YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

So many ways for them to say L.A.

Three locally based choreographers will bring their wildly divergent visions to the stage for a joint show.

August 26, 2007|Susan Josephs | Special to The Times

Linda LACK, Hae Kyung Lee and Bradley Michaud have very different ideas about dance making. Just consider what they require to collectively put on a show.

Lack needs a 9-foot lizard sculpture and various animal masks. Michaud and his dancers will not hurl themselves into the air without their kneepads. Lee, meanwhile, simply brings the inspiration she derives from her spiritual life and Korean heritage.

Aesthetic, generational and cultural diversity will definitely be on display, in short, when these three choreographers take the stage at California Plaza on Sept. 8 in a program called "Modern Los Angeles Dances." Conceptually speaking, the show, sponsored by the summer series Grand Performances, aims to advance the proposition that contemporary dance at the local level is not only alive and well but healthily heterogeneous.

"We wanted it to be a fresh look at what our city has to offer," says Leigh Ann Hahn, director of programming for Grand Performances. "We see this show as an interesting mixture."

Now in its 21st season and ever popular for its free concerts and visually striking outdoor venue, Grand Performances has a long-standing commitment to presenting dance from both abroad and its own backyard. In recent years, for example, Chinese choreographer Willy Tsao has brought several companies to California Plaza's Watercourt, just as local companies such as Diavolo Dance Theater have continued to be invited back.

With its two stages and majestic fountain, the plaza has also served as inspiration for a number of site-specific works by such L.A.-based choreographers as Oguri, Heidi Duckler and Lee, who in 2000 created a piece called "Ancient Mariners" that had her dancers jumping into the fountain, navigating a boat and performing a kind of water ballet in the adjacent pool with fake fish dangling from their mouths.

"It's very important for me to support not only dance in general but dance in L.A." says Michael Alexander, Grand Performances' executive director. "Dance is the most challenged art form of all the art forms in Los Angeles, and I am committed to finding different ways to present it."

A childhood friend of Lack's, Alexander has always followed her career, which has included performances mostly outside L.A., and wanted to give her the opportunity to appear locally. As for Lee, "we thought she would bring a different cultural voice to the program," Hahn says. "We also wanted a male, more emerging voice, and we thought Bradley would be a good complement."

All their works will take place Sept. 8 on a dancer-friendly platform specifically constructed to fit the dimensions of the concrete Marina Pavilion, the smaller of California Plaza's two stages. Most of the props will belong to Lack, whose four solo dances involve demon and wolf masks, the aforementioned lizard, a number of rubber skulls and other eye-catching items.

The creator of a yoga-based technique called "The Thinking Body -- The Feeling Mind," Lack presents what she calls "masked dance rituals." By wearing masks, the sixtysomething choreographer feels, she can achieve a distinct theatricality and make politically charged artistic statements in ways that wouldn't work if she were "simply Linda Lack."

"I don't make dances unless I have something to say, but there is something about a mask that makes my work more universal," she says. "The masks I wear represent characters that I believe belong to every human being."

In her solo "Mea Culpa," for example, Lack wears a red demon mask that allows her to express her take on contemporary greed, lust, violence and apathy. "This is a terrible piece for me to perform," she says. "But when I put a mask on, the creature it represents dictates what I do."

At a recent informal showing of her solos at her La Cienega Boulevard studio, Lack demonstrated the energy and suppleness of a woman decades younger as she contorted, inverted, wriggled, slid and performed a number of other animalistic movements that clearly reflected her years of yoga practice.

"Had I not developed my own technique, it wouldn't be humanly possible for me to perform today," she observes. As a young dancer in New York, she did "pickup" work for Twyla Tharp, and she says, "Even then, I had an awareness that I didn't want to be abusive as a dancer, to move in ways that one day would mean I'd lose a hip."

A niece of modern dance pioneer Pearl Lang, Lack grew up in Los Angeles and early on became fascinated with movement, performance and masquerade.

"When I was 10, I won a prize at a Halloween carnival for making this mask of a creature that had these strange antlers and eyes, while everyone else was into princesses and cowboys," she recalls. "In Hebrew school, I transformed myself into a dreidel, and even then I think I realized I was onto something."

Los Angeles Times Articles