The Executive and Artistic Director of CAP UCLA, Kristy Edmunds has been in consultation with Danielle Agami, the Artistic Director and Choreographer of AteNine Dance Company for several years as to when the right time to present them at CAP UCLA would be. They both agreed that it would also have to include presenting the right work. CAP UCLA has a seating capacity of 1,800; a big undertaking for most companies to fill. AteNine Dance Company premiered calling glenn at the Moore Theatre in Seattle this past March. This was the work that Edmunds and Agami agreed had the required elements and the company performed to an almost full house. Agami’s calling glenn was a collaboration with musician, composer and Grammy winner Glenn Kotche of the Chicago based alternative rock band Wilco. It is said that Kotche is the rhythmic anchor of Wilco, and after experiencing his performance in calling glenn, it is clear why.

Dancers of AteNine in <i>Calling Glenn</i> © Reed Hutchinson
Dancers of AteNine in Calling Glenn
© Reed Hutchinson

Danielle Agami was born in Israel and was a member of the Batsheva Dance Company. She served as the Artistic Director of Batsheva Dancers Create for two years, and functioned as the company's rehearsal director. In 2012 Agami relocated to Seattle, where she founded AteNine Dance Company. The company then moved to Los Angeles in 2013. In a short time, and with hard work, Agami has guided the company into becoming one of the most sought-after Los Angeles based dance companies.

All the theater dressing of the CAP UCLA stage was absent for calling glenn. The curtains were raised to expose backstage. Two rows of metal black chairs lined one side of the stage and one row on the other side. The cast included nine dancers and Kotche performing on drums, vibraphone, glockenspiel and other percussive instruments placed along the bare back wall.

Kotche’s music was often driving rhythms that lived inside the dancers’ amazingly precise unison work. It shifted to haunting melodies accompanied by recorded music as well as a crystal bell that sounded like it was tolling for the end of time. The lighting by Jeff Forbes was rich with white and amber hues, and subtle shifts of focus to help shape and reshape the space.

The choreography had Agami’s signature movement, but what was new to this reviewer was how the worked was laced with subtle and obvious humor. calling glenn seem to connect to the audience in a much more visceral manner than other works by Agami. There was a section of duets that examined very familiar relationships between children, opposite and same-sex lovers and adversaries. The beautifully performed solos for Jobel Medina and Gary Reagan were introspective; Medina’s feeling haunted or broken and Reagan’s desperate to have his voice heard. With the gorgeous all black or all red costumes by designer Eli James of GhostCircus Apparel, Agami clearly nodded to the multisexuals of today.

The black chairs became active props throughout the work. They were used to simply sit on, but in one section the dancers repositioned them multiple times; rarely leaving them in one place until they were lined up in front of Kotche as he performed on the glockenspiel. Here Agami used humor to portray people in an audience vying for a better viewing experience.

Agami has an amazing sense of timing. In calling glenn, a section would border on becoming too long, but would  suddenly shift it into a dramatic and powerful semi-unison section incorporating rhythmic walks that traversed the entire space. She made use of lines moving diagonally, up and down stage or across it from side to side. Solos broke these off and then rejoined the lines without missing a beat. The rhythms and precision of the dancers’ movement were astonishing. The counting that went on in their heads must have been incredible.

Near the end, Agami made use of microphones on adjustable stands like those used by musicians. Ray Ejiofor, Ariana Daub and Genna Moroni had a fun time speaking into the mic with voices that were produced by percussion instruments or toys that made them sound like cartoon characters. More and more mics were added and the desire for one’s voice to be heard over the endless political soundbites we have become accustomed to ensued, leading into Reagan’s solo.

After manipulating the mic stands as props, they were lined up along the front of the stage for the finale of rhythmic walking and percussive movements; every other person in unison. The collaboration between Agami and Kotche was artistically very fruitful, producing a stunning and intelligent evening long work. The cast of AteNine Dance Company includes some of LA’s finest dancers: Danielle Agami, Sarah Butler, Ariana Daub, Ray Ejiofor, Rebecah Goldstone, Jobel Medina, Genna Moroni, Gary Reagan and Carissa Songhorian.