On Thursday, October 12, 2023, I had the absolute pleasure of attending WE ARE. presented by LA Dance Project and Villa Albertine in partnership with Congress. The evening included five pieces by seven choreographers whose work has been commissioned, presented, or supported by LA Dance Project. The program was dynamic and thrilling and represented some of the most exciting talent in the Los Angeles contemporary dance scene.
The program started with an impressive solo (untitled) choreographed and performed by Lex Ishimoto whose qualities demonstrate clarity, risk taking, and ease. What I have always enjoyed about Ishimoto’s work is his integration of breaking and contemporary dance and the seemingly effortless execution of the two.
Following Ishimoto was Exit Strategies, a solo choreographed and performed by Bret Easterling. Accompanied with minimal wind and abstract sounds, Easterling captivated the space with a vulnerable presence, intricate pathways, and dynamic physicality. What I enjoyed most of Easterling’s performance was his ability to invoke comedic moments throughout his performance. I was thoroughly engaged, enlightened, and captivated by the performance.
Up next in the program was an excerpt of The Missing Mountain choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber. Two excerpts of this work were presented throughout the evening and included performers Lorrin Brubaker, Jeremy Coachman, Courtney Conovan, Daphne Fernberger, David Adrian Freeland Jr., Shu Kinouchi, Peter Mazurowski, Audrey Sides, Hope Spears, and Nayomi Van Brunt. The work was accompanied by violinist Keir Gogwilt performing J.S. Bach’s Chaconne and I Won’t Be a Thing to Become by Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld. Bobbi and Or’s work was exceptional in both craft and execution. The dancers embodied a complete availability to their physical abilities and emotional depths. The piece felt very conversational in both intimate and confrontational ways. Both excerpts took me on an internal journey as I found myself navigating the varying relationships between the performers and was a highlight of the show for me.
Mike Tyus and Luca Renzi choreographed and performed their work titled Holy, accompanied by an excerpt of Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘Howl’ and Bach Cello Suite No. 1 performed by Suuvi. The duet was performed in full nudity and was powerful in intention. Tyus and Renzi move together with a very clear connection, one that is both physical and emotional which allowed the performance to be one that was completely in sync. The work was vulnerable and honest, amplifying a story of what I perceived to be celebrating those who might be marginalized due to sexuality, race, or political ideas. The piece was wonderfully executed, and one that reminded me how worthwhile it is to take risks in art and dance.
Closing the program was Alone Together choreographed by JA Collective and performed by Layne Willis and Marcella Lewis with cellist Joanne Clara, violist Drew Forde, and violinist Yennie Lam. This duet was very relational and demonstrated what it might feel like to carry someone emotionally through a relationship with the dancers’ physical bodies. The dancers performed beautifully using a lot of gestured choreographic choices that accompanied the musical artists naturally.
Overall, WE ARE. was an exceptional evening of dance performance and was a powerful demonstration of how dance can bring people together. It was a pleasure to witness the dance artists and celebrate their phenomenal work.
For more information about L.A. Dance Project, please visit their website.
Written by Rebecca Lee for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: JA Collective – Layne Willis and Marcella Lewis in “Alone Together” – photo by Lorrin Brubaker