L.A. Dance Project’s LAUNCH: LA residency marked its second year this weekend, presenting choreographer Megan Doheny’s Sing the Song from the Beginning and duo Mike Tyus and Luca Renzi’s My Body is an Instrument. A short and sweet evening, it gave us two promising new works and a whole lot to think about.
Doheny opened the program, a compiled track of home videos playing behind her as she sat on a rug made of projections. A seamless sound score expertly woven by Dylan Tedaldi accompanied her as she traced the outlines of her childhood memories. Though the video was tender, there was a slight sense of distortion in everything — the rug wasn’t real, the movement would glitch. The narrator was unreliable, but not by her own design. The videos stuttered until they faded into animations by Nadav Gal, Doheny waltzing herself into a confrontational set of gestures en face. Projection design and artistic collaboration by Ilya Nikurov and lighting design by Caleb Wildman cued fascinating disruptive shifts throughout.
Doheny is a stunning dancer, and her choreography was aesthetically pleasing, gracefully executed. There were a few moments where I felt she was getting at something more, something underneath the movement, and I wanted to dig more deeply into those. Her thesis was intriguing; to see more of her humanity, even her process as it meshed or fought with the onscreen memories, would be cause for deeper investment. I would be interested to see this work in a longer format, where Doheny can really spread out and explore.
The second half of the evening featured choreographers Tyus and Renzi with dancers Layne Paradis Willis and Gretchen Ackerman, creating a sound score on the spot with Bluetooth sensors by German music company Instrument of Things.
If their movements creating live music atop a blank white canvas and chair was not postmodern enough, there were a few quartet sections that felt (dare I say) sort of Judson Church, complete with blade hand iconography and contact collisions. It was a cheeky tribute, referencing such a historical scene when Tyus could almost be considered a viral internet sensation.
To see his and Renzi’s work performed live felt almost surreal after scrolling through their reels for years. These two know how to craft a cinematic frame. Tyus can imbue a body with meaning just by placing and lighting it correctly, and both are acutely aware of how we read human postures. Sound engineering by Chris Tse and lighting again by Wildman certainly helped.
Willis and Ackerman were articulate and fearless, providing an interesting study of how such acrobatic movement translates onto other able bodies. Tyus and Renzi’s work occupies a baffling space, in that it almost requires a third literacy of exactly how to combine placement and style within the choreographic framework.
The scrambling quartets escalated into a series of vignettes and then a duet between Tyus and Renzi, a distillation of their work together that made it all make sense. In a whirlwind of tossing and folding and inverting, their two bodies morphed into form itself within seconds. No beats were skipped.
Renzi brings a musculature to the work — and I don’t mean physical muscle, though he has that, too. It is a chewy quality that deepens the shapes we usually see Tyus making; perhaps why the two have been collaborating often.
What these two make out of a relentless research of their own architecture, their joints, limbs, inertia, is entirely unique. And a lesson in absolute precision and clarity. Tyus said he’d like to bring the work to a gallery next, so keep an eye out. And you can always find the duo making new moments on social media in the meantime.
For more information on L.A. Dance Project, please visit their website.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: LADP LAUNCH LA:2023 – Mike Tyus and Luca Renzis in their My Body is an Instrument – Photo by Joy Isabella Brown