Los Angeles Dance Review: MUSIC + DANCE L.A. II (American Contemporary Ballet)

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by Tony Frankel on August 27, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Along with the film industry, one of Los Angeles’ greatest entertainment assets is music. While theater, dance, opera, and other mediums continually attempt to match world-class cities such as New York, Chicago, and those in Europe, music—especially classical music—is thriving. (This may well be due to the plethora of employment opportunities in the film industry, drawing great musicians who can American Contemporary Ballet's MUSIC + DANCE L.A. II - Tchaikovsky Piano Triomake a living as studio players here.) One of the reasons native Angelino Lincoln Jones relocated to L.A. in 2010 with his American Contemporary Ballet (ACB), which he formed in NYC, is the widening classical music scene.

According to their mission statement, ACB “creates and performs original contemporary classical ballets to live music, and creates opportunities for the public to engage with the art form intellectually and socially.” Establishing themselves with the power of a slow-moving tsunami, Jones and his muse Theresa Farrell (ACB’s associate director) have offered two programs in conjunction with the Da Camera Society, the L.A. institution which offers chamber music in historic sites.

Fred Astaire and Rita HayworthFirst, there is the DANCE+DESIGN series, which offers audiences the opportunity to understand ballet from the inside in a program led by Jones, and highlighted by live dance and music demonstrations. Last April at their home DanceSpace on Wilshire Blvd. (across from LACMA), a stunning program had Jones deconstruct two of Fred Astaire’s famous dance numbers: “I’m Old Fashioned” from You Were Never Lovelier and “Dancing in the Dark” from The Band Wagon. After Jones analyzed Astaire’s storytelling dance techniques down to the meaning behind a clenched fist, the ridiculously elegant Hungarian Zsolt Banki performed the role of Astaire, partnering with Cleo Magill as Rita Hayworth and Ms. Farrell as Cyd Charisse—all bedecked in sophisticated costumes matching those worn in the films. Watching Astaire’s sumptuous stylings accompanied by chamber music versions of the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer and Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz tunes, I got the uncanny feeling that ACB was the bright star on the horizon of L.A. dance.

Saguaro Piano Trio at American Contemporary Ballet's MUSIC + DANCE L.A. IIMy instinct was validated last week when ACB’s second program, MUSIC + DANCE L.A., offered chamber music and ballet in the same intimate setting. Jones’ first full-length work, a glorious Balanchine-like ballet, was set to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50 performed live by the Saguaro Trio (violinist Luanne Homzy, cellist Peter Myers, and guest pianist Régulo Martínez-Antón). The dancing is the kind of magnificent work I have come to expect from the Joffrey, ABT, and others. The pointe work and every leap, jeté, and relevé were magnificently executed with such freshness by the 11-member ensemble that the moves—although we’ve seen them before in ballet classes and classical ballet—seem to have been invented by Jones himself.

American Contemporary Ballet's MUSIC + DANCE L.A. IIThe plaintive 18-minute opening movement was an overture to Jones’ series of pas de deux and various groupings, synched with the Trio’s 10 variations, finale, and coda. This is truly one of the most difficult pieces that Tchaikovsky wrote for piano and Martínez-Antón’s performance—albeit a mite pedal-heavy—was astounding.

Alisha Brach and Colby Parsons were the leading couple, and Mate Szentes took on the tragic figure of death. All three were as graceful, lyrical, assured, classical, ecstatic, brooding, and uplifting as the music itself. But the most stunning aspect was the corps de ballet, eight women who moved with the proficiency one would associate with principals. Each was highly skilled in neck and head, legs, feet, torso, arms, and hands. Especially the hands. I was transfixed at the perfect synchronicity of the fingers as each dancer, whether in quartet or octet, lifted a central digit, matching each other as if they were porcelain figurines poured from the same mold. This is the type of graceful, strong symmetry one would expect from the Bolshoi. I really was quite impressed with these magnificent creatures: Rochelle Chang, Cleo Magill, Crystal Serrano, Carrie Ruth Trumbo, Lydia Relle, Lauryn Winterhalder, Anaïs Blake and Ms. Farrell.

An added treat following the one-hour sold-out events was a catered social with finger food, wine, and live jazz. Based on Jones’ presentations so far, he’s just as serious about music as he is about dance. It may be due to this that he has inadvertently begun an enterprise which promises to be Los Angeles’ homegrown world-class ballet company.

American Contemporary Ballet's MUSIC + DANCE L.A. II.

photos by Anastasia Petukhova

Music + Dance: L.A. II
American Contemporary Ballet
in association with the Da Camera Society
ACB DanceSpace, 5900 Wilshire Blvd.
ended on August 17, 2014
for future events, call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.AmericanContemporaryBallet.org

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