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`Synergy' fuses choreography with new music

Regina Klenjoski and Monica Favand pair deft, spirited movement with rhythmic scores and impressive voices.

September 25, 2006|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Regina Klenjoski and Monica Favand are two of the most active and ambitious dance makers leading Southland contemporary companies: sometimes stumbling creatively but always out there presenting work and exploring new directions.

Their shared "Synergy" program at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday not only offered their latest choreographies but also live performances of new music by Ron Bartlett, Charlie Campagna and Moira Smiley that gave the event a wider expressive range than the dances provided.

The multilingual singing of Smiley's VOCO ensemble proved especially fascinating, though all the composers had major moments.

Using music by each of them along with a Croatian folk song, Klenjoski's impressive one-act dance drama "The Black Drim" attempted to evoke relationships from the town in Macedonia where her family still lives. If her character portraits often seemed crudely drawn, the interplay of her six dancers stayed consistently brilliant, with one duet after another showcasing excellence in concept and execution.

Arletta Anderson managed high-speed contortions -- in and out of lifts -- with devastating surety. And it was easy to admire Mauricio Alconedo's talent while finding the character he played utterly disreputable. Pamela Debiase's tireless vivacity and Carlos Rodriguez's extraordinary torso freedom also found rewarding outlets. Javier Gonzalez and Jamie Kolpas gamely played the least interesting Macedonians.

Favand's three pieces looked predictable in comparison, diligently working through their premises but nearly always subordinating the individual talents in her TRIP Dance Theatre to restless, generalized corps effects.

Andriana Mitchell showed that it's possible to be a component in an ensemble without getting lost in the crowd, but it's a talent that few of her colleagues have mastered.

With an irresistible Campagna score and a movement vocabulary inspired by Malaysian folklore, Favand's "Equinox" had spirit and flair going for it -- and could well be expanded. It made TRIP likable and exuberant, not locked into the glum abstraction of "Tether," a work at once demanding and unrewarding. Some difficult lifts and a promising chain-of-motion passage kept TRIP tripping here, but otherwise attention belonged to a Bartlett score that began in electronic pulses and segued magically into rhythmic rock.

"Light and Shade" cast Favand as the moth to Taryn Wayne's flame: the former fluttery and furtive, the latter steadily moving across the stage like the sun warming the Earth. A power exchange toward the end (Wayne helping Favand uplift her gaze, Favand restoring Wayne to life) invited confusion, but the dancing stayed powerful.

Four musical interludes during the program kept VOCO and the TRIP Music Ensemble in the spotlight -- and a full-company finale assigned the same rhythmic stomping, body slapping and rowing motions to dancers and musicians alike. It was an evening loaded with artistic zeal and fine performances.

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