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Choreographers wage their battles onstage

March 20, 2007|Lewis Segal | Times Staff Writer

Fierce, fiercer, fiercest: The most memorable pieces in the latest edition of the Spectrum: Dance in L.A. series turned rage into motion, a style that may define this city right now if you're a choreographer or company leader. It's a battle getting your work seen and supported locally, so why not bring that battle into your body and onto the stage?

The 15-part Spectrum #23 offered plenty of examples Sunday at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood (a new venue for the series). Prowling brilliantly through Denise Leitner's finely wrought "Surrender," Jamie Joseph, Logan Schyvnck and Jon Stotlar opened the program with furious self-assertion.

Later, Jacob "Kujo" Lyons and Hokuto "Hawk" Konishi exuded nightmare chic as they flipped their way to glory in Lyons' hypergymnastic "One-Winged Angel," with everyone in the five-member Lux Aeterna cast looking menacing in matching his-'n'-her full-body tattoos.

The five women in Amy "Catfox" Campion's "Be Girls or B-Girls" also came on strong, though Campion's angry feminist poetry made a more powerful statement than her fitful street-dance choreography.

Rage was about all that choreographer mecca vazie andrews had going for her in the anarchic "I and I," but with Nina McNeely in virtuosic high dudgeon, who could complain? Dangerous aggression also invaded John Castagna's otherwise conventional "Adagio for Three" for the Ballet Collective, showing Rabson Tadeu stalking and attacking Eliezer Rabbelo as he danced with Yoko Sasaki. Evidently no pas de deux is safe anymore.

Even series producer Deborah Brockus -- a choreographer who has explored relationships, pictorialism and jazz-dance abstraction in previous outings -- got tough in "Gridlock," an impressive, assaultive vehicle for nine members of her Brockus Project Dance Company.

Obviously, Spectrum wouldn't be Spectrum without plenty of variety, and the Sunday lineup had its share of happy world-dance diversions: the intricate partnering and vibrant line-dancing of "Mambo Combo" from Ruby Karen, Jesus Morales and the Mambo Hustlers; well-drilled, spectacularly costumed samba and folklorico from Alicia M. Vaca's Paso de Oro company; and fragments of invigorating folklore in Marlon P.P. Pelayo's scattershot "Moonsuit to Junkanno (my bahamavention)" for the Fanatix Dance Company.

Two somber modern dance choreographies featured large ensembles tracing restless cycles of motion. Seda Aybay's "ADAK" emphasized the manipulation of red scarves by members of the Kybele Dance Theater, and her sophisticated sense of movement counterpoint sustained interest in her formal patterning -- though the piece had no real ending, just a point of termination.

Depicting two people losing and finding each other amid a tattered corps, Deirdre Graves' "Something About a Dream" lacked an adequate definition of its central roles and lost effectiveness in a picturesque but increasingly pointless swirl of bodies.

Solos? Sure, starting with Bubba Carr's untitled improvisational movement meditation -- a work that developed its most potent images from the idea of possessing the unpossessable. Hiroshi Hamanishi's tap showpiece in tribute to the late Alfred Desio proved impressive in technique but insensitive in musicality. Olivia Gaugain's "Pursuit" didn't last long enough to leave much of an afterimage, but Tida Sripanich danced it faultlessly.

Along with the contributions of the performers, choreographers and technicians Sunday, the El Portal stage played a major part in the evening's success, offering a wider, deeper platform for dance than any previous Spectrum enjoyed. If it's frustrating trying to start a concert dance career in L.A., showcases like this one offer invaluable opportunities for growth and recognition.


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