When you look at dancer-choreographer Frank Guevara, you may imagine there is electricity in place of blood running through his veins, so charged and intense is his every move. This current also flows through the other performers of Dance Theatre of East L.A., which premiered three new works alongside recent pieces with new casting at Nosotros Theatre Thursday night.
Often described as a dancemaker who addresses issues in the Latino community, Guevara continues to explore a movement vocabulary that includes the preening arched pauses of flamenco, street-wise stalks and punchy, quick rolls or jogging. But new works aren't as directly tied to Chicano themes as his reprised solo "Mojado," or "Cuerpo Marcado," which uses folklorico props, anxious jumps, spins and rubbing of reddish "marks" to project identity crisis.
This last piece might have lost power in its reworking from soul-searching solo to trio, performed in brief sections that hardly had time to develop. Nor did the recasting of a woman in Guevara's street-tough solo with a tire ("Cursum Perficio") seem to work. Compact and muscled, Domino Fernandez made all the leaps and jumps of frustration, but without the bodily focus that might have made her relationship to the tire interesting.
The premiere of "Tres," (with Melissa Arambasich, Edward Rocha and Fernandez), was more successful, using lots of running, leapfrogging and crouching into football-inspired poses. A little shoving, suspicious eyeing and circling--not too forceful, just wary--gave it the feel of a playground with attitude.
Guevara's style-defining version of machismo is made up of taut posturing and muscled tightness that is curiously light as well as strong. It is dynamic in short bursts, but without more variation of mood and/or choreographic structure, we are left on the surface of many obviously deeply felt themes.
Nowhere are the problems with this "aesthetics of intensity" more apparent than in "Amarrado" (Tied), a new solo for Bogar Martinez to mournful music by Purcell. In a tight-fitting peach jumpsuit with flowing bell-bottoms, Martinez's amazingly plastic and beautifully sculpted body stretched fully up and out, freezing in luxurious extended poses, then contracting and rolling from side to side. Then more poses, and a reaching posture of general anguish that recurs in many pieces. Jazzy or balletic steps often seemed awkwardly inserted.
There was nothing structurally awkward, however, about "Reto" (Challenge), a duet for Guevara and Martinez, commissioned from tango specialists Alberto Toledano and Loreen Arbus. In black tie, both men were seriously smoldering from the waist up, although they had not yet gotten their enticing tango leg play down. The fragment was brief, and, as with other pieces on the program, one hopes for more development of the theme in the future.