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DANCE REVIEW

Vox Dance Theatre doesn't capitalize on live accompaniment

September 18, 2007|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Something wonderful can happen when choreographers work with live music: A heightened sensibility fuels their dancers' bodies to respond organically to the moment. That was the case Sunday when L.A.-based Vox Dance Theatre premiered "Mitakuye Oyas'in" (All My Relatives) at the Martha Knoebel Dance Theater in Long Beach. This 22-minute opus by Vox artistic director Sarah Swenson was propelled by the throbbing sounds of a six-member contemporary ensemble, the Lloyd Rodgers Group.

It's too bad, then, that the entire concert didn't have this thrilling vibe -- and that the new work didn't deliver more choreographically. The eight dancers, notably guest artist Tamsin Carlson, who has performed in recent years with postmodern icon Rudy Perez (as has Swenson), acquitted themselves with grace but needed more inspiration akin to the Native American concept of the piece's title: "What affects one affects us all."

Yes, there were lovely circles and yoga-inspired moves -- balances, lunges and animal-like poses -- but repetition predominated. There was too little partnering, too few risks. The only male, an able Edgar Arreola, was underutilized, his duets with Sophie Gallegos and Carlson perfunctory. Carlson, a towering dancer, could have hooked up with a woman -- or two -- to match the sexy minimalist riffs pumped out by the other six women.

Still, Swenson has a good ear for music, and her three-movement "Fimmine" -- set to a Philip Glass score and also on the bill -- is an emotionally effective take on wedding rituals: Swenson and another sextet, clad in an array of nuptial gowns, manipulated the dresses' trains, the swooshing sounds a boon before the skirts were doffed. Rife with metaphoric suggestions, the piece also featured the bridal brigade leaping, running and pairing off, their mouths sometimes open wide and their unison moves a counterpoint to Swenson's solo swirling.

Shining on their own, keyboardist Rodgers and crew created a cathedral of sound in his 20-minute "Discourse on the Measurement of Tones," with John Glenn's mournful bass guitar, Melissa Rodgers' haunting trumpet and Gary Hung's sweet violin enhancing a rich tapestry of percussion by Bruno and Luigi Cilloniz.

Completing the program was "No Talking," a new work by Melanie RĂ­os Glaser, which showcased Swenson and the choreographer executing motifs that included an exaggerated backward-leaning model's walk and intense piggybacking. Slight but sweet, it served as a prelude to Swenson's dances -- honest efforts that continue to show promise.

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