Dance Reviews By Jeff Slayton


The Music Center

Moves After Dark

July 20, 2015


The Music Center Launches Moves After Dark – Unable to attend opening night of Moves After Dark at the Los Angeles Music Center, I went a week later to the July 20, 2015 performance. As I picked up my ticket at the Will Call table in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, I was given a yellow wristband and told to meet my group in a designated area at around 8:15 pm. I looked around to see other audience members also wearing bands and learned that there were three groups; A, B and C. Each group was instructed to stay together. My group; I’ll call it the “yellow group” was led by three very nice staff members to four specific performance areas around the Music Center and the Walt Disney Music Hall.

The Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance Series has been sponsoring dance for several years, but this was a new adventure for the organization that was spearheaded by Williams Niles, vice president of programming for The Music Center. As their press release stated, “The Music Center will ‘break down the walls’ of the conventional concert dance stage with The Music Center Presents Moves After Dark, a new site-specific series that juxtaposes contemporary dance performances with architecture and space.” This is hardly a new concept, but it is the launching of a new series for the Glorya Kaufman Present Dance at the Music Center. Four very talented, accomplished and award winning choreographers were featured on the program and I will review them in the order that my group, the “yellow group”, saw them. Notably, all four companies represented on this new series are headed by women.

At 8:30 pm our group was led into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Founder’s Room for the performance of Ate9 Dance Company – Kelev Lavan. Choreographed by six dancers who were also performing, these six short dances were coordinated, edited and created an “ongoing installation for each loop of the performance” by the company’s Artistic Director Danielle Agami. Agami was born in Israel and was a member of the Batsheeva Dance Company from 2002 to 2010. She was the Artistic Director of Batsheeva Dance Company for two years and received the Yair Shapira Prize for Excellence in Dance in 2009. A senior manager of Gaga U.S.A., a specialized dance training technique, Agami relocated to America in 2011. After living and working in New York City and Seattle, Washington, she moved her company to Los Angeles in 2013.

We were told to find a seat on the Founder’s Lounge numerous chairs and couches and then immediately instructed to change our seating by Agami barking out instructions through a bull horn. As I sat in my second seat and looked at the dancers sprawled out on a couch, I immediately thought of the 2013 Cosmopolitan Hotel Las Vegas commercial titled “Just the Right Amount of Wrong”. The dancers looked like spoiled rich people overindulging themselves in decadence. Two dancers wore dog collars attached by a thin chain; two were attached from one’s mouth to the other’s chin by what appeared to be some type of tape and the cast of seven were dressed in white semi-underwear apparel. Cards were stuck on different parts of each other’s body; food was fed to each other and the dog collars were exchanged to different dancers during the fifteen plus minutes performance. Dancers moved around, over and between furniture in the room; up on top of the long bar at one end and three dancers moved an audience member still seated in his chair from one area of the room to another. There were moments of wonderful “dancing”; solos, duets, etc., but much of the performance felt like self-indulgent improvisation. Perhaps that was the point; society’s self-indulgence. The one dancer who stood out for me was Micaela Taylor who performed an extraordinary solo down the center of the room. The other dancers included Ariana Daub, Sarah Butler, Thibaut Eiferman (the only male), Genna Moroni, Rebecah Goldstone and Danielle Agami. I looked up the Hebrew meaning of Kelev Lavan and what I came up with was “White Dog.” Seems fitting considering the white costumes and collars. (Costume Designer and Composer not listed in the Press Release.)

Our “Yellow Group” was led next to the pool area in front of the Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center for wade in el agua choreographed by Ana Maria Alvarez. Although Alvarez is the founder/artistic director of CONTRA-TIEMPO, the dancers in this work were not her current company members but it did include former ones. Sadly, for me, there was no listing of the dancers’ names in the press release. It did state, however, that Alvarez is “currently in the process of building Agua Furiosa” into an evening-long work for her company CONTRA-TIEMPO, which will “challenge audiences to confront the harsh realities of race and water in the United States.”

