Jacob Jonas: Urban, Concert, Personal

EylAruRBfSTuDsCqlb2jicrnhYZwP3NAVGQERnpLGEYJacob Jonas The Company presented the Side Door Series last weekend at Los Angeles Ballet. This studio showing featured three works that encapsulate Jonas’ passion for making dances that are fresh, contemporary, and socially driven. The company of nine dancers (including Jonas as a performer) offers an array of dance techniques and styles that are fused together into a hip blend that is dynamic and impressively athletic.

The performance opened with a multi-episodic work, In A Room On Broad St. This piece featured the unique talents of the nine dancers and showcased the diverse training background of each. From parkour to acro-yoga, ballet to contemporary, these dancers are the cream of the crop in their genre, and Jonas skillfully meshes them into a single work that is both aesthetically cohesive and also expressively potent. The dancers were dressed in neutral-colored street wear and a smattering of different sneakers, contributing to the feel that these dancers were unique people with individualized backgrounds and stories. Rooted in the theme of competition, the piece gave the dancers ample opportunity to model their almost superhuman strength in impressive feats of balance and elegant moments of partnering. The duet between Jonas and Anibal Sandoval was particularly poignant, as it beautifully physicalized the theme of competition through an exploration of weight sharing and partnering. These two men pushed and pulled each other through the space in a stunning coordination of timing and strength. It is clear that partnering is Jonas’ forté, as he lead the audience through the work, developing the movement material in such a way that communicated the physical mechanics of weight sharing and incredible balance, so that the audience was able to sense the shifting, pushing, catching, and falling bodies. The craftsmanship of this development is a testament to Jonas’ ability to welcome the audience into the dance experience.

bpuEdPSJP3lK7PSYncaxTfA7p8p4UaCKpd4e-5AFp0QThe second work of the evening was a trio, entitled Primary, performed by Wesley Ensminger, Brooklynn Reeves, and Jill Wilson. This work diverged from the previous as it featured a conceptual theme of the power of ideas and the abstraction of bodies into time and space. While Broad St. humanized the company, Primary featured a trio of bodies dressed simply in white undergarments matched with flat facial expressions. The thematic use of strength was still present, however it existed within a vocabulary that was predominantly contemporary modern and ballet. The beautiful female dancers powered through the space, with arcing and bicycle-spoke limbs that stabbed the performance space in speedy sequences. The male performer utilized a flowing torso that slipped in and out of the floor with ease. While this piece was another opportunity to appreciate the dancer’s skill and training, the abstract aesthetic of the piece did not resonate with quite the same expressive punch as the other works of the evening.

The duet, Obstacles, closed the evening of dance with a profound effect that returned to Jonas’ strength of partnering and social messaging. Inspired by the personal story of a young woman named Mallory Smith, this duet was created and performed by Jonas and Marissa Labog. It must be noted that Jonas is a muscular man standing at almost 6 feet while Labog is a fiery spark of a woman who is at least 12 inches shorter. The dancers’ stature is relevant, as the design of the piece was such that Jonas was the obstacle over, under, through, and around which Labog repeatedy attempted to pass. Labog’s physical strength and agility enabled her to climb up and over Jonas’ body like a rock climber again and again and again. The relentlessness of Jonas’ imposing figure in front of her gave the audience a strong visual to the oral narrative of Mallory Smith and her lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis that played over the Philip Glass score. This work had a profound effect as it brilliantly unified the physical skills of the dancers with their choreographic craftsmanship and their ability to eloquently tell dramatic stories through insightful use of the physical body. Jonas was clear in his director’s statement to emphasize his company’s mission to relate to audiences in powerful and profound ways that illumine and enlighten. Obstacles is a great example of this mission and should be considered a cornerstone work of this company.

The challenge of the evening was the design of the performance space. While the studio setting allowed for an intimacy to develop between the audience and the performers, the poor sight lines for the majority of the rows (all but the first), made it particularly challenging to see a good deal of the floor work performed by many of the dancers who were closest to the front of the stage. With an emphasis on urban dance forms including, b-boying and yoga balances, the sight lines became an issue as audience members simply couldn’t see what happening on that level in space. With that said, there were a few impressive moves that were well placed for the audience and did communicate the type of vocabulary with clarity and passion.

ZeDESVl8QWSLSfBGcbYnzvycOzsJZaW37MnpZHfxf84The evening was a sold out success and another feather in the cap of the LA dance scene. Young and vibrant, we can expect to see Jonas continue sharing his voice and his vision for dance in the upcoming years. If you have the chance to see this unique blend of urban and concert dance forms, take advantage as it is sure to impress.

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