From Structure to Stream: LA Contemporary Dance Company’s Into the Fray

LA Contemporary Dance Company shared not only an impressive performance, but also an intriguing creative process tonight in its opening performance of Into the Fray. Featuring four choreographers, two musicians, and a cast of sixteen dancers, this experimental choreographic collaboration proved a rich structure for dance making that was raw, powerful, and innovative.

Kate Hutter, Genevieve Carson, Erik Speth and Kevin Williamson comprised the four choreographic voices in tonight’s work*. The structured rehearsal process began with the individual choreographers working first with small subsets of dancers, followed by a gradual accumulation of choreographers and dancers into collaborative rehearsal, until the final four rehearsals that included all four choreographers with all of the dancers. The result showcased movement in a stream of consciousness format that lead the audience through a range of qualities and states of being.

Despite a lack of narrative, the work had clear themes that tied the evening together. Thematically, the work rested squarely on the power of the various forms of relating, in fact the whole work could be used as a study in the many different forms of relating such as nearness, support, sliding and interlacing. The choreographic success was firmly rooted in the dancers’ ability to relate to each other in pairs, trios and ensembles. The dancers exhibited adroit partnering technique, as well as compelling emotional themes through out the work.

The second strong theme of the work was the use of breath. Dancers often cued each other and/or the pacing of the movement phrase with audible exhales and inhales. The use of the breath added to the sense of urgency and intimacy in the performance, intensifying the dynamic range and movement qualities. The rhythmic component of the breath work contrasted nicely with the musical score, which was as rich and layered as the choreography.

The music of this performance, provided by Eric Mason with Garrett McLean, deserves a comment of its own for its ability to support the emotional landscape of the various sections within the work, while maintaining its own integrity in terms of textures, rhythmic structures and melodic line. The musicians were sensitive to the dancers and the choreographic intent, and possessed a firm grasp on the compositional structures that can serve contemporary dance practices.

Due to the fully integrated choreographic process, I cannot speak to each of the choreographers and their specific contributions, but I can say the dancers proved to be excellent implements for the artistic intent. These exquisitely trained dancers managed to be subtle and sensitive in the soft duet moments, as well as undeniably risky and powerful in the more athletic phrase work. In addition, the dancers performed with a clear sense of intention and inner dialogue that allowed for powerful emotional exchanges to occur within the fabric of the piece.

The title of the work, Into the Fray, provoked a variety of associations for me as an audience member. There was the fray of the creative process, the fray of love and connection, and the fray of the LA dance scene and its leaning toward commercialism. This last interpretation presented itself in the middle of the work, in which the piece took an unexpected turn toward satire as the dancers transformed themselves from abstract contemporary dancers to hair flicking and hip swaying divas from the contemporary commercial world. Although this section of the work was the most compositionally out of place, it was perhaps one of the most surprising and innovative moments. The section began with three men staring boldly at the audience, shifting their stance into the familiar poses of male models. Next followed the sex appeal, sneaking its way into the work surreptitiously until the stage was full of hair and hips being thrown in all directions. Just as this theme and movement vocabulary unexpectedly emerged, it dissipated gradually until the audience found itself back in the abstract concert dance realm without a trace of the past moment.

The challenge of this work is the run-on compositional structure. Because there is no single compositional anchor, each section shifted the audience experience without necessarily referencing where we came from or where we were going. Nevertheless, the constant grouping and regrouping of the large cast of dancers allowed each performer to be highlighted in their strengths, engaging the audience through the stylistic voice of each performer, combined with the movement generation of the different choreographers. One incredible solo included a man interacting with a table much like a parcours aficionado. This solo was clearly made for this dancer and his willingness to play with the limits gravity, tilting and tipping around the table as it tipped and tilted was one example of the spectacular moments that were made manifest throughout the show.

This performance reminds the LA dance audience that the artists of the area are committed to taking risks, exploring the unknown, and facing challenges that can move the field forward. There is one more performance tonight at the LA Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles. Visit www.ladanceco.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

*With choreographic contribution by the cast of dancers: Kate Andrews, Christina Beasley, Hyosun Choi, Jamila Glass, Nicholas Heiteberg, Tess Hewlett, Marisa jimenez, Marcello de sa Martins, Gakenia Muigai, Melissa Schade, Drea Sobke, Tiffany Sweat, Kim Thompson and Angel Tyson. Guest Artists: Raymond Ejiofor, Maor Levy and Ryan Ruiz.

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