The audience embraces Invertigo for a three week run at Odyssey

Review: After It Happened (Sunday Oct 5th, 2014)

Laura Karlin’s Invertigo Dance Theatre is going out on a limb this month with a nearly unheard of (in LA) three week run of an evening length dance show, After It Happened. And, judging from the large attendance last night, it is a good thing. A warm audience celebrated the evening of dance with an enthusiastic standing ovation.

The nearly two hour dance theater work takes place after an unspecified natural disaster. The ensemble of nine dancers began by transporting the audience into a world caught in the throes of the calamity. Never have I seen such an appropriate use of high impact dance technique!  Karlin successfully created an emotional intensity for the evening of work through her excellent use of dynamic physicality and vocalizations.  The dancers threw themselves through the space, rebounding off the earth only to be taken down again and again. The sheer athleticism of this opening displayed the dancers’ excellent technique and strength.  It was clear from these first moments that Karlin possesses incredible skill in designing and directing athletic partnering.

There were a few emotionally abrupt transitions that created a choppy pace to the overall arc of the evening.  The contrasting moments of levity were greatly appreciated as the majority of the work carried an emotional weight of the narrative.  The playful “news reporter” and “tourist” sections were particularly charming as they commented on the current tendency in our culture to exploit and/or devalue the suffering of others with broadcasting and social media.  There were a number of humorous moments that unexpectedly turned solemn, producing a show that taken as a whole, was quite heavy and emotionally challenging.  Karlin’s courage to address real issues of what it means to be human is a service for our times.  Dancer Ryan Ruiz had one of the most theatrically challenging parts as a victim of PTSD.  His performance was physically powerful and emotionally haunting.  His nearing-on-violent duet with Jessica Dunn is not for the feint of heart and was performed with unwavering conviction.

It was clear that these dancers* have developed a strong sensitivity to each other and trust each other fully.  One of the most emotionally moving moments was in a powerful duet performed by Cody Wilbourn and Sofia Klass in which Wilburn adroitly maneuvered Klass through the space, often carrying her full weight for extended periods of time as she wove around him, collapsing in her despair.  This impressive duet was deepened by moaning vocalizations by Klass who was possessed by the grief of loss.

Klass’s vocalizations fit in perfectly with the accompanying music which included layers of atmospheric sounds with live performance by Toby Karilin, Diana Lynn, and Hyosun Choi.  I deeply appreciated the continuity of the musical score and the strong and varied performance these three musicians were able to achieve. Costuming by Kate Bishop and Rosalinda Medina was appropriately designed, including the mixed pedestrian attire for the majority of the performance, as well as the stunning blue garbage bag gown (created by Bishop) worn by Jessica Dunn at the end of the performance.  Lighting by R. Christopher Stokes was elegant and unobtrusive, casting tones of light on the dancers that were able to capture the contrasting moods of the work seamlessly.  Another design element highlight was the blue bird puppet created by John Burton.  This kite-like bird (made out of the same blue garbage bags) created a sense of refreshing whimsy in the work.

Spoiler Alert!  Despite the gravity of the work as a whole, Karlin sends the audience home with a hopeful smile for the resilience of humanity and our future to come.  “It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me. And, I’m feelin’ good.”

The performance runs for an additional two weekends at the Odyssey Theater.  Tickets are selling out rapidly and I recommend you get yours today so you do not miss this wonderful evening of storytelling through words, song and movement.

* Full Cast: Hyosin Choi, Louie Cornejo, Jessica Dunn, Sofia Klass, Irene Kleinbauer, Ryan Ruiz, Chris Smith, Cody Wilbourn, Sadie Yarrington.

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