Los Angeles Dance Review: HUBBARD STREET DANCE & ALONZO KING LINES BALLET (Dorothy Chandler)

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by Tony Frankel on June 21, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

LITTLE MORTAL JUMP TURNS OUT TO BE THE BIGGEST THING OF THE NIGHT

The lineup at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion begins with the respected and always impressive Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as they converge with the San Francisco-based Alonzo King LINES Ballet. When combined, the crowd-control extravaganza which closes the program, Azimuth, features a sprawling expanse of 28 dancers (12 from LINES, 16 from HSDC). But this headliner, the only one for which production photos were sent, is not even close to being the best of the evening. The event’s three-piece package, Azimuth, Scheherazade (LINES) and Little mortal jump Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King LINES Gloya Kaufman Dance at the Dorothy Chandler, Music Center LA(HSDC), contain the kind of dancing that is more about kinesthesia – the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints – than storytelling choreography.

This progressive collaboration, presented by Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, opens with the LINES Ballet’s offering, Scheherazade (2009), an exotic set of dances by founder Alonzo King to a tabla-music score by Zakir Hussain (after music by Rimsky-Korsakov, and recorded by Hussain and Kala Ramnath). The composer coupled Western instruments with the Persian daf, daira, ney and tombak with sensual and moving results. Don’t expect Arabian Nights stories spelled out for you, as they’ve almost all been distanced away; what’s left is a continual feel of Oriental moodiness, luxurious and sensual, with everyone enchantingly ostentatious; the men’s sarongs are an especially Eastern touch (costumes by Colleen Quen and Robert Rosenwasser).

The ballet does begin with the story that starts the 1001 tales, but that’s it. The rest is kinesthetic aesthetics, but gorgeously so. The storyteller Scheherazade (Kara Wilkes) and Shahryar (David Harvey), the King who listens to her, do have a winning pas de deux that has them battling all about the stage, but sometimes it’s difficult to discern when one of the eight pieces stops and another begins. But the dancers live up to the title of their company by creating extraordinary lines of movement and reaching. Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King LINES Gloya Kaufman Dance at the Dorothy Chandler, Music Center LAFrom toe shoe (the women are en pointe) to fingertips, LINES understands the clout of powerful and graceful hand work.

The choreography is mysterious with ritualistic movement that resembles a tribal harvest celebration from the early 18th century, as well as steps that could have come from the frieze of a Hindu temple. This complex creation is enacted before a honeycomb backdrop while textured fabric drips from the flyspace above (set design by Mr. Rosenwasser). Lighting Designer Axel Morgenthaler never floods the bare stage, but offers shimmering images and subtle front lighting. Filled with fleshy, erotic comingling that references Kama Sutra imagery, Scheherazade teems with mating and mimicry that’s hypnotic and contagious. The leg extensions from Ashley Jackson and Caroline Rocher in particular, seem timeless as well as technical and give it the grace of a hidden ceremony.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s contribution of their ever-popular Little mortal jump is an equally probing work, this one for ten dancers. Dimly lit by Michael Korsch, an eclectic score from various artists has been amassed that is so amazing, it should be packaged into its own CD (Desplat, Glass, Richter and Tom Waits are among the aural collection). Featuring rotating black cubes – to which the dancers can stick to Velcro-like – or a cryptic door through which the men are briefly glimpsed (set by Alejandro Cerrudo), this playful and endlessly inventive piece is Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King LINES Gloya Kaufman Dance at the Dorothy Chandler, Music Center LArich with enigmatic moments of unexplained convergences – both between the dancers and between the styles, which are diverse as Klesmer-style vaudeville and rap funk. The pieces are alternately whimsical, romantic and classical.

A tribute to the power of friction to create new combinations (and new geometric shapes courtesy of the elongated and funky arm gestures), Cerrudo’s choreography is taut with rapid-fire twists and frantic break-out group explosions. An especially effective pas de deux employed a stop motion technique, lit from the side. As for the look..? The girls’ outfits by Branimira Ivanova are a little tough to pin down, but the boys’ appear like stable hands from a Merchant/Ivory film. This piece was clearly the most popular of the night with the crowd.

Finally, and least successfully, the troupes join their considerable forces in the recently debuted, hit-and-miss Azimuth, King’s overlong and rather cluttered set of nine dances to original music by Ben Juodvalkis. Teeming with writhing and group spasms, the pieces include such bizarre and overly abstract moments as a woman walking on men’s backs (for reasons the movements can’t divulge) and a sudden Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King LINES Gloya Kaufman Dance at the Dorothy Chandler, Music Center LArunning in circles. The smaller scenes, no question, nicely blend immediacy and intimacy.

But the larger ones? It would be kind to call these Hieronymus Bosch-like group scenes deliberately imprecise, but they never feel calculated. Admittedly, it’s hard to move 56 feet and as many arms in tandem. Yet anything less can’t pass for or look like a concept — it just seems ragged, sloppy and lethally loose; not natural, but clumsily improvised and utterly arbitrary. It’s hard to find — and finally not worth the looking – an overarching design in a congregation of do-it-yourself dancers in quest of choreography. Admittedly, King is investigation the navigation of space, but the thrill of seeing 28 barely clothed bodies in close movement wears thin when it all looks underrehearsed. As underwhelming as Azimuth is, the two that precede it more than make up for it.

Tony Frankel's Stage and Cinema review of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alonzo King LINES Gloya Kaufman Dance at the Dorothy Chandler, Music Center LA

Azimuth photos by Margo Moritz

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago & Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Scheherazade / LINES Ballet c. Alonzo King
Little mortal jump / Hubbard Street Dance Chicago c. Alejandro Cerrudo
Azimuth / Hubbard Street + LINES Ballet c. Alonzo King

Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
scheduled to end on June 23, 2013
for tickets, visit http://www.musiccenter.org

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