There’s something exceedingly romantic about an intimate theater and an evening of entertainment. There’s a sense of community in the audience, and you can practically feel the anticipation of the dancers behind the velvet curtain. It is as if you’re on a first date with the performers, and you’re anxiously waiting to see if they live up to their Tinder profile. For some of the audience members of TWO: Re:borN & You, presented by the Re:borN Dance Interactive, it may have felt more like a blind date and they have no idea what to expect; perhaps they were dragged along by a friend who most likely promised there would be snacks at intermission. For others, it might feel like their second or third date, depending on how many times they’ve seen the company perform and how invested they are in the relationship. But a recognizable truth for all of who take a seat in front of the curtain is that when it comes to matters of the heart, dance tends to coincide with our deepest feelings of anticipation and vulnerability. 

From the get-go, the conversation was intense.

This weekend's performance brought the audience into a very vulnerable and intimate first date setting. The evening of September fourteenth was quaint and buzzing with anticipation at the Curtis Theatre in Brea, California. The young company managed to draw a large crowd, with a very energetic and talkative nature. This was not your grandmother’s crowd; the seats of this charming theater were populated with eager eyes and young hearts who were clearly excited to be a part of the unveiling that was about to occur. As fresh programs were cracked open for the first time and cell phones were checked once more for last minute notifications, the scene began to settle and the first date jitters began to calm. And as if to say welcome, I’m so glad you’ve chosen to take a chance on us and put your heart on the line, a small anecdote appeared on the inside of the program… “Tonight, you are encouraged to experience our repertory as a conversation: looking at each dancer not as an unapproachable creature, but rather a friend revealing their genuine and vulnerable self.” The only thing left to do was to start the conversation and see where the night would take us. 

female dancer in a beige dress, with one leg up, 2 other dancers standing in the background, dark green lighting
 Photo: Skye Schmidt

From the get-go, the conversation was intense. The evening opened with “And then, one day…,” a seven person dance that immediately immersed me into a world of turmoil and angst. The seat behind me happened to be filled with an individual who spoke German, who informed me that the song used in the piece, “Einstürzende Neubauten, Mark Caspary,” consisted of the phrase “my soul burns.” And while avid research of this musical group could not confirm the exact lyric translation, it’s not hard to believe that the German-speaking audience member was correct. Based on the dancer's gestural movements of longing and hardship, “my soul burns” seemed like an accurate translation. However, while the opening conversation was intense and somewhat abrupt, you have to appreciate someone who arrives to the date with their heart on their sleeve. Artistic director and choreographer, Boroka Nagy, chose to open with vulnerability and honesty, which was refreshingly bold. It’s as if you were comforted by the fact that there were no more ghosts in the closet because they were all out on the stage holding hands with the dancers and making their presence known. 

As the evening continued, so did the general feeling of hardship and honesty. The next piece was “This,” a solo performed by the director herself and a wonderful window into her choreographic tendencies as well as her modern-based background. Her nods to Horton and varying modern techniques were clear and concise. 

However, the showstopper of the first act was “Amongst The Fragments.” To me, this piece was where the first date conversation got really good. At this point, as an audience member, I was invested by in the performance and genuinely wanted to hear what they had to say. More specifically, I wanted to hear what dancer Kristy Dai had to say. Ms. Dai was a clear favorite amongst the audience, and her movements were truly mesmerizing. Dai was like a really great cup of coffee, smooth and yet perfectly strong. She arrived on stage with a suitcase full of pictures and memories, and you watched her relive key moments of her past while finding yourself becoming more and more invested in her story. And while the mood remained solemn and somewhat tense, you wanted to know more about this girl and why her life had been filled with difficulty. In fact, you found yourself wanting to ask 'why?' throughout most of the pieces. Why did these dancers feel hurt, what were they going through, and how did you fit into their story?

dancer Kristin Dai in a penché, wearing black pants and a light color top, an open suitcase on the ground behind her
Dancer Kristi Dai in "Amongst The Fragments" − Photo: Skye Schmidt

In the second act, I continued to worry about the wellbeing of these extremely talented and technically sound dancers. The all female cast of “What Remains is Beauty,” left me wondering - what struggle did this community of women go through? And yet, the way that they interacted with each other made you feel at peace. 

The solo in the second act, “Ende Neu,” performed by Emma Wiggins, left you hoping for a second date. This up and coming performer was another huge standout and had a particular way of making me feel the same emotions she was exuding on stage. Her repeated gestures of head shaking and agitated floor work immersed me in her world of confusion. The lighting design by Martha Carter was notably impressive as well. Shadows were perfectly casted onto the face of Ms. Wiggins through clever side lighting and single spotlight techniques. 

This budding company has a bright imagination and sense of honest vulnerability

As this lovely date came to a close, we were left with two world premiere pieces. The first, “As they left the valley weeping,” was melancholy as the title suggests, with undertones of religion and feelings of loss. A beautiful piece with a talented cast for certain, but just when I thought this evening of intimate theater was closing with a quiet subdued feeling of sadness, the mood changed. Actually, that’s an understatement. The mood completely flipped and we were suddenly transported to a new setting entirely. 

It’s as if our first date atmosphere went from a quiet dimly lit dinner to a colorful night out on the town. “Love Came Running,” closed the show and consisted of music that felt like I was transported back in time to a sock hop from the 50s. It was simply marvelous, and as each solo and duo came and left the stage, my smile grew. Dancer and company manager Simon Harrison was a particular favorite and left me beaming with his depiction of a young man in love. It helped that he also tossed an obscene amount of carnation flowers into the audience towards the end of the anthology. The flowers were then delightfully dispersed by the audience members who took one and passed the rest. In truth, it was a perfect ending. Who doesn’t love flowers on a first date? But will there be a second date?  For me, yes -the love story is far from over. This budding company has a bright imagination and sense of honest vulnerability that is refreshing and keeps you guessing. It was truly a lovely evening for TWO.

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