Bodytraffic performed on an artpiece by Gustavo Godoy as part of Moves After Dark at the Music Center.(bodytraffic.com)
One of the most important and beautiful groups of buildings/spaces in Los Angeles is the Music Center, which includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre and the neighboring Walt Disney Concert Hall complex that is home to the L.A. Philharmonic. These series of buildings are the L.A. version of Lincoln Center in New York City, and they are just as important and exciting as anything the Big Apple can offer – but with much better weather.
One of the great advantages of living and working in Southern California is the moderate climate that allows for many outdoor activities and concerts, especially during the summer months. This has spurred the vice president of programming at the Music Center, Renae Williams, to explore some site-specific performances outside the theaters as part of the Moves After Dark program, which gives local dance companies a chance to perform in unusual indoor and outdoor spaces.
As I wrote in a previous review, the term “site-specific theater” or “environmental theater” refers to a theatrical production that is produced in a unique adapted location other than the standard theater, where the buildings and/or locations are transformed in a unique way in order to enhance the story and/or experience. These types of productions allow the audience to be more interactive as well as give them the ability to move around within the context of the work, yielding a richer and more personal experience.
On Monday night, July 20, a large group of dance enthusiasts gathered at the Music Center Plaza to be divided into several smaller groups as they were led into different areas, some indoor and some outdoor to experience dance in a very intimate and exciting manner. All four companies that performed that evening were led by women, not the norm in the world of dance.
I was assigned to a group that began our odyssey at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Founders’ Room, an elegant, tall space for “Kelev Lavan,” a presentation by the Ate9 dance company led by Israeli-born Danielle Agami. The audience was seated on multiple couches or chairs, and some of us for lack of space stood around the perimeter.
The dancers, comprised of six females and one sole male, were dressed in what appeared to be white undergarments as they mingled, pranced and interacted with each other amongst the audience members. A DJ provided a variety of music and sounds that were divided in seven segments by the sound of a clock ticking away. A variety of abstract choreographies (Each segment was created by one of the dancers.) and movements with elements of hip hop fused the piece with an air of theater as much as dance.
After the group was led out of the theater, we gathered at the Mark Taper Forum’s exterior pond for Cuban-American choreographer (artistic director/founder of the Contra-Tiempo dance company) Ana María Alvarez’s piece “Agua Furiosa/Furious Water.” A more solemn and spiritual performance, it began with a lone female singer dressed in a flowing white gown singing/calling a group of all female dancers to the waters as they appeared from one of the doors of the Taper.
Alvarez used a mix of Afro-Cuban imagery, sound and movements with a fusion of hip-hop and modern dance to create a spiritual, female-centric piece that was as arresting as it was soothing. Even the sound of the water as it was splashed in by the dancers added to the soundtrack and mood of the performance.
The third piece, “Message for My Peeps,” by the Lula Washington Dance Theatre was performed in the front steps and landing of the Walt Disney Concert Hall while the audience gathered below at sidewalk level. A large digital projection went on in the background using the glass panels of the entrance as the screen, as the mostly young dancers performed a politically and culturally relevant number highlighting world violence, police shootings of unarmed black youths in the United States as well as the environmental questions the world faces today.
Expressing a dance language of jazz, hip hop, modern and even touches of ballet, the dancers who emerged from the back used the steps, railings and each other to convey a sense of urgency and dread. Hope appeared in the image of a small girl child who gave comfort to the exhausted ensemble while words of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama scrolled in the background.
For the final piece, the group was led to the Music Center Plaza where a large yellow, wood sculpture by L.A. artist Gustavo Godoy had been erected for the dance company Bodytraffic, led by Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett. A fusion of dance, art and movement, “Restructure” offered a unique perspective on how even human interaction with our environment has elements of dance and theater.
Big kudos to Renae Williams for bringing some excellent local dance companies together so they can put the moves on the L.A. audience during a weekday and after dark!