Monday, March 14, 2011

The 6th Annual Celebrate Dance Festival in L.A.

The Alex Theatre in Glendale, California photographed by Lisa Kato Fitchett.
Glendale, California - The dance community of Los Angeles packed the Alex Theatre on North Brand Boulevard for the sixth annual "Celebrate Dance", a varied program of over half a dozen preeminent dance companies representing some of today's most exciting talents in contemporary, jazz, ballet, and modern dance.

The Regina Klenjoski Dance Company oozed, pulsed, undulated, bounced, glided and sailed through the air in their fearlessly athletic and original "Emoticons", under the sure artistic direction of choreographer Regina Klenjoski. "Everybody Knows" - a pas de deux from San Diego based Malashock Dance company - showcased lyrical pairings, shapes and vignettes, making virtuoso lifts, partnering, inversions, and gravity defying leaps look easy under the mature direction of John Malashock, another veteran choreographer.

BARE Dance Company turned the stereotype of serious modern dance on its head with "Unoccupied", a light-hearted, fun piece demonstrating expressive capability, musicality, and a very connected delivery while never losing its sense of humor. "Tethered" (from Wayward Glances), a beautiful, athletic and thoroughly modern pas de deux by choreographer Michael Mizerany was made postmodern by being set to Henry Purcell's baroque era opera Dido and AeneusTerri Best Dance almost bent the passage of time with its unexpected slow shifts in tempo, deftly controlled timing, muscular suspension, well-honed choreography, and refined delivery in "Threshold". 

While it is almost unfair to pick a stand-out performance from such a collective display of creative talents, special mention must go to Monat Dance for showing strong classical lines and elegant, ballet-based modern choreography in "Beyond the Edge". Never confusing technique with artistry, the company danced with the musicality of Ailey, the refreshing modernism of the Joffrey, and with perfectly synchronized, artistic details of heads, arms and hands moving as one, the unique and total togetherness of London's Royal Ballet corps

Finally, this reviewer must point to the achievement of choreographer Jamel Gaines and Creative Outlook Dance Theatre of Brooklyn in its Los Angeles Premiere of "Prize", a piece exploring identity, race, political dissidence, war, and peace. Impeccably performed by a quintet of powerful dancers (Amber Hill, Epiphany Davis, Cara Maldonado, De-on Sass, Victor Reddick) and set entirely to the rising and falling tones and cadences of President Barack Obama's speech excerpts, the company showcased phenomenally strong, talented dancers articulating a decisive artistic statement without the obvious polemicism that could have cheapened the performance. Stunning, exceptional performances by the outstanding soloists and universal appeal reminded this reviewer of Alvin Ailey Dance Company at its very best.

The attendees comprised a Who's Who of the Los Angeles and Southland dance community, including choreographers Deborah Rosen, Sophie Monat, Terri Best, Michael Mizerany, John Malashock, Macarena Gandarillas, Mike Esperanza, and Regina Klenjoski; costume designers Denise Lichter, Tina Haatainen, Lilia Lopez, Bradley Lock, Liz Pelster, and Sue Julien; soloists Blythe Barton, Bradley R. Lundberg, Johnny Zhong, Anh Dillon, Joey Thao, Christine Marshall, Nicholas Strasburg, and Dana Vultaggio; award-winning lighting designer Eileen Cooley; and members of the major dance and fine arts press.

Celebrate Dance 2011 was a smashing success, with its strong and varied program, mature artistic statements, and outstanding young talents performing before a packed theater. Executive Producer Jamie Nichols (the founding force behind Pasadena-based Fast Feet dance company, honored at the 19th Annual Lester Horton Dance Awards with the Furthering The Visibility of Dance Award, among many other prizes and recognition) is the marketing director, fundraiser, press contact and sole producer for Celebrate Dance. Ms. Nichols currently teaches Contemporary Jazz at Live Arts Los Angeles and Movement for Actors at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, California. Thank you for your contributions, Ms. Nichols. We can't wait to see what's in store for "Celebrate Dance 2012".

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