BLUE13 DANCE COMPANY AT THE WALLIS 2023
I had seen this modern Bollywood-centric company once before at The Wallis in Beverly Hills, so I was interested to see them again in a whole new program. I was shocked when I realized that previous performance there was over three years ago! Where does the time go?
The Blue13 dance company brings together two things that have touched my life so much–dance and Indian culture. I think we all know about my love of dance, but few people know that an Indian guy named Krishna is one of the trio of people who have impacted my life, in the best possible way, to bring me to where I am today. He’s the person who showed my teen-age self that I can stay in LA when the only path I saw in front of me was to return home to New York to my family, friends, college, and boyfriend. I’ve been forever grateful to that guy I knew for just one month of my life! (If you’re curious, I explain it all here: itsnotaboutme.tv/news/special-day-my-zillionth-anniversary-with-los-angeles.)
And I have always revered dance over every other art form. Dance takes the most work and dedication, and garners the least celebrity. You can be a mediocre singer and have the right song or look or private life, and become a star in a nano-second. But dancers have to study and work with every fiber of their beings for their whole lives, and very few get famous. Fame and fortune are not the aims of most dancers; the goal is most often just to express their souls in the most beautiful way possible.
So I was happy to see this company at my favorite theatre, The Wallis, once again. And I enjoyed Blue13 more this time than I did three years ago. Perhaps that’s because I knew what to expect. The previous time, I was a tad annoyed by the almost-constant jangling of the bells on the dancers’ ankles. And I had been expecting the program to contain a measure of hip-hop because that’s what I had read, so I had coerced my krump dancing bae to go with me. So when there were no dances in that category, I felt so bad that I had previewed it wrongly to him that I couldn’t totally enjoy what was in front of me.
So this time, I had lower expectations, which, I promise, is always a good rule in everything in life! And this was an entirely different program from the previous one. And I had my friend, Marc, with me, who doesn’t care what style of dance he’s seeing, as long as it’s good. And, actually, as long as it’s at The Wallis, which is his fave theatre, as well.
Blue13 is a big company comprised of all excellent dancers. Usually there’s one questionable performer in a dance company, but not in this one. I wanted to watch each person separately. (I did have a favorite, though—William Okajima.)
The adage “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” totally applies here. I, along with Marc and a couple of other audience members with whom we spoke, were not fans of the first number, (I’ll explain in a moment,) but at the end of the show, people were standing up and cheering!
That first number, Restless autumn. restless spring., (written that way, so not a mistake on my part,) had great movement but horrible noise. I didn’t know if it was music or some sort of talking that we couldn’t make out, but then I noticed it was listed in the program as music called Speaking In Tongues, a very spot-on title! If it had played for any longer, I would have stood up and told all my secrets to make it stop!
As if that noise wasn’t enough, the dancers talked during it! I hate that! (As did everyone I chatted with at intermission.) I noticed a signer off to the side in front of the stage at the beginning of the piece, and I couldn’t figure-out why a dance show needed a signer. Then I realized it was for that annoying talking. But she was great; I watched her more than I watched some of the dancers! (It turns-out she’s Mona Jean Cedar, a choreographer herself.)
That number, and the entire evening, began with the dancers writing on the stage with chalk, and inviting various audience members to join them in doing so. Marc was confused over that entire situation, (he kept asking me if someone was going to clean that up,) while I was just peeved by the pretentiousness of it all. It was enough already; it didn’t even have a pay-off. But my eyes got a good workout from all the rolling of them I did during those twenty minutes of wasted time!
On the other hand, the second number, Shaadi, was great! And joyous. It was sort of Bollywood meets Krump. I could tell the dancers loved performing it as much as we loved seeing it!
The third number, Dear Mr. Khan, featured dancers walking slowly in big white hoop skirts; Marc said he felt like we were at the Met Gala! I loved that fun assessment. I could swear I saw this piece last time, with a different title. Perhaps just those memorable skirts were being repeated, to get their money’s worth out of the wardrobe, but I really do think I recognized some of the choreography. No negativity here at all—it’s always nice to see good dance pieces again.
After intermission came Sounds Like Whoop. Looks Like Flash. Even though it started off cheerfully enough, it quickly appeared to have a sad theme, like of someone being sick in a back room. But I enjoyed seeing the company in regular attire for those few minutes, along with that same feeling for the recognizable music. (The program says it was composed for this show, but I remember feeling that I was familiar with at least the first minute or so of it!)
The last piece, 1947, was the best. After the first colorful section of it, Marc and I both deemed it to be a very happy number. But as soon as we said that to each other, it took a dark turn. It turns-out the narrative is about the “horrific and bloody migration caused by the partition of India and Pakistan.” That pain is definitely shown in the choreography of Founding Artistic Director of Blue13, Achinta S. McDaniel. After that serious portion, the happiness picked-up again, which was a great way to end the production, with the audience members jumping to their feet in appreciation.
On a side note, there was one strange bit to this presentation. The night before, we ticket holders received an interesting email regarding the show. I had to read it a few times to understand it. It mentioned a “flash mob,” so at first I thought it was telling us to keep an eye out for them. But it meant that we would be the mob! And if we wanted to join in the end dance, from our seats, of course, there was a link to a video we could view to learn the easy steps. What a cute idea, right?
I had no time for frivolity in my crazy busy next day, but, to not be a “bah humbug,” I neglected something else I needed to do so I could watch the five-minute video and work on the moves. I sent the vid to Marc, and he practiced it, too. And then that night, the happy last dance of the show finally came, and…went! And then it was the curtain call.
They never mentioned the flash mob, even though two heads of the dance company spoke that evening, and none of the dancers invited us to do it from the stage, even though most people were already up and clapping. That lack of participation wasn’t a major deal, but Marc and I, (and I’m sure many others,) were a tad disappointed, especially after taking the time to watch and learn it so that we wouldn’t be the only contrarians in the audience.
It also struck me as odd that they could take all that time at the beginning of the show for that chalk nonsense, but not even one minute for us to do what they had asked us to study up on in that email the night before! Oh well.
Despite that one tiny peccadillo, Blue13 gave us an enjoyable and worthwhile night of culture, so I suggest seeing them when you have the opportunity. And you don’t even have to BYOC! (Bring your own chalk!)
Of course, since The Wallis is known for the short runs of their very special programs, it’s, sadly, too late for anyone reading this to see Blue13 there. But I suggest you make it a practice to check-out what other productions are coming down the pike at the Wallis, because it’s always something interesting, especially next month’s Alonzo King Lines Ballet, for my fellow dance lovers. www.thewallis.org.