DANCE: LA DANCE FESTIVAL AT THEATRE RAYMOND KABBAZ

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LA DANCE FESTIVAL AT THEATRE RAYMOND KABBAZ

I’m a major fan of all kinds of dance, so I was more than happy to attend the quartet of performances of the LA Dance Festival at one of my favorite theatres around town, Theatre Raymond Kabbaz on Pico.  I love that intimate theatre, so being there four nights in a row was a pleasure for me.

The rude person who sat in front of me...on two of the four nights!  Do you see what I mean?  Photo by Karen Salkin.

The rude person who sat in front of me…on two of the four nights! Do you see what I mean? Photo by Karen Salkin, as is the big one at the top of this page.

It’s the perfect place to watch dance shows; every seat is a good one.  (Except when rude people who pile their hair on top of their heads sit in front of you.  Lucky me, a girl with a high topknot sat in front of me on two of those nights.  How can people be that rudely unaware???  Don’t they know that someone will sit behind them???)

Each night of the festival brought its own unique experience. Each show consisted of five to seven numbers from different local dance companies, with a total of twenty-six throughout the week-end.  All the dances were under the “modern/contemporary dance” umbrella, but many different styles were featured within that genre.  I enjoyed the majority of pieces, but, as I observed to Mr. X, it seems that everyone has to look worried in modern dance.  I’m not a fan of that angst-for-no-reason approach.

The wonderful number by Hyosun Choi and Jonathan Bryant of Invertigo Dance Theatre. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

The wonderful number by Hyosun Choi and Jonathan Bryant of Invertigo Dance Theatre. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

As I wrote in another recent dance review, I don’t love dances that seem to be about something without letting the audience in on the story.  I hate not knowing why the dancers are pulling that rope.

So, on the first night, the only dance that Mr. X and I both loved was titled Interior Design by Invertigo Dance Theatre.  Not only was the story clear from the get-go, but the movement and choreography were phenomenal, and there was much humor involved.  It had a beginning, middle, and end.  And, most importantly, was danced fabulously by Hyosun Choi and Jonathan Bryant.

The outdoor number on Night One of the festival.  I hope this image explains the SNL reference! Photo by Karen Salkin.

The outdoor number, performed by those two girls in blue Amish dresses, on Night One of the festival. I hope this image explains the SNL reference! Photo by Karen Salkin.

But that entire opening night was special because the Gala featured not one, but two receptions!  We were welcomed with wine and healthful snacks, while we got to peruse the artwork that was on display in the big outdoor space on the premises. And then post-show, we were treated to more hearty fare, while we mingled, and met some of the dancers. But before we partied, we saw one last dance out there, (which, in all honesty, I could have lived without. It reminded me of something Martin Short and Christopher Guest would have done on SNL.)

Entity Contemporary Dance. Kent Boyd is the second from the left in front. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Entity Contemporary Dance. Kent Boyd is the second from the left in front. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

The second night’s offerings were a bit more to my liking than those on the first.  Part of that is because I finally got to see So You Think You Can Dance’s Kent Boyd again.  He’s the fun guy who should have won Season 7  of that show, but wound-up the runner-up.  I got to interview him that year, which made me even more of a fan of his. So I loved seeing his growth at the Fest.  (And I don’t just mean with the better hair on his head these days!)  I’m happy to report that he’s still adorable, and an even better dancer than he was six years ago.  I loved talking to him again at intermission. (And watching him dance with his company, Entity Contemporary Dance, of course.)

Lula Washington Dance Theatre, with Krystal Hicks in front.  Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Lula Washington Dance Theatre, with Krystal Hicks in front. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Another highlight of that night was the Lula Washington Dance Theater, which featured a quartet of extremely talented dancers. But Krystal Hicks, who did a solo incorporating so many styles in about a minute, including krump, was the bomb! I wish that Mr. X, a krump dancer himself, has seen her go!  (And at the end of their group performance, each of the four read a very brief note, which was directed at our buffoonish administration, so I love this troupe even more!)

The night also brought us a solo break-dancing number by Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, the popular founder of the Lux Aeterna Dance Company, which I’ve also reviewed before.  He’s extra-amazing because he’s almost completely deaf, and keeps the beat by feeling the vibrations of the bass! He’s also a little bit older than many other dancers, so I absolutely love that he’s still out there giving it his all.  The audience really appreciated him.

Jacob "Kujo" Lyons. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Jacob “Kujo” Lyons. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Speaking of different situations in the lives of dancers, I adored the diversity among those in LA Dance Festival. What a potpourri of sizes, shapes, ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientations we were treated to! Major props to the dance community for always being all-inclusive.

The entire audience seemed happy when Night Two ended on a totally upbeat note, with a baker’s dozen girls, and one lucky guy, from Catastrophe, doing a happy moving-and-grooving piece.  Once again, I could not figure-out what it was about, but at least it was cheery.

Catastrophe, doing that happy final dance of Night Two. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Catastrophe, doing that happy final dance of Night Two. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

The last two nights brought more excellent dancers. I was delighted that Sam McReynolds of Whyteberg ended the week-end on a high note. His number included great dance music, and a shower of glitter to end the festival. The assemblage left with big smiles all around, which I always take as a sign of success.

Big kudos go to Deborah Brockus who put the festival together, and Theatre Raymond Kabbaz’s Artistic Director Pierre Leloup for bringing it all to us in his wonderful setting. And, even though I was not a fan of the four pieces that were performed outside, (one each night,) I appreciated that they did that.

One note about this style of dance in general: People always ask me what the difference between “modern” and “contemporary” is. I used to think the latter was just an updated term for the former, but now I realize that it has to do with the level of angst exhibited by the dancers. The more there is, you know that you’re looking at “modern.” (That’s my take on it, anyway.)

Pierre Leloup and Deborah Brockus.  Photo courtesy of Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.

Pierre Leloup and Deborah Brockus. Photo courtesy of Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.

One of my favorite things about this festival is that I got to be among like-minded people. I loved being able to say that I was going to see Matthew Bourne this week, and not have even one person ask me who that is! With all the varied events I attend, rarely do I get to chat with other dance aficionados, so this was a true pleasure for me.

If you, too, are a lover of the arts, please support them any way you can. And keep in mind that dance companies are always in need of sponsorship.

And don’t miss next year’s LA Dance Festival! I know that I won’t!

On that note, I have to remind dance fans that Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures will be at The Wallis for the next five nights. I’m seeing the show tonight, and hope to see you all there!

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