Alvarez is a Cuban-American choreographer who has received many awards including Mujeres Destacadas from La Opinión, the Durfee Foundation Artist Award and Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist’s in Progress Award. She has studied modern, Afro-Cuban (Folklorico) and Afro-Haitian techniques and formed CONTRA-TIEMP in 2005.

wade in el agua opened with the incredible Magaly “La Voz de Oro” singing live and later included text from Martin Luther King, Jr. speech, 1966 and from a letter written in 1854 by Chief Seattle (Si’ahl), recorded music by d. sabela grimes and Dramaturgy by Michael Garces. Magaly “La Voz de Oro”’s voice continued to enchant and haunt us throughout this piece of eight women performing beautiful stylized movements alongside pedestrian-like movements that expressed fear, anger and struggle. At one point a very noisy helicopter flew overhead and an image appeared before me of immigrants trying to hide from view while wading in the middle of a bordering river. The movements that these dancers executed were not easy in the shallow pond in front of the Mark Taper Forum. I am certain that they can dance more technically difficult dance phrases, but Alvarez’s choreography got her message across beautifully. The dancers were Jocelyn Adame, Stephanie Ballena, Leanna Bremond, Sarah Culberson, Jennie Gonzalez, Sandra Parra, Jocelyn Reyes and Maya Zellman.

Next the “Yellow Group” followed its leaders across Music Center Plaza, down some stairs and across the street to the exterior steps that lead into the Walt Disney Concert Hall to see the Lulu Washington Dance Theatre. The Los Angeles-based Lulu Washington Dance Theatre was founded in 1980 and has become one of the most admired and respected African American contemporary dance companies, not only in Los Angeles, but in the entire western United States. Message for My Peeps (The Message/Installation #5 – 2011) was choreographed by Associate Director Tamica Washington-Miller and according to Washington-Miller this work found its inception after the mortgage bubble burst in the United States in 2008 and after other struggles of the Black community were brought to light nationally. Her quote in the Press Release includes: “The things we thought were true were lies. People were killed over lies. People had had enough.”

Performed to music by Jimi Hendrix, Meshell Ndegeocello, Nas & Damian and Yo-Yo Ma; a poem by Jennifer Bowens, as well as a video designed by New Media Imaging, Message for My Peeps is about far more serious issues than homes in foreclosure. It is about the struggles of minorities, black men and the hope of a better future for the younger, particularly the Black generations to follow. Our first image is of a beautiful young girl sitting on the stairs looking forward. She is soon joined by an angel-like figure and through a pantomime of loving gestures the child is given guidance and, I feel, wisdom learned from the past to help her design a better path forward. The entire cast of the Lulu Washington Dance Theatre performed magnificently navigating the stairs and railings. It is a powerful company of dancers and the section that we were treated to on Monday night makes this reviewer want to see more of Washington-Miller’s work. It is full of drama, black struggles, despair, turmoil and hope; the latter being what we were left with. Hope for all.

Back to The Music Center Plaza, we were directed to stand around three sides of a large, wooden and brightly lit yellow sculpture by Gustavo Godoy, a Los Angeles artist who received his MFA from Vermont College. All three groups (yellow, orange and green) converged for this final performance of the night titled Restructure choreographed by Victor Quijada for BODYTRAFFIC. Quijada has worked with acclaimed companies such as THARP!, Ballet Tech, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal; and created his own dance company, Rubberband Dance Group, in 2002.

BODYTRAFFIC, founded in 2007, is led by Artistic Directors Lillian Barbeito and Tina Berkett. Restructure was Co-commission by The Music Center and Dance Camera West. Hailed by The Joyce Theater Foundation as “the company of the future” and listed in Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch in 2013, the company is highly regarded here and internationally. Frankly, after all this hype, I was very disappointed in the section of the work that was presented on this series. Yes, the sculpture is beautiful! Yes, the dancers are highly trained and accomplished performers. But much of the first three or four minutes of this dance was spent watching the performers creep around the sculpture seemingly searching for something that intrigued and/or frightened them. The cast then ran around and climbed in and out of the tangled, maze-like sculpture pushing and pulling each other on different levels of the structure. The highlight was a beautiful, if somewhat manipulative duet on the center “platform” of Godoy’s sculpture which worked well with the powerful score by Jasper Gahunia. I look forward to hearing more of his work. AT the end of this work, however, I was left with a feeling of being let down or cheated. The three other works on this night felt complete, even when they were excerpts or a section of a larger dance work. It felt like the audience had been given a guided tour of the sculpture, but I did not see the point of the dance. Perhaps Restructure must be seen in its entirety.

