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Searching for the proper balance

'Garden of Reason' packs stellar moves but lacks development of plot and characters.

June 22, 2004|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Extravaganza. Former Joffrey Ballet dancer Josie Walsh has a taste and talent for it -- plus a knack for juxtaposing ballet, gymnastics, aerial acrobatics and hard-edged rock dancing in propulsive showpiece choreography.

What she can't do yet is tell stories persuasively, so don't expect her new "Garden of Reason" to be remotely reasonable when it comes to plot and character development. Indeed, on Sunday at the Ivar Theatre, this 100-minute vehicle for her locally based Myo Dance Company worked best as a suite loosely connected by apples from the Bible's Garden of Eden and hedonistic overkill from Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights."

With singer Courtney Jordan and the rock band Surve performing a powerful original score, Walsh created visions of restless contemporary self-obsession leading to hostile competitions within and between the sexes -- occasionally accented by glimpses of a higher reality.

The most extended choreographic showcase and strongest statement of positive energy came in the Act 1 finale, "In the Garden," featuring nine dancers and surging, jazz-oriented recorded music. At the opposite extreme, the "Altar" scene early in Act 2 generated a sense of dread from Jordan's lyrics ("Can you feel the danger?") and the sight of dancer Melissa Moti trapped inside a shadowy glass cube, battering hopelessly against its walls.

As always, Walsh offered plenty of frissons: lead Surve guitarist and singer Paul Rivera performing on stilts; aerialist Ingrid Hoffman working sinewy sculptural changes high above the floor; the Myo women dancing each with one foot bare and the other in a high-heeled shoe; Walsh herself on pointe in a sexy, technically demanding duet with the superbly versatile and intense Demian Boergadine.

Martial arts specialist Jackamo Harvey really ought to be on that list, but for all his remarkable power and dexterity, his solos never added up to choreography, just an index of his favorite moves.

Walsh used Harvey as the archetypal outsider, but his outfit was multiplied for the entire cast in the finale -- an idea that might have had more dramatic impact had Walsh's narrative and thematic concepts been clearer. On Sunday, it proved just one more striking, isolated effect in an evening of abundant pleasures but little of the coherence for which Walsh seemed to be aiming.

An impressive array of costumes by Kiyomi Hara and lighting environments by Justin Huen added to the sensuality and spectacle of the production.


'Garden of Reason'

Where: Ivar Theatre, 1605 Ivar Ave., Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday

Price: $30

Contact: (213) 481-1028

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