Week two of the Now Festival 2018 at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) opened this past Thursday, July 27 and will run through Saturday the 28th.  The program consisted of three very different new and original works by Korean visual and new media artist KyungHwa Lee, Los Angeles choreographers Milka Djordjevich and Sebastian Hernandez. The work was created or completed at REDCAT over the past two months. Presented by REDCAT, it is a wonderful opportunity for artists to create and experiment with new ideas. Week three of the NOW Festival 2018 runs Thursday – Saturday, August 5 – 7 at 8:30pm.

We walked into the theater to discover a white floor and back wall that was used for projections. Malleable Bodies: Flusser, Plasticity, and The Corset was created and directed by KyungHwa Lee and choreographed by Nalae Jeon, with music by Daniel Corral and other contributors. The technologies used were 3-D printing to create parts of the “ideal body” and digital projections combining “the real world and the virtual world”. The work was full of beautiful images, movement phrases and projections, but it felt unconnected. The choreography was a fusion of modern and ballet and built in a series of vignettes with long pauses in-between.  One self-designed test for me is if the films and projections were taken away, would the dancing stand on it own as a piece of art. In this case, I do not think so.

The strongest section was the one where the dancers were performing onstage in front of a film of them doing the same movement but filmed from above. Here the extra media and the dancing came together. Another interesting element were the oversized body parts that the dancers wore over their own corresponding anatomy. A man’s pecs and abs, another man’s thighs or a woman’s buttocks are three examples. Along with this, one woman wore what looked like an oddly shaped tutu that from certain angles was shaped like a butterfly. These costume additions were first seen in silhouette, then as wired sculptures filled with small white lights, and then as oversized plastic prosthetic to accentuate someone’s fantasy of the “ideal body”.

The beautiful projections traveled over the ceiling, along the floor and over all three sides of the performance area.  Connected polygons floated by and then converged into the materials of the butterfly tutu. A projection of the Venus de Milo multiplied into five. It and another sculpture appeared as if an x-ray image complete with internal skeletons. Other digitized projections of the dancers’ bodies wearing the prosthetic appeared in rows and large groupings. Beautiful to watch, but what felt lacking was a solid connection (other than the prosthetic) between the movement and the projections. The long pauses between definitely need to be tightened up.

Corral’s music was powerful, filled with synthesized melodies and voices that sometimes wove through them. The designers for Malleable Bodies: Flusser, Plasticity, and the Corset were Yun Ki Cheung, Yeonho Cho, and Jihyun Park. The cast included Paulo Hernandez-/Farella, Nalae Jeon, Ayoung Kang, Anne Kim, Hyung Soo Moon, and Simon Schuh.

Milka Djordjevich presented a work in progress titled Corps in collaboration with composer Chris Peck. Equally spaced thin lines of florescent red, green, purple and yellow ran from downstage to upstage. Four women moved across the stage walking on the beat to a metronome-like repetitive beat. The walks continued continue for a while and then set up a pattern of 16 steps, then 12, 12, 8, 8, 4 and 4. This pattern continued non-stop and just as one felt that it would get boring, a single turn took place and arm positions began to develop. The beginning of this work brought to mind some of the early works by Trisha Brown; although Djordjevich did not duplicate Brown’s work, but she may have been inspired by it.

Peck’s music began to develop into a contrapuntal score (two or more independent melodic lines), and Djordjevich slowly built upon the walks, arm positions and gestures, as well as directions and patterns. The performers managed to complete this very complex mathematical movement piece with great precision and clarity. They must have been constantly counting, but it never showed on their faces. They were very concentrated, but also appeared alert, and even smiled occasionally.

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Kyunghwa Lee's "Malleable Bodies, Flusser, Plasticity and the Corset - REDCAT NOW Festival 2018 - Photo: Roger Martin Holman for LA Dance Chronicle

Corps was a beautiful work-in-progress and I look forward to seeing the completed version. The four beautiful performers were Dorothy Dubrule, Patricia Huerta, DaEun Jung, and Meg Madorin.

Sebastian Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles. His work, Hypanthium, included a film, flashing cameras, multiple legged chairs, crepe ribbons and three incredible performers. According to the dictionary, a hypanthium is “a cuplike or tubular enlargement of the receptacle of a flower, loosely surrounding the gynoecium (the female part of a flower consisting of one or more carpels) or united with it”. It is also known as the part of a rose that holds nectar.

The work opens with a short film shot by Rafa Esparza, of Hernandez walking along a LA bridge that spans the LA River and railroad tracks. It appears to be just after dusk and he was dressed in female clothes, high heels, and a long streaming head piece that consists of purple and sliver ribbons. Hernandez wandered back and forth across the bridge dodging traffic. He walked on the edge of the bridge’s stone railing and then lay on it. From the text, one wondered if this person is contemplating suicide. Fortunately, this did not happen.

Hernandez, dressed in a brilliant red costume was then seen walking along the theater’s side cat walk. Two other figures light his way by using the flashes of their camera. They work their way to the stage and take turns performing, lit solely by the flashes; causing a strobe-like effect. The second dancer was dressed in all white and the third in all black. The movement became extremely physical as the stage lights were turned on. At one time, the three were connected by having their fingers inside each other’s mouths, and later by holding one another’s crotches.

They don sunglasses and walk across on a brightly lit diagonal; two of them holding purses.  The walks shift into falls, slides and rapid turns and finish with a beautiful section of complex floorwork. There is sensual stroking of faces, sitting in chairs with three sets of legs so that the chairs can tilt right, left or backwards.  Wide crepe ribbons of red, white and black are used to make personal cocoons and finally slices of taped on fruit were cut of with knives and eaten by all three, as if sharing each other’s pain and or past.

Hypanthium feels long at times, but it is a painfully personal work that, although difficult to watch at times, hits home with anyone who has suffered loss or trauma. The driving sound score was also made by Hernandez with music by Halcyon Veil, Reel, A…H…, Dinamarca, Zamilska, and Elysia Crampton.

The two other powerful performers were Angel Acuna and Autumn Silas Randolph. The chairs were by Rafa Esparza, and the sculptures by Maria Mae. The costumes were by Hernandez and Randolph.

For information and tickets for NOW Festival 2018, click here.

Featured image: Sebastian Hernandez’s Hypanthium – REDCAT NOW Festival 2018 – Photo: Vanessa Crocini.