Moves After Dark was a fantastic concept by Williams Niles and I hope that it becomes an annual event at the Music Center. What we were treated to was definitely a dynamic debut flight. A big bravo goes out to The Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance, the four choreographers and to all the dancers, designers and composers for a wonderful evening. Thanks also to our lovely staff guides!

 Jeff Slayton, July 2015

C. Eule Dance Presents their West Coast Debut

Summer Soirée

MiModDa Dance Theater in Los Angeles
June 29, 2015


Appearing at the beautiful MiModDa Dance Theater on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, C. Eule Dance made its west coast debut in Summer Soirée: An Evening of Dance and Live Music. C. Eule Dance relocated to Los Angeles in 2014 after being based in New York City for 13 years. It is billed as a contemporary dance company fusing classical modern dance, ballet, gymnastics and traditional dance from all over the globe. It was refreshing to see dance performed to live music, and to have the musicians integrated into the choreography. There was some recorded music, but most of the works presented were accompanied onstage by musicians.

Instead of an intermission or lengthy pauses between dances, the hour long concert included two musical interludes. The first was a wonderful performance by violinist Annette Homann and pianist Dmitri Koval of Shigeru Umebayash’s Yumeji’s Theme. The second piece was A Summer’s Spell composed and performed by cellist Noah Hoffeld. This latter work involved an electronic device that instantly recorded Hoffeld’s music, played it back and by the end made it seem like we were listening to three or four cellists performing. It was a moving and somewhat haunting work.

I think that it is safe to say that Caron Eule is a romantic. Her work is filled with lyrical movement, love, flirtation and romance. It was never unclear what each piece was about and involved very little abstract movement. Nocturne (2005) opened with pianist Koval and three dancers, Rachele Donofrio, Jessica Gadzinski and Annalee Traylor sitting on the piano bench together. As he performed, the women moved around Koval on the bench and then danced away from the piano with lovely lyrical movements that reflected Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne No.13 in C Minor, Op. 48, No.1. It was good to see three strong dancers reacting with a musician, but other than that, the dance brought nothing new.

Jazz Tunes of the 20’s (2006) was a Broadway/revue-like work about three men vying for the affection of one woman. It was well danced by Rachele Donofrio, Luis Martinez, William Clayton and Adam Zivkovic to recorded music of different tunes but this work was sophomoric and totally unmemorable. Turning Tides (LA Premier) is a pretty dance with Christopher Bordenave, Jessica Gadzinski and Kate Coleman. They are joined onstage by violist Annette Homann and cellist Hoffeld performing Homann’s composition Moonshine Feelings. The highlight of this work is when Homann is surrounded by three dancers and continues to play and move sharply towards and around the dancers. Skyfall (Los Angeles Premier) is an interesting work by Adam Zivkovic for dancer and musician. Ms. Homann deserves special mention for her performing and partnering moves with Zivkovic while never missing a single note of music on her violin.

Dance of the Penguins (2014), costumed in black and white by Designer Arturo Vera reflects the “social life of penguins”. It opens with a strong solo performed beautifully by Jessica Gadzinski and then expands into a group dance that includes a “trio” between a loving pair of penguins and their un-hatched egg. The egg never hatches, but is simply carried offstage. I did recognize various groupings of dancers that reflected videos of penguins living in the wild. Annalee Traylor stands out in this section. She is a very powerful dancer and performer whose dancing I have enjoyed in works by other L.A. choreographers.

Arturo Vera is an excellent designer of costumes for dance. His designs complement and enhance each dance work; they fit the dancers’ bodies and, when required, the material moves beautifully. Eule is lucky to have found him.

I can not say the same of Ariana Burrell’s lighting. I have performed in and seen lighting designs for small, intimate spaces for many years and I fully realize the challenge in lighting such spaces. It is tricky, but it can be done and done well. Often during this performance dancers were dancing in the dark when it was not necessary or instructed by the choreographer. Also, there was a horribly loud buzzing that occurred during the entire evening when a particular light cue began. Stating that it was distracting is putting it mildly. Was it not possible to fix this before the evening began?

I went to this concert with an open mind and wanting to welcome C. Eule Dance to Los Angeles with a glowing review. I must be honest; however, and state that the work is mediocre at best. The majority of the dancers are excellent and the live music is a plus, but the choreography is unmemorable. It is not horrible or embarrassing, but after running a company for more than 14 years, this choreographer should be further along. Eule’s work does not go beyond being well constructed. Perhaps by expanding into other subject matters or focusing on fewer dance styles, Eule would challenge herself in becoming a stronger artist.

