Modern dance isn’t modern anymore. Audiences last weekend could see just how far we’ve come in 50 years as current works in the performance art and contemporary dance modes faced off with an historic revival of L.A. choreographer, Bella Lewitzky. Her work Kinaesonata, a Merce Cunningham styled compound title drawing on root meanings for movement and sound and set against the propulsive 1950 Ginastera piano sonata, received a careful and beautifully made recreation by former Lewitzky company member, Walter Kennedy. Kennedy joined her company in the late 70s. Kinaesonata follows well-established patterns of modern dance with music from the classical zone and proprietary technique. Lewitzky finds a movement filled groove for the robust coming and going of nine dancers in a non-stop tour de force interrupted by a brief slow movement, in this performance, danced with moody calm by Janie Taylor. But there is also a generational divide here in the way it looks, and feels. The company doesn’t always carry this kind of old fashioned modernism in their pocket in quite the same way they do their contemporary repertory. A new recording of the music for the performance was played by Colburn School pianist, HyeJin Kim.
New to this program were Kora by Charm La’Donna, and Shannon Gillen’s Run from Me, which premiered last summer with LA Dance Project in another venue. Also on the program was a return of the Mast/Winokur collaboration Split Step from Program A. A mix of these pieces and two others by Artistic Director Benjamin Millepied will be part of a concert series in Paris beginning October 31st at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées before the festival resumes in L.A. in mid-November.
Run from Me summarizes something of a dystopic vision in which the four dancers run not only from relationships but also themselves. The Friday evening performance seemed even more dangerous, bleaker and physically riskier in the small studio theater than when I had last seen it in a full size theater. Characterized by Gillen’s flinging, physically edgy and often chaotic hyper-dance, Run from Me emerged as a polar opposite to Kinaesonata’s cool, formal shapes and calculated moves. Here is what happens when you throw away established dance language and start from scratch, a history free dance written on four bodies and the unpredictable ricocheting impulses at hand. Especially impressive in this work were Rachelle Rafailedes and Daisy Jacobson, and no more so than in the fierce two woman duo early in the piece.
Kora by Charm La’Donna proved a vague assembly of African and American parts in its backing score of Malian instrumental music for the kora and a set of three large rolling panels with domestic scenes reminiscent of the paintings of South Central L.A. artist, Kerry James Marshall. The set pieces were by Nigerian born artist, Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Kora is divided into two sections with part two moving away from a traditional sound toward a more jazzy feeling. It remained unclear though how the cast of eight dancers fit together or what the contexts, narrative or personal, binding them might be.
Returning in a performance with a new cast, Split Step felt slightly diminished from when I first saw it. Minus two of the company’s powerhouse dancers Rafailedes and especially David Adrian Freeland Jr., this performance looked like it was still finding its legs. It’s a good reminder about how individual performances can profoundly affect the impact of an ensemble work like Split Step.
Program A and B return this Friday and Saturday. See the LADP website for tickets and information.
Main photo: Kinaesonata © Josh Rose