Women rise and shine on second night of LA Dance Festival

LA Dance Festival, Day 2: Friday, March 2nd

Featuring: Rebecca Lemme/Acts of Matter, BrockusRED, WHYTEBERG, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, The TL Collective

“Just like moons and like suns / With the certainty of tides…” and Still We Rise – even in 2018. From the Time’s Up and #metoo movements, to international women’s marches, a surge of diverse female voices are using this moment to speak out about the issues they face as women and demanding change. Naturally, many of the leaders of these movements hail from the arts and entertainment sectors, using their creative mediums and platforms to bring the conversation to the masses. Los Angeles Dance Festival (LADF) chose to join in during Women’s History Month for the 6th edition of the annual festival, kicking off its special ‘Rise of the Female’ program at the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz from March 1st – 3rd.

The festival, founded and executive produced by another influential woman in the LA dance scene, Deborah Brockus, opened with three nights of contemporary dance work by LA-based female choreographers from both established and emerging companies. Throughout four weeks in March, LADF is also presenting the works of student choreographers and fringe performances, as well as providing master classes with the performing companies. Of course, as Brockus reminded us in her opening speech each night, we don’t have to look far for female choreographers in Los Angeles – in fact, they are the majority in the city’s contemporary dance community, from studio owners, to teachers, dancers, choreographers, all the way up to artistic directors. The three days were a celebration of LA’s strong history of female-driven contemporary dance, as well as an exciting peek into the next generation of women who are continuing the legacy.

CalArts school of dance Last Dance concert 5-15-2012

Rebecca Lemme’s Acts of Matter

The 2nd night of LADF opened with I/D (excerpted work in progress), a duet from choreographer Rebecca Lemme, who performed for the first time with her company, Acts of Matter. Set mostly to a candid voiceover by Lemme about discovering her values beyond what her conservative upbringing dictated, the piece flowed seamlessly through a kind of three-act structure. In the first, Lemme and Katie Istvan gracefully moved to the voiceover, using circular movements, repetition, and pulling gestures that evoked the struggle of growing up and finding yourself. Haunting music and the voiceover’s description of her father’s death transitioned the piece into an emotionally powerful solo by Lemme, her skillful, mature movement providing us an intimate window into her grief. In what I deemed the third act, the two dancers finally found connection, supporting each other through smooth partnering sections. The excerpt’s pacing was excellent and served well by Lemme choosing to dance herself, her personal connection to the work obvious and poignant on stage.

brockusred

BrockusRED

Brockus’s own company, BrockusRED, presented As Ancient and Young as Spring (excerpts – Wisdom/First Humans/Women/Rituals), a group of vignettes as part of a larger work, inspired by our human relationship to the natural world. A short but spellbinding solo by Adrian Hoffman immediately set a dramatic tone, and a passionate duet followed. The company’s signature combination of jazz and contemporary movement was evident especially in the next two sections – first a ritualistic female group with slow and sustained movements, and then a male trio displaying powerful extensions and leaps. All of the dancers had exquisite technicality, but at times the number of technical jazz dance feats (extensions, leaps, and turns) seemed at odds with the earthy, ancient costumes and subject matter.

Due to the rare rainy weekend, WHYTEBERG’s outdoor performance was set on stage,

whyte

WHYTEBERG

but I found the funky, club-like stage lighting (Evan Nie) to greatly pair with the rhythmic pulses of the movement and music (LCD Soundsystem). I hear everybody you know is more relevant than everybody I know was just as cheeky as its title, the two choreographers and dancers (Gracie Whyte and Laura Berg) drawing multiple warm-hearted chuckles from the audience as they played with isolations, grooves, and pauses against the beats of the music. Obviously skilled contemporary movers, the two refreshingly layered that base with dynamics more often found in hip-hop, creating a movement vocabulary uniquely their own while poking fun at our need to ‘be cool’. I’m excited to see what’s to come from the unique duo in the future. 

LACDC

LACDC by Gema Galiana

L.A. Contemporary Dance Company (LACDC) presented five of their exceptional company members in Late Bloomer by Artistic Director Genevieve Carson. My eyes darted from dancer to dancer as they moved in their own spaces, never touching but sometimes moving in unison. The well-executed vocabulary of sustained reaches, undulations, and attitude turns, with their hands often leading or initiating movement, gave the piece an urgent, focused feeling. Near the end of the piece, Tess Hewlett deviated from the repetitive movement of the pack, giving the audience a long, emotion-filled stare as she paused that engaged me more than the movement continuing around her. This moment sparked a needed change in energy to the piece, demonstrating the power in simplicity and range of the dancers’ talents.

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Micaela Taylor of The TL Collective

I was blown away by the last work of the night, The TL Collective’s SEEcolour, choreographed by Micaela Taylor, an emerging choreographic force whose work authentically unites the technical and urban dance worlds of LA. Clad in simple basketball shorts and tank tops, the four dancers (including Taylor) explored a fusion of contemporary, modern, ballet, and hip-hop inspired movements to equally diverse music by Pan Sonic, Grandmaster Flash, and De La Soul. Each style is masterfully executed by Taylor – in multiple solos she smoothly combines popping and animation with perfectly technical developpés and balletic lines. The rest of the company is just as adept at Taylor’s fusion, staying grounded and often in a mid-level range to quickly execute isolations and dynamic pauses through their limbs and torsos. This was the first time I’d seen Taylor’s choreography live, but she is already gaining notoriety across the city for her genuinely unique offering to the LA contemporary dance scene.

The 2nd night of LADF was an eclectic mix of female choreography and talented dancing; it was refreshing to see how contemporary dance in the city allows for such individual interpretations of the style. The newer choreographers willing to expand the canon of ‘contemporary dance’ movement vocabulary with their own personal movement influences were especially inspiring, and felt to me to be the best representation of the versatility that dancers and choreographers of the city offer.

More info on the rest of LADF’s performances and classes this month can be found here.

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