 Jeff Slayton, June 2015

The Union Project Dance Company

Open rehearsal

The Dance Conservatory, Pasadena, California
June 25, 2015


Nestled in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Jacob’s Pillow is one for the most respected dance festivals in America. It was founded by Ted Shawn in the 1940s and has been going strong ever since. Clive Barnes of the New York Times wrote “Shawn did not merely enrich American dance – He was one of the people who created it.” Each year hundreds of dancers from all over the world travel there to study dance and to see major dance companies perform; often premiering new works.

To be invited to perform at Jacob’s Pillow is an honor. Smaller, more unknown companies go through a rigorous selection process that includes many applicants and only a few are selected. The Union Project Dance Company lead by Artistic Director and Choreographer Mariana Oliveira is one of those dance companies chosen for the 2015 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. The company will perform on July 9th on the Inside/Out stage; the first LA based company to perform in this space since 2009. Here, I am reviewing an open rehearsal of the program that will be presented at “The Pillow”. This took place at the beautiful Dance Conservatory in Pasadena, CA. in a wonderfully spacious studio. Personally, I love seeing dance in the studio because if the choreography can not stand on its own in rehearsal, it will most likely not hold up onstage.

Fearing the Unknown (2013) is a powerful and “dark” work performed by eight very strong dancers, Trevor Downey, Heidi Buehler, Zsolt Banki, Annalee Traylor, Carolyn Pampalone, Nia-Amina Minor, Megan McCarthy, and Micaela DePauli. The driving and dramatic music for Fearing the Unknown is an original score by Music Director Michael O. Hurwitz. This work was by far the strongest shown today. It is full of powerful images and inventive lifts that help get across Ms. Oliveira’s images of “….having a conversation with death.” This work demands that the dancers have a solid technique, stamina, a constant focus on detail and the ability to totally immerse themselves in the dance. This current cast lives up to those demands. Ms. Oliveira proves to be an excellent director by getting her dancers to trust her choreography to provide them with the emotion she wants. I was not as impressed with the costumes, however, but perhaps they will read better onstage.

Mirror in a Mirror (2015) with music by Arvo Pärt is a somewhat melodramatic solo performed by principal dancer Chad Ortiz. Mr. Ortiz is a strong performer, but the choreography requires him to emote, laugh, cry and to speak. Once again a dancer is required to talk onstage without the proper training to project in order to be understood. I was sitting only a few feet from this performer and I could not make out much of what he was saying. We were told that Mirror in a Mirror is about a man reflecting on his past as he nears the end of his life. This reviewer could have done without the emotions being forced upon me. Here I believe that Ms. Oliveira did not allow her choreography to rule, but depended on gestures and facial expressions to make her point.

W.S. (2014) is set to music by Murcof, Michael O. Hurwitz, Alfred Deller, Readings of Sonnet 81, Hamlet “To be or not to be”, and the Romeo and Juliet balcony speech. It is performed by Trevor Downey, Heidi Buehler, Chad Ortiz, Mathew D’Amico, Zsolt Banki, Annalee Traylor, Carolyn Pampalone, Nia-Amina Minor, Megan McCarthy, and Micaela DePauli with costumes by Piece of Eight Costumes, CitiPark Runway, Adriana Oliveira, and Silvana Oliveira. The company’s PR states that W.S. was created for the celebration of the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare. It is very well crafted, beautifully performed, but it follows the text almost to a fault. It is, however, easy on the eye.

If what I saw today is typical of Oliveira’s repertoire, she delves into the human psyche, and by her own admission, addresses the mysteries of death. I would go see The Union Project Dance Company perform again because the dancers are talented professionals and I believe that Mariana Oliveira is a choreographer to be watched. Her talent is strong and I hope that she listens to her muses more often as she did while creating Fearing the Unknown. I am certain that the company will be well received at “The Pillow”.

