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DANCE REVIEW : Frank Guevara Makes Bid for Legitimacy

August 28, 1993|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE WRITER

Frank Guevara obviously learns fast. In its second showcase of the year, his Dance Theatre of East L.A. makes a major bid for legitimacy in a six-part program of mostly new works at the Nosotros Theatre in Hollywood. The program opened Thursday and runs through Sunday.

Gone the fake Pre-Columbian folklore and MTV-style muscle-flexing of the group's February performance. Instead, Guevara tests himself against a whole new slate of choreographic models, emerging with creative victories often as not.

His Vivaldi duet "Cosas del Amor" may look like an etude--and the dancers in it like students--but it honors its balletic sources with respect for the music and the technique. Similarly, the potentially inventive fusion of jazz-dance and extensive gymnastics in the solo "Celosa" (music by the Stereo MC's) may never reach its flash point, but at least Karina Wasnick executes it diligently--with an extra seasoning of pouty attitude all her own.

Guevara himself remains the most compelling dancer of the group, equally powerful in the heartbreak depicted in "Soledad" (music by Enya) and the punishing floor-slams of the postmodern character portrait "Cursum Perficio" (music by the Cure and Enya). In the latter, he takes the image of a street youth holding a tire and deepens it through unstinting emotional and physical intensity.

"Soledad" extends the mourning of the earlier "Solo," an uncompromising AIDS piece that begins as formal group ritual, incorporates an angry text by Michael Gorman as well as music by the Cure, Elton John and Craig Kupka, building to a conclusion in which bodies pile up as Guevara (in a hospital gown, leaning on a walker) reaches out toward the audience. Like other Guevara dances, it exudes a restless, searching eclecticism, but its emotional core stays potent.

A product of both the Cal State L.A. dance department and Plaza de la Raza, Guevara has the instincts of an artist and plenty of technical savvy--but nobody should be expected to choreograph and rehearse a whole program from scratch within six months. Dance Theatre of East L.A. is now obviously at a very preliminary stage in its development, with its future depending as much on community support as Guevara's formidable energy and ambition.

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