choreographed by Tiffany S. Santeiro in collaboration with the dancers, on the other hand, attempted at a message, albeit a psychological struggle.  It appeared to be attempting at humanity, but in its efforts, its pleading for love, fighting love, and abuse, it tried much too hard.  It appeared indulgent and forceful in its messaging, and as it unfolded it presented a suffering that tested our empathy.  It was happening in the minds of the performers, albeit perhaps not for the audience. Dance can be cathartic for the performers, but it is, after all, a performance for the audience also, otherwise it could be done in a therapist’s office.   It might be appropriate to re-explore how one might do the subject matter with more subtle discovery, perhaps too many stories are trying to be told in one long piece.  The leadership in this collaboration is vital and well founded.

JDT17-TheThingSheSaid_photobyAlexaVelez NEDT17_Automata_photbyShanaSkelton resized NEDT14_Tethered_Photo By Shana Skelton resized
Jacksonville Dance Theatre - The Thing She Said - Photo: Alexa Velez

The Second Act promised to be another feast for the audience.  The most interesting piece for this reviewer, however, was Tick, choreographed by Ashleigh Doede, which used the dancers, Katrina Amerine, Noel Dilworth, and Jenn Logan, all technically excellent, in intelligent, sparse and constructive forms, beginning, continuing and ending with the physical representation of its namesake, Tick.  The work was prompted by NEDT’s road sign series.  Doede used the sign, “No Stopping Any Time” which expressed the “indefinite progress of existence,” with the 3 pieces “representing a way of keeping time.”   The choreographer used the variations to shape and embellish each moment, each passage of time; accompanied by a fascinating music/soundscape by Nils Frahm’s All Melody.  Both music and dance carried us into a zone, where we experienced intricacies and patterns onstage, aurally supported by the music. This was a specific and thought-provoking example of an excellent well-structured work.  A lovely gem of a piece.

Seconded by Tethered which Choreographer Nancy Doede and dancers Katrina Amerine Noel Dilworth, Ashleigh Doede, Jen Hunter, Karina Jones, and Jenn Logan devotedly coupled to Mozart’s Adagio in F. and which was beautifully constructed and lit.

The other pieces, Tanked choreographed by Jay Evan Jackson, assisted by Kristen Lovel and rehearsed by Tiffany S. Santeiro was hindered by it’s difficult lifts, and yearnings under a blue wash.  This piece was memorable only for wonderment of how and why the dancers were required to do such continuous acts of prowess.  The work’s message was made clear during the post-performance discussion, stating that it represented trapped whales.  Perhaps choreographer’s notes would have been good to help the viewer interpret the piece with more acuity.

And finally, The Thing She Said – Make a Different Choice choreographed by Rebecca R. Levy to the music of the Lelekovice, String Quartet #1 by Fred Frith.  The music which was dedicated to Iva Bittová, and named after the village near Brno in the Czech Republic evoked a wonderful and emotional folk feel with its strong scraping and percussive sounds.  This could have instigated action by the entire company that would have or may have held our attention.  However, as the sections unfolded, rather than raising the excitement level, the question, “Why?”  came up several times during the efforts of both dancers and choreographer.   Perhaps this could be considered a “work in progress” that needs discovery as to why we should care about any of this telling.   I appreciate the efforts and look forward to seeing a revised more fully examined group of pieces in the future.

There was much to discover and the evening made for a beautiful representation of both artistry in dance, and nascent labor needing to be more fully fulfilled.  It was definitely worth the gifts presented.

For more information on the Nancy Evans Dance Theatre, click here.

For more information on the Jacksonville Dance Theatre, click here.

Featured image: Tiffany Santiero and Jenn Logan – Photo courtesy of Nancy Evans Dance Theatre.