The Los Angeles Dance festival held its fifth annual gala performance at the beautiful and intimate Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, located on Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles campus. The concerts are presented by Festival Creator and Executive Producer, Deborah Brockus with Co-producer and theater Artistic Director, Pierre Leloup. It will run for four nights and include 19 companies representing Urban/Eclectic Contemporary, Technical Modern Contemporary, Cutting Edge and Avant-Garde Contemporary dance. The gala performance was a diverse program featuring Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, Helios Dance Theater, Invertigo Dance Theatre, No)one. Art House, and Blue 13 Dance. A gallery of work by painters William Clayton and Aaron Mostow and photographer Cheryl Mann welcomed the audience in the theater’s lovely outdoor courtyard.

Invertigo Dance Theatre © Sarvey Rector Tahmasebi
Invertigo Dance Theatre
© Sarvey Rector Tahmasebi

Sabina Johnson is one of the curators of No)one.Art House, a contemporary and experimental dance group. Her Loren and Glen is a hard-edged work for four women that features Shauna Davis, Charissa Kroeger, Tiara Jackson, and Alyson Van. The work is harsh and grating, with personalities who are struggling, pensive, combative or joined in brief moments of stillness. The women are dressed in gray and the tension between them is amplified with sounds of radio wave frequencies. It is a work worth seeing again to absorb all its nuances.

Long Live I is an excerpt from Laura Gorenstein Miller’s Minor Obsessions. It is a duet for two men, performed wonderfully by HELIOS DANCE THEATRE members Chris Rodriquez-Stanley and John Origines. The work is over-flowing with athletic lifts which, for this reviewer, complicate its meaning. Long Live I is a romantic duet, with wonderful touching moments that are sadly being constantly disguised with acrobatic partnering.

Laura Karlin is the founder and Artistic Director of Invertigo Dance Theatre. Her work is often narrative and filled with beautifully timed lifts. For the festival, Karlin presented an excerpt from a new work titled Interior Design which begins with playful humor that takes an unexpected turn into a painful reality. A young biracial couple is moving into their new apartment when a clueless neighbor’s visit, portrayed by an unseen voice, causes tension and triggers memories of a recent personal tragedy. Through the wonderful performances of Jonathan Bryant and Hyosun Choi, Karlin artfully takes on bigotry, loss and love.

Arun Mathai and Bridget Wilson in Blue13's <i>Shine the Light</i> © Javier Guillen
Arun Mathai and Bridget Wilson in Blue13's Shine the Light
© Javier Guillen
Blue13 Dance Company is a contemporary Indian dance theatre ensemble based in Los Angeles. Achinta S. McDaniel is the company’s Artistic Director who presented a lengthy excerpt from her Terpsichore in Ghungroos. Terpsichore is the goddess of dance and Ghungroos are small metallic bells strung together to form a musical anklet tied to the feet of classical Indian dancers. In this case, the anklets are tied to the cast of Terpsichore in Ghungroos. Her work examines the struggles of women in society and their exploitation in the media. It is a powerful work filled with in-your-face confrontation, rhythmic footwork and strong performances by Brittany Davis, Kirby Harrell, Shoshana Mozlin, Jon Paul, David Matthew Rodriquez, Rieka Toy, Adrianna Vieux and Bridget Wilson. McDaniel has a strong understanding of form and rhythmic structure. Terpsichore in Ghungroos is a very timely work which vividly portrays the need for women to continue to strive for equality.

The performance then moved outside for a site specific work by Heidi Duckler, the Artistic Director of Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre. Pare Down was performed to the sound of a metronome and music performed by Joe Berry. Two women, Teresa “Toogie” Barcelo and Haylee Nichele move from behind the theater’s pillars, onto the marble patio and along the short wall surrounding it. The two women resemble friends or siblings involved in actions of fun and competition. The first sections are filled with movement in tandem with the different meters set up by the dancers on the metronome and then the dancing shifts into more expansive and swirling phrases that compliment Berry’s new age style score. The piece ended with Barcelo and Nichele gently rolling across the marble floor to disappear behind its three foot wall; a lovely end to a low-key but pleasant work.