Home Grown @ Bootleg, the 2015 Horton Awards, and new changes in the DRC

The Assembly in LOVE MOVES

The Assembly in LOVE MOVES

This weekend featured the second pilot run of Home Grown at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. Sponsored by Pentacle and the Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles, this weekend showcased a number of local dance groups including No)one. Art House, OdDancity, szalt, The Assembly, The Sunland Dancers and Danza Flricanto/USA. The event culminated on Saturday night with the Horton Awards Ceremony. In short, this weekend was a celebration of these two organizations and an opportunity to formally recognize the diversity of dance in the area as well as the many movers and shakers who spearhead and support the current dance scene in Los Angeles.

I attended the matinee on Saturday June 27th, which began with the work of Jmy James Kidd, entitled Gateway. This earthy piece (set to live music by Tara Jane ONeil) began as the audience entered the performance space. While lying on the ground, the dancers explored the space around them with their hands, reaching like roots toward the floor, while slowly stretching and contracting their bodies. The spacious music included ringing bells and bowls, with electronic effects added to the chiming sounds. The tropical print costumes and the female dancer’s loose hair added to the sense of nature and earth. The worming of the dancers bodies through space and the sustained use of time cultivated a feeling of timelessness in the performance. The composition of the four women in space included very little unison movement, and instead relied on the dancers’ personal sense of timing, shape, and expression of the thematic material. There was an evergetic quality in the body and a specificity in the dancers’ standing alignment that reminded me of hatha yoga, and I wondered if these dancers were primarily yoga trained. The final sun-salutation style bow to the musician and the audience affirmed my suspicions, solidifying the theme of spiritual transformation implied in the title.

The second company to perform was The Assembly, which shared excerpts of LOVE MOVES. A collaborative production between costume designer Hannah Jenkinson and director Delyer Anderson, this piece featured more classical dance technique set to the groovy music of Devendra Barnhart. The flowing pink shift dresses on the women and thin cotton T-shirts on the men made a soft visual pallet for the piece about love. This piece featured brief solos and duets as well as group unison movement that blended contemporary and lyrical vocabulary with a lightness in the effort and a day-dreamy detachment in the dancer’s focus. The result was a piece that was sweet and calming. This easy feel extended to the grooving moments in the choreography in which the dancers briefly turned inward toward a satisfying inner pulse that matched the music perfectly. As can happen with pieces that are presented as excerpts, the overall arc of the piece was unclear for me. I wondered how these performed sections fit into the whole of the work. As it was, there was no clear narrative of the work that went beyond the theme of sweet love, and I found myself curious to know whether the whole of LOVE MOVES is a meditative study on a the sweetness of romantic love or part of a larger vision of love.

After intermission the audience was treated to a different dance sabor with Danza Floricanto/USA. This Mexican folklorico dance company was founded in 1975 by director Gema Sandoval. Its 40 years of performance has given Sandoval the opportunity to develop the traditional folklorico forms and rhythms into concert dance works that blend the heart and soul of Mexican folklorico with the spirit of American concert dance. The playful first piece, Flirtations, was a classic blend of partner dance set to rhumba, cumbia, and salsa rhythms in the feet. The smiling dancers performed with joy and a sense of fun as they weaved through the space, sometimes passing partners in a circle in a Rueda de Casino style. Another piece entitled Las Tres Fridas, brought to life a painting by Frida Kahlo. The three dancers embodied the inner struggle of many Chicano women who straddle the cultural identities of their two countries. This work included some expressive upper body gestures that allowed the story of struggle to play out between the three women representing the different faces of the Chicano woman. One of my favorite pieces was a work by long time company member Christie Rios, entitled What If. This story of immigration and identity was performed by Rios, along with her young male student. The heartbreaking story of separation utilized the cultural symbol of the reboso, a shawl from Mexico, and the syncopated rhythms of the dance in a way that worked seamlessly with the storytelling. The company of dancers is strongest in their traditional folklorico movement pallet as celebrated joyously in their final piece Theme and Variations, in which the company of dancers whooped and shouted in joy as they performed a handful of rhythms from Mexico.

Overall, I appreciated the format of the festival in which the different companies were able to share a longer section of the program with each other. Having a chance to get to know a company over a 15-25 minute piece makes a difference for the audience member, as it gives the company an opportunity to demonstrate more than a snapshot of its artistic voice. This festival also revealed the announcement that the DRC and Pentacle will be joining forces in the LA area, merging into a single entity as the new Dance Resource Center, to better serve the community. For more information of the Horton Awards please visit the DRC website.

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