Ce site Web a des limites de navigation. Il est recommandé d'utiliser un navigateur comme Edge, Chrome, Safari ou Firefox.

L.A. Dances Festival

Seeing dance up close and personal can be something thrilling—as long as the choreography and performers are up to terpsichorean snuff. That was mostly the case when the 12-member L.A. Dance Project performed Program C as part of its L.A. Dances Festival that ran for 10 days in November (Programs A and B ran September 26-October 25). A bold undertaking by the troupe founded by Benjamin Millepied in 2012, the festival featured six world premieres, 10 works and one revival.  

Performance

L.A. Dance Project: Program C

Place

L.A. Dance Project Studio, Los Angeles, California, November 14 - 24, 2019

Words

Victoria Looseleaf

Patricia Zhou and Daisy Jacobson in Bella Lewitzky’s “Kinaesonata.” Photograph by Laurent Philippe

subscribe to the latest in dance


“Uncommonly intelligent, substantial coverage.”

  • Weekly articles from the world of dance
  • Wide diversity of reviews, interviews, articles & more
  • Support for quality art journalism

Already a paid subscriber? Login

Initially chastised for not hiring any local dancers, Millepied then decamped to become director of Paris Opera Ballet in 2014. Leaving that fabled institution a little more than a year later, the former New York City Ballet principal had always intended for LADP to have a Ballets Russes sensibility, where dancers, artists, composers and designers would combine their talents in a Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) kind of way.

Of course, it helps that the troupe has a nearly $3 million operating budget and that its founder is married to Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman. (Next year Millepied, 42, also helms his first feature, Carmen, a retelling of the 1875 opera.) That said, the five works of Program C—seen in LADP’s edge-of- downtown digs, which comfortably seats 100—proved that dance in the City of Angels is again staking a claim in the modern dance pantheon.

This was most apparent in the restaging of Bella Lewitzky’s “Kinaesonata,” a 1970 work set to Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No. 1, a wash of atonalities with an insistent rhythmic pulse. Lewitzky was that rare California choreographer/dancer who chose to live and work in Los Angeles as opposed to abandoning the city for New York. She established Lewitzky Dance Company in 1966 and was the founding dean of dance at CalArts in 1970. After disbanding her troupe in 1997, she died in 2004, with few of her works having been performed since.

Mario Gonzalez, Anthony Lee Bryant, Rachelle Rafailedes and Gianna Reisen in Bella Lewitzky’s “Kinaesonata.” Photograph by Laurent Philippe

Kudos, then, to Millepied for reaching out to Walter Kennedy, a former Lewitzky principal dancer who mounted “Kinaesonata,” with Millepied deciding against the work’s original costumes and sets (unitards and a black backdrop) and opting instead to commission the artist Charles Gaines to create them: vibrant color-block shorts and tops beneath transparent mesh, with the scenery consisting of five mural-size pages of Ginastera’s sheet music. Filled with plenty of split leg jumps, radical arabesques and tree-like yoga poses, “Kinaesonata” also offered angled lunges, pulsating arms and architectural shapes that give the work a timeless, ultra-stylish feeling.

Daring lifts proved breathtaking, as did Nijinsky-esque leaps, including those of Patricia Zhou and Daisy Jacobson, while there was also a rootedness to the piece that counterbalanced the ever-changing patterns the seven dancers created. Janie Taylor, who had choreographed a duet seen in Program A, continues to be a standout presence in the company, her solo in the third movement visceral and spider-like, with additional marvels including Mario Gonzalez and Anthony Lee Bryant serving as pedestals for Rachelle Rafailedes and Gianna Reisen.

L.A. Dance Project in "5 Live Calibrations" by Madeline Hollander. Photograph by Laurent Philippe

Less successful was the world premiere of “5 Live Calibrations,” made by New York-based choreographer/video installation artist Madeline Hollander, whose work was seen in Jordan Peele’s recent thriller, Us. With an original score by her sister Celia Hollander, the five-movement work was described in the program notes as being “inspired by physical techniques for calibration, re-orientation, geo-location and balance, as practiced on human, industrial and cosmic scales.”

That may have been the intent, but the piece proved somewhat of an endurance test. Hampered by the composer’s minimalist, albeit grating, siren-filled electronic rumblings that were also filled with more false endings than a Beethoven symphony, the work amounted to a continuous parade of Rockette-like arms (as opposed to legs), military formations, bourrées and pirouettes.

