"A guy wearing a transparent Tom Jones shirt and a gold chain tried to mug me on the corner of Las Palmas and Hollywood," says choreographer Kathryn Posin about her first trip to Los Angeles 20 years ago.
"He tried to strangle me. And when I screamed, he threw me down and said, 'Stupid,' " says Posin, whose six-member company will perform at Royce Hall, UCLA, on Oct. 16 and 17. "And then he walked away, with his little nipped-in-waist and puffy sleeves. And I remember thinking, 'I don't know whether this is good or bad.' But it was exciting.
"So I fell in love in a very perverted way with L.A.'s glamorous ambiance, with its decadent search for beauty. I saw it as 42nd Street done over in the tropics. And I pretended to hate it."
Posin, a die-hard New Yorker, joined UCLA's dance faculty last year--two-thirds time--and her ambivalent love affair with this city will finally be consummated in an ambitious new work, "Hurts Too Much To Stop," which she will premiere here.
Posin has written a text--her first ever--for the new work, which will appear on a program with two other full-company pieces: "Forgotten Signals," to a score by computer-composer Laurie Spiegel, and "From The Hopi," a metaphoric dance created to Philip Glass' score for "Koyaanisqatsi."
Although it's the first time Posin has written or used a text--she and her dancers will speak it while moving to a score of New Music and progressive rock--she admits to a longtime desire to write.
"I consider myself to be more verbal than most dancers," she says between rehearsals. "When I went to Bennington, all my lit professors begged me to be a writer. But I said, 'No, I want to dance.' Because I trusted movement more than words. But now that I am past 40 and I can't trust my body anymore, I am starting to trust words again."
"Hurts Too Much To Stop" is meant to be a satire--of confessional performance art, of a lecture-demonstration, and of a drug rehabilitation group session.
"It's also about the guys smoking crack on my street. And about the homeless. And about sex," she says. "It's about 'bi-ness.' Bi-coastalness, bisexualness, bilingualness, bilateralness. . . ."
Posin was inspired to do the piece when she was teaching here last year, but she actually created it back in her New York loft, where she lives and works.
"New York is a compression chamber. There's only space to go inward, so there's implosion. And my theory is that that is how art is made: with pressure and stress and with concentrated force," says Posin, whose small, wiry dancer's body seems tightly wound up with concentrated energy.
"The work I'm doing is high-intensity and very technical. It's complex and layered. And I think that L.A. audiences love that. They're all kind of beach-bunnyed out, so it helps them to snap into focus. When you sit in your car all day, driving under palm trees and beeping your horn, you lose your concentration. I did. I went nuts.
"Sometimes when I'm in California, there's so much space, I can't get to work. I can go to the beach, I can sit on the porch, I can go for a walk. But I can't work."
Still, with her formal ties to UCLA, Posin realizes that she is in an enviable position, one that will enable her company to survive. And she does foresee a great artistic future for Los Angeles.
"The very thing makes it difficult to create art here--the space and the resources--is the reason there's a future here. There are serious people in L.A. who care about art and culture and the quality of life. And who have space on every level: Mental and physical and spiritual. And who have economic resources that aren't defined yet. In New York, anybody with money who cares about culture has already been approached by 50,000 not-for-profit companies and has been sucked dry."
In Posin's new work, audiences will glimpse some of the images from both coasts that inspired her, including West Los Angeles housewives sashaying down their driveways to fetch the morning paper. And, in a section of the dance entitled "Fireflies," clusters of men and women smoking crack at night--a daily event on Posin's own New York block.
On both coasts, the choreographer is inspired by the bad as well as the good.
"I've lived in New York for 20 years, so coming here is a very big adjustment for me," she says. "New York is wonderful and awful, and I wasn't prepared for a whole new set of wonderful and awful."
What's wonderful about Los Angeles, according to Posin, is that it is beautiful.
"There's blue skies and this big, fat ocean. And these gorgeous palm trees that look like they're made out of Naugahyde. And flowers spilling out of parking lots, for God's sake. It's totally bizarre, excessively gorgeous. Part of me can't even relate to it."
And the awful?
"Dance is dwarfed by Hollywood. Film, TV and the record business make concert dance look like some self-indulgence that a few people are doing for each other. You can't compete with the universality of the media."
But now that she's here, will Posin, like so many others before her, be seduced by the silver screen? Would she like to be in the movies?
She laughs, but then gives the question serious consideration. "If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I would have said yes, but now that I'm this age, no. Now I want to write the script and to direct it."