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Dance | REVIEW

'Landing/Place' is left dancing in dark

October 21, 2005|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Multimedia can be ruinously expensive for a choreographer -- and money is the smallest price. It'll cost you brightness, color, the free exploration of stage space: everything that blocks ideal conditions for projecting images and everything that's missing from Bebe Miller's "Landing/Place," a 75-minute meditation on homelessness that opened at REDCAT on Wednesday.

Danced in half-light against video projections -- some of them photographic, others animated -- the piece exploits newfangled motion-capture technology in sequences showing star-clusters and flocks of birds suddenly assuming human form and patterns of motion.

Elsewhere, Miller uses projections to depict her five dancers bedeviled by fire, water, air (clouds) and earth (houses twisting and shaking). She even introduces what look like home movies to accompany excerpts from her travel journals.

Credited to Vita Berezina-Blackburn (animation), Maya Ciarrocchi (video), Scott deLahunta (digital consultant) and others, all these monochromatic screen effects condition and ornament dancing that begins with deliberately rough pseudo-amateurism and reveals its exemplary technical control and even refinement only gradually.

Miller has always grounded her postmodernism in everyday activity, so in "Landing/Place" it isn't surprising to find abstract ensembles accented with moments of intimacy between dancers: affectionate touches, silly little gestural jokes. Point your toes in one sequence, cut lemons in another -- stay real.

As a whole, the work seems an odyssey by immigrants or displaced persons seeking connection to a specific environment, a new home in a strange land. This is a subject with enormous resonance for most Americans, but the dancing doesn't so much dramatize the theme as obliquely refer to it, using various texts and an eclectic score by Albert Mathias (performed live) to help clarify Miller's intentions.

Toy houses and those projected starscapes bring extremes of scale onto the stage, but only when quotations from Dante inspire images of a magical, living forest does a genuine sense of atmosphere and spatial context invigorate the proceedings.

Otherwise, "Landing/Place" largely represents dancing in the dark -- fine dancing, committed, but perhaps misconceived too.

Maybe Miller should have junked the high-tech hardware in favor of a site-specific investigation of her theme a la Collage Dance Theatre's recent "The Entire World Is a Narrow Bridge." Working in a Boyle Heights space that had been home to a number of different communities, choreographer Heidi Duckler and her Collage collaborators caught the poignancy of the search for connection that Miller aimed for but never achieved.

All honor, then, to Kathleen Fisher, Angie Hauser, Darrell Jones, David Thomson and, especially, Kathleen Hermesdorf (the dancer in a final arm-swinging solo) for keeping us focused on their energy and skill.

On Wednesday, Thomson and Fisher made a fast loose-limbed, anarchic duet one of the evening's highlights, while Hauser and Jones proved so coolly charismatic in their post-Dante duet that all the stars in heaven popping out on the projection screens couldn't upstage them.

*

'Landing/Place'

Where: REDCAT Theater at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 631 W. 2nd St., downtown L.A.

When: 8:30 tonight and Saturday,

3 p.m. Sunday

Price: $20 to $32

Contact: (213) 237-2800

or www.redcat.org

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