Anna-Sophie Berger’s costumes—mismatched vertical color rectangles—red, green, blue, yellow, white and pink—on long pants and not unlike color bars found in video test patterns—looked more intriguing than the dance, with the performers calling out numbers to begin their actions, chance-based maneuvers embraced long ago by Merce Cunningham.

In less capable performers, “Calibrations,” no doubt, would have been beyond tedious, a bit puzzling and, no doubt, sloppy. Here, at least, the octet was focused, indeed, determinedly gritty, even when huddled in a circle.

Millepied’s 2018 “Homeward,” with music by the National’s Bryce Dessner—“Aheym” (Yiddish for “homeward”) and performed (on tape) by Kronos Quartet—featured costume and video design by American artist James Buckhouse. Saturated with one-armed lifts and numerous unisons, with women standing aloft on men’s shoulders resembling hood ornaments, this was a balletic work at its core. It’s unfortunate that the video, a frenetic swirl of black and white abstractions occasionally appeared to dwarf the dancers.

The evening began with Tino Sehgal’s work, “(untitled),” from 2018-2019, in the space’s foyer, with sneaker-clad performers individually executing a series of fouettés, pirouettes and martial arts-type moves in silence, though noise from the restroom’s hand dryers could occasionally be heard. Bryant and David Adrian Freeland, Jr. proved particularly adept in this so-called curtain raiser, as several onlookers moved about oblivious to the beautifully trained dancers who gave their all under less than ideal circumstances.

LADP in “Hearts & Arrows” by Benjamin Millepied. Photograph by Laurent Philippe

Millepied’s previously reviewed, “Hearts & Arrows” (2014), set to Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 3 (“Mishima”), featured eight dancers, deployed to great effect, who again shone with pinwheel-ready arms, gymnastic gyrations and dazzling spins.

All works were enhanced by François-Pierre Couture’s adapted lighting design, with Nayomi Van Brunt, Vinicius Silva and Douglas Baum completing the dancers’ roster.

Los Angeles is lucky to have LADP, a troupe committed to showcasing new works by its supremely talented members. Here’s hoping that spirit continues and that the city’s other fine companies are able to thrive, as well.

Victoria Looseleaf


Victoria Looseleaf is an award-winning, Los Angeles-based international arts journalist who covers music and dance festivals around the world. Among the many publications she has contributed to are the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Dance Magazine and KCET’s Artbound. In addition, she taught dance history at USC and Santa Monica College. Looseleaf’s novella-in-verse, Isn't It Rich? is available from Amazon, and and her latest book, Russ & Iggy’s Art Alphabet with illustrations by JT Steiny, was recently published by Red Sky Presents. Looseleaf can be reached through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In, as well as at her online arts magazine ArtNowLA.

comments

Featured

So Far So Good
REVIEWS | Faye Arthurs

So Far So Good

The School of American Ballet is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. So is George Balanchine’s iconic “Serenade”—the first piece he made in America in 1934, choreographed on students from his brand-new academy.

Plus
Sound Effect
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Sound Effect

Sometimes there’s not much you’re able to say analytically about a dance work, and yet you know you’ve just witnessed a blood-guts-and-soul offering from an artist of the keenest kinaesthetic intelligence. Such was the case with gizeh muñiz vengel’s “auiga,” second on a double bill finale for the ARC Edge residency at San Francisco’s CounterPulse.

Plus
Hope is Action
REVIEWS | Gracia Haby

Hope is Action

The Australian Museum Mammalogy Collection holds ten specimens of the Bramble Cay Melomys collected from 1922–24, when they were in abundance. One hundred years later, a familiar photo of a wide-eyed, mosaic-tailed Melomys, the first native mammal to become extinct due to the impacts of climate change, greets me as I enter the Arts House foyer.

FREE ARTICLE
Common Language
INTERVIEWS | Candice Thompson

Common Language

Pre-pandemic, queerness and ballet were two terms not often put together. So, when choreographer Adriana Pierce started bringing a community of queer-identifying people together on Zoom—cis women, trans people of all genders, and nonbinary dancers—it felt like a watershed moment for many of them. 

FREE ARTICLE
Good Subscription Agency