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Review: Pájaro de Nube's dance fusion beguiles at Grand Performances

Experimental dance group Pájaro de Nube creates a magical world with 'Stones of Water,' part of Grand Performances' 'Mexico Unexpected' program downtown.

July 14, 2012|By Laura Bleiberg, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Beatriz Garcia, co-director and choreographer, left, and Elizabeth Mercado perform "Piedras de Agua" ("Stones on Water").
Beatriz Garcia, co-director and choreographer, left, and Elizabeth Mercado… (Christopher Alvarez-Heikens )

An unexpected downpour will dampen, but not diminish, great artists. That was the case Thursday night when Grand Performances presented Guadalajara's 10-year-old experimental dance ensemble, Pájaro de Nube, at the intimate Marina Pavilion outdoor water garden downtown.

Then again, the brief rainstorm was entirely suitable to the mystical, hour-long work "Stones of Water" ("Piedras de Agua"), conceived and co-directed by choreographer Beatriz Garcia and composer Marcos Garcia. This two-night "¡Mexico Unexpected!" program brought us a bit of Mexico's burgeoning contemporary dance scene, which is little represented here. Many gringo minds define Mexican cultural identity through its traditional arts, such as folkloric dance.

The Garcias, though, are questing for new means of expression, like their counterparts worldwide. And as with their contemporaries, they pull from a smattering of international styles: Western post-modernism,Japan'savant-garde dance called Butoh, jazz, electronic music and countertenor vocals. Happily, their fusion displayed remarkable discipline. Theirs is a fresh signature with a distinctive national stamp.

In "Stones of Water," that stamp centered on female mythological and cultural figures that are important to the Mexican psyche. They were brought to slow, dreamlike life in five surreal scenes, taking place in and out of the plaza fountains and islands. There was the skeleton woman racking her body and face in exaggerated angles and horrible grimacing.

La Llorona, also known as the Weeping Woman, cradled, sat in and ultimately destroyed a set of miniature chairs, which were representations of the children she murders for love. Beatriz Garcia and Elizabeth Mercado were twin porcelain dolls, each missing a shoe. Their seated duet was restrained in the breadth of space covered, yet so ample in how they pulled and stretched all parts of their bodies, from toes to lips.

Countertenor Santiago Cumplido, wearing a hoop skirt, reminded this viewer of a Cassandra, his silvery voice reverberating in ominous entr'actes. Marcos Garcia controlled a myriad of pre-recorded sounds and live instruments, creating rich aural waves with a keyboard and a set of stemmed glasses. A little smoke and Enrique Morales' deftly subtle lighting designs completed the picture.

The restraint of "Stones of Water" did test some viewers. Yet the Garcias and their collaborators judiciously crafted a magical world out of precious resources and those pictures will linger in the mind for a long while.

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"¡Mexico Unexpected!," Pájaro de Nube, California Plaza's Marina Pavilion, 8 p.m. Friday. Free. (213) 687-2159 or http://www.grandperformances.org

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