May 9, 2019 was the first of four Thursday evening performances of “1 To 3” presented by Ate9 Dance Company at the lovely venue The Ruby Street, located in the historical area of Highland Park. Founder and artistic director Danielle Agami brought six dancers for an informal evening that offered a close-up view of her work and interspersed with Q&A sessions. The audience sat on cushioned chairs and couches arranged in a circle along the perimeter of the space. Just prior to the performance, the performers dressed in black, quietly occupied the empty seats among the audience.

Front of The Ruby Street – Photo Courtesy of The Ruby Street

The evening began with a slow attentive solo by Rebecah Goldstone who was soon joined arm-in-arm by Sarah Butler. These two incredible dancers proceeded to move close to one another in a duet that was beautiful, awkward, creature-like and sometimes a mirroring of each other’s movements. This quietly intense duet took an eerie twist at the end when the two women exchanged harsh gusts of breath that came close to sounding like they were spitting on each other.

As they returned to their seats, the tall and extremely flexible Montay Romero quietly began a solo that appeared always on the verge of falling over. He also executed slow walks and gestures like a mime pulling a heavy object with an invisible rope. This solo lived on the edge and was somewhat mystic in nature, but it never asked for or needed an explanation.

Alexander Quetell’s brief solo moved fast and appeared frantic as Jordan Lovestrand entered with a self-contained solo nearby.

Agami then introduced herself and the dancers. She explained that the evening was designed to provide an ongoing and efficient Question and Answer between the audience and the company. She expressed how she wanted to have the audience experience the dancer up close and for the dancers to also have the experience of performing in such proximity to the audience. As someone who has performed many times in such situations, it can be daunting. One feels exposed and vulnerable.

ate9_Ruby Street_cast_Photo Credit Cheryl Mann Productions ate9_Ruby Street_Alexander Quetell_Photo Credit Cheryl Mann Productions ate9_Ruby Street_Jobel Medina_Photo Credit Cheryl Mann Productions ate9_Ruby Street_Montay Romero and Jordan Lovestrand_Photo Credit Cheryl Mann Productions ate9_Ruby Street_Sarah Butler_Photo Credit Cheryl Mann Productions
Ate9Ate9 - The Ruby Street - Montay Romero and Jordan Lovestrand - Photo by Cheryl Mann Montay Romero, Jordan Lovestrand - Photo by Cheryl Mann

We were then treated to a poignant duet between Goldstone and Jobel Medina that spoke to a complicated relationship between two individuals. At times Media’s gestures tightly contained and restricted Goldstone’s movements. The two intertwined while standing and as they slowly tumbled on the floor. This piece was the closest to having a narrative of all the work shown that evening.

One of the highlights was an intricate quartet for four men performed to a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s 1979 hit song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. Quetell, Lovestrand, Medina and Romero moved separately, then close together as their solos moved through interconnecting patterns.  It was a pure movement quartet with its humor coming from the straightforwardness of the all-male cast in juxtaposition to the music.

After another brief Q&A session the company performed solo and duet works choreographed by the dancers interspersed with moments of improvisation. The one that stood out for me was a solo choreographed by Alexander Quetell for Sarah Butler. Butler began with a repetitive walking phrase that ended with a simple turn and plié in fifth position. This went on, before it unexpectedly collapsed to the floor. The very restrained solo continued with a series of movements both on the floor and erect that tightly rotated around themselves.

Romero’s flexibility was taken to an unnecessary extreme, the stately Goldstone kept our full attention with a slow-moving painting of emotions, and finally all six dancers completed the evening with a short but lively improvised finale.

Evident throughout the evening were Agami’s signature gaga inspired movements, but the choreography appeared stripped down to the essentials and, though very human, had a quiet, raw animalistic feel to it. It was as if Agami took familiar emotions and/or images and pared them down to our basic instincts.

“1 To 3” continues every Thursday evening during the month of May at The Ruby Street located at 6408 Ruby St, Los Angeles, CA 90042. For performance times and to purchase tickets, click here. Go early because there is only street parking.