Dance Kaleidoscope, Luckman Fine Arts Complex and Japan America Theatre, Los Angeles, July 17-25, 1998.
Los Angeles alternately sizzled and fizzled with Dance Kaleidoscope's ambitious blending of California classics and fresh-faced performers. When it was good, it was very, very, good. But when it wasn't, the stage went flat.
A summer festival best known for showcasing the hottest up-and-comers on the Southern California dance scene, Kaleidoscope celebrated its tenth anniversary by shining a spotlight on the past. Rarely seen works by the choreographers and companies that sparked California's dance heritage--pioneers such as Lester Horton, Eugene Loring, Ruth St. Denis, and Alvin Ailey--filled two evening-length programs with vivid images, emotion-packed movements, and formidable challenges for their performers.
The action spanned scenes from a cloistered Spanish garden to the wilds of the American West, bringing a melting pot of artistic visions and dance techniques to performances split by a fault line of youth versus experience.
The opening-night program, aptly titled "Looking Forward/Looking Back," packed a powerful choreographic punch but faltered through some uneven moments. Excerpts from Loring's Billy the Kid, staged by Donald Bradburn, captured nuances of the spirited ballet with evenly matched technical performances, but missed out on its inherent cockiness because of its young dancers' subdued stage presence.
The prancing walks, the thigh-slapping swagger, and Aaron Copland's resonant score weren't enough to rescue this character-driven piece, which needed more bravado from Spencer Gavin Hering as Billy as well as a revved-up emotional connection during the Billy-Sweetheart duet with Terri Russell-Higgins.
Bradburn met with more success in his second Loring revival, the exotic duet from Desert Song, a signature piece for Cyd Charisse from Loring's Hollywood days. It had the look, the style, and--with the exception of an unsteady balance or two--the performances. Edward Mikrut was a standout, dancing with grace and nonchalant ease. Whether swinging partner Valerie Valdez into his arms or sitting slouched back on steps enjoying her sinuous solo, he kept the energy flowing.
Matthew Rushing gave a crowd-pleasing performance in Ailey's "Sinner Man" solo from Revelations, melding control, power, and presence into capable tours and grands jetes. Bonnie Oda Homsey kept the audience with her through every flick of her fingers as she re-created St. Denis's Kashmiri Nautch.
But it was the evening's darkest piece that proved its brightest jewel. Strong technique from Diana MacNeil and John Pennington, former Bella Lewitzky company members, fused with intense emotions in Horton's The Beloved to pull off his stark and chilling look at "the tie that binds." A marriage with an American gothic twist, the husband's every gesture affects his wife's movements as he tautly bends her to his will. It's a piece weighted with repression, all the more powerful for deep undercurrents that ultimately boil over into violence. His hand goes out, she places hers in it. He sits, she sits, and feet circle restlessly.
The piece was restaged by Lewitzky, for whom Horton created the role of the wife in 1948. Her intimate knowledge of the work combined with the dancers' experience gave The Beloved the potency it deserved.
"Dance Now!," another Kaleidoscope evening that featured California masters, closed with more recent pieces by Rudy Perez and by Lynn Dally with her Jazz Tap Ensemble.
Perez's modern duet, 2WICE, set against a large white screen, intermixed articulated gestures and uncluttered lines with playful notes like somersaults and crabwalks. Mark Mendonca and Veronica Apodaca-Mendonca seemed coolly detached while mirroring each other's movements, coming together through shifting lifts and turns, simple connections that varied in intensity as the piece progressed.
Dally ended the concert with her hair swinging in time to her arms, shaking things up in the solo My Favorite Things. The series of light, bluesy tap pieces--backed up by a live jazz trio--had a carefree, improvisational energy. Dally slid in and out of turns and movement riffs with an ease that comes only when you're a veteran.
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|Author:||Diamond, Pamela Hurley|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1998|
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