Jacob Jonas formed his company in 2014 and in just two years has managed to move Jacob Jonas The Company into the forefront of the Los Angeles dance scene. He was nominated by Dance Magazine as “Best Emerging Choreographer” and named “Best New Force in L.A. Dance” by LA Weekly in 2016. At the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Jonas proved that he is an emerging artistic force nationally, and Los Angeles should be proud that he has chosen to base his company here. The work is rich, moving, athletic, still and thoughtful. And, the dancers are very good.

© Courtesy of Jacob Jonas The Company
© Courtesy of Jacob Jonas The Company

There is a photograph on the company’s website of Jonas standing on his head against a concrete wall, his hands in his jacket pockets and looking extremely relaxed. If you rotate the photo, he appears to be peacefully standing there observing the world around him. Jonas’s work has that same serenity and observant quality, while at times also reflecting society’s turmoil. In his dance photography, his subjects emit that same quality of quiet action. As with all good artists, Jonas’ creations reflect how he sees the world, the people in it, and their interactions with and upon each other.

People walking at different paces and in opposing directions give the feel of urban life, and a few folding chairs help evoke multiple spaces for In A Room on Broad St. The work had its 2014 première in New York and via his choreography people interact, argue and make up. Groups convene and leaders take charge. In one haunting section, the cast moves across the stage and back while mixing and stirring together like a pulsating sea of humanity in Dante’s Inferno. Dancers moving in and out of a single light focused centerstage creates a microscope for Jonas to zoom in on how people depend on, support or control one another. A reflective duet with Jonas and  Anibal Sandova examines the strong, somewhat intimate bond between two men who are almost always connected back-against-back. They support and struggle with tensions that rise between them, but what endures is their strong affection for one another. Lamonte “Tales” Goode gives a powerful performance as his supple limbs project emotions while moving like string being knotted and untied. Jonas understands the power in stillness and he uses it wisely to strengthen this work. It only suffers from an occasional unnecessary backflip.

© Courtesy of Jacob Jonas The Company
© Courtesy of Jacob Jonas The Company

Fly was inspired by the pulsating lines on a heart monitor. For the entire work, dancers move across the front of the stage, then use movement phrases to represent the familiar heart monitor spikes. They travel off stage, around backstage to appear again from the original side; always in a counter clockwise direction. They start off walking, then running; periodically bursting into a forward moving phrase. They keep repeating the path and the same similar movements as the heartbeat quickens, flutters, stops, resumes and finally flatlines. Fly is minimalist in its structure, but filled with tension, anxiety and exhaustion created by its repetitiveness and drive.

Grey is a gorgeous-to-look-at film set in and around the monolithic architecture of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Jonas’ choreography holds its own against that marble and granite building; echoing the museum’s angles and curves. We follow a single dancer as she observes her surroundings and moves through the building to meet and interact with others as one does at museums. Through the magic of editing, five people become fifteen and people appear as giants moving amongst regular folk. Perhaps inspired by the building’s design, the movement for Grey is more in the realm of classical modern dance than that of In A Room on Broad St.

Malory Smith is a friend of Jonas’ who suffers from cystic fibrosis. We hear her speaking honestly and poetically about how she copes with her illness and those around her. Smith has given her disease a name. She states that “he” never leaves her side and that they are handcuffed together. Jonas has taken Smith’s words and the music of Philip Glass to create an emotionally powerful duet for himself and Marissa Labog. Labog is outstanding in this work. She reflects, without emoting, all the stages one goes through with a possibly fatal disease: denial, fear, anger, grief, acceptance. Jonas is great as the obstacle she has been presented with and Obstacles is a beautiful work. One is left encouraged by Smith’s strength and resolve.

Cameras and Dancers at The Wallis © Brad Romano
Cameras and Dancers at The Wallis
© Brad Romano

The talented dance artists of Jacob Jonas The Company were Kimberly Bridgewater, Lamont “Tales” Good, Jeremy Julian Grandberry, Jacob Jonas, Charissa Kroeger, Marissa Labog, Brooklynn, Anibal Sandoval, Renee Stewart, Nic Walton, and Jill Wilson. Lighting Designer and Cinematographer William Adashek is a true asset. His lighting moves gently about the performing space to create a unique environment for each work.