Circles, Lines and Brilliant Design in New Dance Works by Kondrath and Ching

The ARC at Pasadena is one of a few performance venues in the LA region that continues to deliver excellence in LA dance. It is a community arts hub that owner John Pennington has much to be proud of as his facility is a cornerstone of local and affordable dance. This past Sunday, November 5/, the intimate studio space was packed with a captivated audience of dance, music, and art lovers. OVERLAY was a unique performance in the ARC space as it featured a collaborative visual and performing art experience that was beautifully balanced and elegantly delivered.

Jessica Kondrath |The Movement presented a new work called Many Moons, which was set to music by LA-based band, Wolvez. Inspired by the lunar cycle, this piece, in four sections, had a sophistication that resonated at all levels of the performance, from the costumes to the lighting and the sweeping circular movement that embodied the gravitational pull of the moon’s orbit. Costumes by Barbara Rain included a mixture of individually designed and fitted, slate blue, high-waisted dance shorts, draped pants, tunics, and wrapped tops that augmented each dancer’s physical beauty while echoing the crescent and circular shape of the moon in their construction. The inside of the costumes, exposed as the dancers moved, revealed a handprinted design by artist Diana Baumbach, whose theme of concentric circles and crescent moons were also projected on the floor and both side walls of the performance space. The repetition and rhythm of the visual design was clearly echoed in the movement design as Kondrath played with swirling turns, cascading battements, and expansive arcs, which are a fingerprint of her work. The voluptuous dancers were powerful and distinctly feminine in their sensuality as they crafted the space in abstract designs. The dancers alternated between a piercingly direct focus and an internal experience of shape and flow. How the arc of the four sections related to each other and the whole was, on first viewing, unclear to me. If I see the work again, I am curious if I could map the phases of the moon more clearly to each of the four sections as separated by the lights fading to black. The female imagery of the moon and the feminine sensuality embedded in each action carried the audience through the twenty-minute work, which was well-paced and continually engaging.

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The extended intermission featured a great local band, Wolvez (the same musicians used for Kondrath’s Many Moons). Wolvez’s music is unapologetic in its sense of moody rock and roll driven by the distorted electric guitar and Eric Herrera’s deep vocals. Their characteristic rock beat is hypnotic and raw. This band, known for its experimental West Coast rock, is a treat in their laidback energy and distinct sound that plays with textures and atmospheric qualities in extended, repetitive structures. The band played for 20 minutes as the audience stood up, stretched their legs, used the restroom, and had a glass of wine. The audience also had an opportunity at this time to admire more of Diana Baumbach’s art, which was displayed on the lobby wall. Unlike many intermissions, which can seem like a race to use the single toilet (one notable downfall to the ARC space), this intermission was not only entertaining but also had a wonderful community-building feel as the audience utilized the chance to talk about the first piece, the band, the artwork, and their lives. I appreciated this intermission as a held space that was both full and available for personalized use.

Weslie Ching Dance from Santa Barbara presented two works to close the show. The first, entitled Corpus/Chorus, was the LA premiere and featured a cast of stunning dancers who embodied Ching’s light touch and detailed craftsmanship as a choreographer. Dressed in white cotton tops and waisted, wide-leg pants, the dancers had the ability to perform light and direct gestures with speed and accuracy followed by simple walking through the space in a way that was unadorned and yet refined in clarity of intent. The peculiarity of the walks, with diagonal steps, is an example of Ching’s playful twist on the mundane. Walking with diagonal steps requires that the dancers divide space differently, foregoing the dominant, cardinal directions for the subtle angles of the diagonal directions. This example of nuance within spatial awareness and acuity in design is what makes Ching’s abstract works so visually pleasing.

WCD 2 photo by Denise Leitner

 

The second piece, The Entirety of Us, was one that I had seen last year and was pleased to have the chance to see again. The dancers had traded their white costumes for bold colors in mix-matched solids that evoked a mix of runway, hipster, and the Colors of Benetton. This piece had an aloof and quirky vocabulary that straddled the idiosyncrasies of post-modern, task-based vocabulary with a more contemporary vibe that verged on jazz, with a slinky pelvis-leading walk, but never crossed over into traditional jazz movement vocabulary. The same attention to spatial design was present and performed exquisitely by the dancers, who exhibited the refinement and restraint of professional performers that are able to thinly slice space, time, and energy for a highly articulate performance that is not labored or overwrought.

The concert as a whole had an air of elegance and refinement. Kondrath and Ching form a nicely mixed bill as they both have a strong sense of visual design in space at the root of their choreography. Kondrath underscores her waves and spirals of rising, falling, and extending bodies with a dynamic sense of gravity and momentum, while Ching opts for precision that is achieved through lightness and combinations of bound and free flow in the limbs. With lighting design by Allen Clark, who is a master of the power of simplicity and efficacy for dance lighting, the three worlds of the three dance works of this concert were distinct and inviting. The inclusion of live local music and visual art invited newcomers to LA’s world of concert dance, and in exchange, the dance audience enjoyed a mixed media performing art experience with dance at the hub.

Featured Visual Artist Diana Baumback
Featured Music by Wolvez

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Categories: ARC Pasadena

One Comment on “Circles, Lines and Brilliant Design in New Dance Works by Kondrath and Ching”

  1. November 11, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    Thank you Beth!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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