 Jeff Slayton, June 2015

Los Angeles Ballet Presents Directors’ Choice

Master Works of the 20th Century

At Royce Hall, UCLA
June 6, 2015


The Los Angeles Ballet is approaching its 10th year and ended this season with three master works by choreographers George Balanchine, José Limón and Jiri Kylián. The company has grown since making its Los Angeles debut, and the dancers have become stronger; a testament to Artistic Directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary. This reviewer hopes that in the near future the company will be able to afford live music for its productions; especially for the more classical ballets. This, of course, speaks to the issue of the need for more local support in Los Angeles for its artists and dance companies. I would also like to see the Los Angeles Ballet produce the works of more current and, dare I say, local choreographers.

George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 is a beautiful ballet and much of the choreography is deceptively simple looking. It appears easy to accomplish, but in reality, the simplest of movement is the most difficult to execute. The dancers in this work deserve credit for their hard work in order to provide this illusion. Principal ballerina Allynne Noelle, who danced her last performance with the Los Angeles Ballet excelled in her role and charmed us all with her radiance. One hopes that this is not the end of her career and that we will get to see her dance in other venues.

At times, however, the Royce Hall stage appeared too small for the entire ensemble of this Balanchine work; a total of thirty dancers. Perhaps this is why the corps de ballet often appeared somewhat under-rehearsed and lines that were meant to be straight were not. There was one moment when the men on stage left were truly off the music; something that is a sacrilege in the realm of George Balanchine performances. People around me were quietly commenting on the squeaking noise produced by the dancers’ shoes. I later learned that this was not the company’s dance floor, but that it belonged to Royce Hall. One hopes that next time the company will spend the extra money to eliminate this problem.

The Moor’s Pavane was first performed by the José Limón Dance Company in 1949 at the Connecticut College American Dance Festival, and it has endured the test of time. It is a work that I have seen videos of, heard former Limón Company member Betty Jones relate stories about, and I listened to my mentors sing its praise since the late 1960s. This production, directed and reconstructed by Alice Condodina, a former principal dancer under the directorship of José Limón was a brave effort, but one which was flawed due to the performers. It is difficult for ballet companies to perform certain modern dance choreography and three of the four dancers fell short their goal. Zheng Hua Li, is a very strong and capable dancer, but totally miscast in the role of The Moor. He lacked the strength and authority required for this role and often focused on “the steps” rather than the man he was portraying. As the Moor’s friend, Erik Thordal-Christensen was very weak technically and he often over emoted with his acting. Bianca Bulle was far too delicate in the role of the Moor’s wife and her performance did not reach to where I was sitting in the balcony. Allyssa Bross, on the other hand, was breathtaking in her performance as the wife of the Moor’s friend. Ms. Bross understands the weight, the connection to the floor and other movement qualities necessary in performing Limón’s choreography. I was very pleased at the wonderful reception and long lasting applause that The Moor’s Pavane received from the L.A. audience, but I personally do not think that it is not a good fit for this company.

Sechs Tänze (Six Dances) is a humorous and cleverly crafted work that leaves one smiling and wishing for more. I was, at first, put off by the seemingly “slap stick” quality of the movement, but thankfully that ended almost immediately. The entire cast of Sechs Tänze deserves mention for their rapid dancing, their acting and their articulate performance of Jiri Kylián’s choreography. Timings are crucial in this work filled with props and moving floors and the dancers performed them brilliantly. I wish that I had the space to mention every single dancer, but what I can say is; go see this dance. One performer who deserves special mention is Christopher McDaniel who is also leaving the company after five years. His dancing and his acute comic timing in Sechs Tänze will be missed. I would be remiss if I did not give a special bravo to the Light Design (realization) by Joop Caboort, the Technical Adaptation by Joost Biegelaar, Costumes by Joke Visser, and crucially, the staging by Fiona Lummis and Glen Eddy whose amazing work made this dance such a triumph.

A word to the Directors of the Los Angeles Ballet: I understand and appreciate the need for fund raising at performances, but there are better methods of doing so. As a dancer, what disturbed me most was the use of several company members (in full costume and make up from Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2) were asked to stand in the lobbies during intermissions and after the performance holding baskets for donors to drop off their contribution envelopes. This was unprofessional and demeaning to your performers and bought a new meaning to the phrase “dancing for ones supper.” I suggest that next time, use volunteers dressed in black with red carnations to perform this service.

