BODYTRAFFIC Delivers Dance to Ventura County

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Guzman Rosado of BODYTRAFFIC performs a preview of a new work entitled Resolve by Wewolf
Photo by Skye Schmidt

We in Ventura County are accustomed to driving into the city (Los Angeles) to see dance, so what a glorious pleasure to have excellent local dance come to us for a change! BODYTRAFFIC proved to Ventura County that dance is welcome here, and I am hoping that it is here to stay. Under the artistic direction of co-founders Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, BODYTRAFFIC is a world-class contemporary dance company performing master works by international choreographic superstars. The program on March 8 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza was wildly entertaining and drew the audience into the majesty of dance again and again.

The program opened with a piece by Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall, entitled And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square. . . (excerpt). Featuring the company of nine dancers, this theatrical piece demonstrated not only the precision work of the highly trained company but also their ability to engage an audience through theatrical devices, including sets, props, costume changes, atmospheric audio, and voice. With elegant, 1940s-influenced costumes by Raquel Barreto and warm sepia lighting based on the original design by Kindred Gottlieb, the piece invoked the most human aspects of the dancers, who met the emotional content of the work with honesty and passion. The essence of the work resides in the detailed use of gesture in the mid-space. This type of movement is particularly challenging as the dancers must attend the three-dimensional spatial design at all times. The combination of gestural and postural changes makes this work exceedingly accessible to an audience, and it proved to be a wonderful opener that set the tone of the entire evening while also setting a very high bar for what was to come.

The evening continued with Fragile Dwellings by Stijn Celis, set to Arvo Pärt and Pierre Boulez. A quartet of two men and two women dressed in flowing white garments, this piece featured a series of solos followed by an intricately interwoven quartet of near liquid bodies. The sense of line in the dancers’ performance was accentuated by the high proscenium framing of the performance space. Cast in white pools of light from above and soft blues from the side, the dancers impressed the audience with their hypnotic ability to suspend time. While the ending seemed a little abrupt and unexpected after the continuous melting of the bodies in changing duets, the transcendent spirit of the piece was not lost on the audience.

Returning from intermission, the Thousand Oaks audience enjoyed a preview of a brand new work, Resolve, choreographed by LA choreographic team Wewolf for company members Joseph Davis and Guzmán Rosado. Bringing a little more LA to the evening, the electronic dance music of DJ Tennis set the tone of the male duet with a thumping beat. The b-boy inspired movement vocabulary impressed the audience as the dancers continually threaded various body parts through the negative space of various other body parts. The dance was a study in space holds that framed the body and created visual illusions similar to those of street performers who wow audiences with limbs that seem to fold in every direction. The continuous positioning and repositioning of the limbs and torsos in slippery designs of circles and lines managed to fuse the two dancers dressed in gray into one body with two heads, four arms, and four feet. While the arc of the piece lacked a sense of forward momentum, the mechanics of the movement design were fascinating, and the piece quickly became an audience favorite. It will be interesting to see if future iterations of the work will yield a different emotional architecture.

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The show closed with Richard Siegal’s o2Joy, set to a smattering of American jazz classics. With peppy costumes by Rita DiLorenzo and Richard Siegal, this piece was the perfect closing piece for the evening. If the versatility of the dancers hadn’t been evident before, this ballet-based work cinched it. Classical ballet vocabulary underscored the jazz exterior, giving the dancers a chance to show off their classical training and ability to defy gravity in effortless flurries of air-work. While the piece lacked a critical element of weight sensing as manifested in the music of the era, the quirky jazz detail of the shoulders, hips, and legs made the piece playful and fun. The piece also suffered a false ending, choosing the upbeat group number as the penultimate song before finishing with a melancholy (albeit exquisite) solo. For a piece claiming to celebrate the sheer joy of jazz music, this was a perplexing choreographic choice.

Overall, the gift of seeing the work of renowned international choreographers by a remarkable company from Los Angeles was a treat. The audience left stunned, speechless, inspired, and wowed. BODYTRAFFIC is the highest caliber of dance available in Los Angeles right now. What makes them so excellent is their ability to transform themselves from piece to piece. They are not just versatile but subtly versatile, with physical and energetic distinctions made that may easily be overlooked by untrained eyes yet are felt in the deepest part of one’s soul. While they are a contemporary dance company, their work is of the international contemporary trend, which includes as much ballet as modern in its heritage. Dancers Joseph Davis, Guzmán Rosado, and Natalie Liebert are magical in their performance, with seemingly endless skill and facility. Co-founder and co-artistic director Tina Finkelmann Berkett is a cornerstone within the company who is not above performing petit allegro or a little tap dance. Across the board, there is a reason international choreographers are willing to have BODYTRAFFIC represent them across the globe: BODYTRAFFIC delivers.

Additional performers include Christina Bodie (guest artist), James Gregg (guest artist), Haley Heckethorn, Jessica Liu, and Jamal White. Additional lighting design is by Burke Wilmore and Erwin Redl.

 

 

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Categories: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza

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