 Jeff Slayton, June 2015

SZalt Presents


Saturday May 23 & 24, 2015


HNYPT LA is a wonderful space in downtown Los Angeles and Stephanie Zaletel took full advantage of it in her hour long work F L W R S on May 23 & 24, 2015. Zaletel and her amazing all female company of dancers took us through a range of charged, tense and tender emotions that left this viewer on the edge of his seat, thoroughly engaged and somewhat exhausted in the best possible way. As a dancer, I felt that I had not only viewed but experienced every movement and ventured through every emotion as it was performed.

Zaletel completed her BFA in Dance Performance/Choreography at California Institute of the Arts in 2012 and went on to perform with several groups including Ate9 dANCEcOMPANY. She has had an extensive choreographic career for someone so young, presenting her creative work at REDCAT, ARC (Pasadena), Highways and many other venues in the Los Angeles area. Her work has also been performed in the Benicassim Festival in Spain.

Alex Gaines’ Lighting and Set Design for F L W R S is stark, yet adds a strong sense of architecture, ambience and familiarity. It is minimal, yet somehow lush. There’s a television showing mainly static in one corner of the performance space; the frame only of a dressing room in another, and windows in the remaining two corners. The dancers view the TV, dress and undress in the room, and sit and view the world passing in front of them through the Colonial style like windows. The music by Louis Lopez, Ariel Pink and Gal Costa helps guide us through Ms. Zaletel’s condensed and “not-so-chronological feminine development”.

F L W R S is divided into five sections, g r w t h, l v, s x, d t h, and c l b r t n. As with the work’s title, one only has to insert the vowels for the words to appear as one normally sees them written, i.e. F L W R S = FLOWERS, etc. Each section features a different dancer, yet the entire ensemble is actively included. The opening section g r w t h features the strong, yet vulnerable Lindsey Lollie who my eyes insisted on following the entire evening. l v features the shy but forceful Jordan Saenz; s x the somewhat withdrawn by sensual Julia Planine-Troiani; d t h the very feminine, yet demanding-to-be-heard Stephanie Zaletel and the voluptuous and playful Alyssa Alden in c l b r t n. There was a brief appearance by two male stage crew who wheeled in an oversized cable spool to act as the performance platform Ms. Planine-Troiani in s x.

Each section of F L W R S is different in feeling, yet similar in the use of every single body part of each dancer; including eyes, mouth, tongue and voice. The control these five women demonstrate in isolating each one of these parts is extraordinary. One does not, however, see their technique. One feels the movement and the emotions behind it. These women are capable of undulating like octopi as well as holding an extension or arabesque with the best of them. They move as individuals and execute amazing unison ability; unison which is only used in the best way choreographically. Zaletel only uses this choreographic element when she wants to bring the audience’s attention where she demands it to be.

One criticism of Stephanie Zaletel’s choreography is that some of it borders on becoming self-indulgent. In F L W R S this aspect is most apparent in the final section c l b r t n. At first I was amused, but in the end I was relieved when it was over. I’m hopeful that Ms. Zaletel will learn to reign in the over-state message. She is a very talented choreographer and I am sure that if she listens to her muses, she will triumph.

I confess that I have not seen many choreographic works which are influenced by the gaga movement language, but from the creations that I have seen presented by Stephanie Zaletel and Danielle Agami, I certainly hope to see more. Dance and Theater are brought together to provide those of us in the audience with an intelligent and moving experience.

 Jeff Slayton, May 2015

Review of Clairobscur Dance Company

Memory Lapse

Diavolo Performance Space
Saturday April 25, 2015


Laurie Sefton is one of Los Angeles’s finest and strongest choreographers. Looking at her background and the different styles of dance that she has studied, one of the things that I find most valuable is that Sefton has found her own voice as a choreographer. Of course, one can see remnants of her dance training, but her movement style is her own; and that in a sea of Release Technique look-a-likes, is so very refreshing and rewarding.

Werk Work (2014) had its Los Angeles premiere and it is a short, fun dance full of everyday gestures used by many in the modern day work force. I will admit that audience participation is not one of my favorite elements in dance, and when the dancers began using facial expressions and connecting with the audience, I had a sinking feeling that the dance was going to be “cute”. Not at all! The entire idea came into focus very quickly and I found myself totally engaged. Werk Work is a whimsical commentary on our current obsession with multi-tasking and rushing through life. Ruth Fentroy and Laurie Sefton’s costume design for this piece is perfect, but I was bothered that the dancers’ pants did not fit. A little alteration could change this and someone such as me would not have to focus on it or worry if the dancers were having trouble accomplishing the movement.

Obviam Somes (2011) is a challenging work, both for the dancers and for the audience. Every minute of the dance is packed full of movement; leaving this observer somewhat fatigued. The music score by Vitamin String Quartet, Michael Galasso, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Jonny Greenwood, Gotan Project is strong, powerful and perfect for this dance. It is music that made my choreographic mind sit up and cheer. Ms. Sefton, who is an extremely musical choreographer, seems to have fallen into the trap of filling up every second with movement. Sometimes I longed to feast upon a certain dancer or movement, but was abruptly sent sailing on to the next one.

During an interview in the 1970s, Viola Farber once said that she did not believe in the use of the word transitions in dance. To quote her, “Giving power to transitions is like saying that Tuesday is a transition between Monday and Wednesday; making Tuesday less important.” In Obviam Somes I felt that we were sometimes taken from Monday to Thursday without a reason why. Much of what I felt about this, I believe, could be fixed with intricate coaching for the dancers’ “transitions” from one movement phrase or visual cue to the next.

The visual effect for Obviam Somes; a film/video by Erik Lohr, was powerful and helped us to understand Sefton’s intent. I, for one, also loved the costume design by Claire Townsend which was inspired by hospital gowns that the majority of us have had to wear at least once in our lives. Both Lohr and Townsend helped us enter into the uncomfortable realm of being hospitalized and enduring surgery.

We were then treated to the highlight of the evening and, for this audience member, my best dance experience for 2015. Memory Lapse (2015) is a gem of a work and the dancers were more than outstanding. Also, Sefton found stillness in this amazing work. She seemed to recognize the power which stillness can bring about not only to enhance emotion, but how it can bring contrast to one’s work!

Memory Lapse is about just that; losing our memory and all that it causes in a person and those that love them. My family has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease over three generations, so I connected directly with this work. Ms. Sefton’s use of hand, arm and subtle facial gestures is brilliantly incorporated into the movement. As stated above, all four dancers in Memory Lapse are incredible. They were Damien Diaz, Megan Pulfer, Annalee Traylor, and Genevieve Zander. Each brought her or his own personality to this work in a truly professional and artistic way, which speaks volumes to Sefton’s coaching and directing abilities.

I was especially moved by the two solos and one duet in this piece. The brilliant Megan Pulfer whose extraordinary technique should be the envy of every dancer in this area, brought not only power to the feeling of anger and struggle dealing with memory loss, but one felt the emotional struggle as well. Ms. Pulfer may be my new favorite dancer in Los Angeles! Right behind her is Genevieve Zander, a very strong technician and who showed us the more tender side of not only losing memory of things past, but also the loss of one’s physical beauties. The duet with Zander and Damien Diaz reminded me of so many couples that I have witnessed who go through the pain of a watching a loved one go through Alzheimer’s or senility. The duet showed us those almost tragic moments when the one afflicted with a loss of self has an all too brief moment of remembrance and recognition. I was brought close to tears by this duet.

A special mention needs to go out to the Lighting Designer, Stacie O’Hara, who managed to not only bring a different look to each dance, but to give each one its individual realm and atmosphere. Ms. O’Hara did this with what can only be called the minimum of lighting equipment. This is by no means a dig against Jacques Heim and his Diavolo Performance Space. Without this the two hundred or so of us over two nights would not have been able to see Laurie Sefton’s beautiful artistry. Jacques Heim has turned his studio into a wonderful venue for dance, and many thanks and bravoes go out to him for doing so.

This evening of extraordinary choreography and dancing made it even clearer that Los Angeles desperately needs a theater that is affordable to small or emerging dance companies to show their work. Los Angeles is populated right now with strong choreographers and dancers. They are perhaps stronger than any I have seen in years. It is a disgrace and a negative statement to LA cultural leaders that these companies are financially forced to share an evening with several other companies to perform in a real theater, or to settle for alternate spaces that only seat 100 or less audience members at a time. It is also sad that none of the Los Angeles newspapers send critics to review these small companies. A news organization such as the Los Angeles Times should be supporting its local talent in all the arts.

The Clairobscur Dance Company deserves to be seen by large audiences, not only in LA, but throughout the US and beyond.

 Jeff Slayton, May 2015