Los Angeles Dance Review: THE MISSING MOUNTAIN (L.A. Dance Project)

Post image for Los Angeles Dance Review: THE MISSING MOUNTAIN (L.A. Dance Project)

by William Keiser on October 14, 2023

in Dance,Theater-Los Angeles


Performers romp through a mist-filled space,
trying to
be mountains in this continuous dance performance.

At the start of L.A. Dance Project’s The Missing Mountain by L.A. Dance Project choreographic Artists-in-Residence Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, is the sound. As the audience enters the theater, we are engulfed in Yonatan Daskal‘s soundscape: a steady mechanical thrum, beating in our ears like the inside of an engine room. Onstage is a vast red carpet spread under a canopy of artificial fog, pierced by the contours of a few old-timey props (a wooden table, an upright piano, a beat-up couch.) Dancers sit at the edges, keeping still. The tableau is a timeless, placeless cabaret; here, a glass eyeball or pool of blood would feel not at all out of place, though laughter would become macabre on contact with the air. If the production elements could speak, they would say: it was a dark and stormy night.

Daphne Fernberger

Daphne Fernberger emerges holding a bushel of wheat which obscures her face. She skitters across the stage, two feet at a time. In the ensuing hour, her movement style, which alternates between sensual and spasmodic, is reflected in the other dancers. They perform solos and duets, sometimes punctuated with speech – dancer Shu Kinouchi recites the lyrics of a Japanese children’s song while ripping paper, for example, and Jeremy Coachman challenges Courtney Conovan to “be a mountain.” A memorable sequence features the whole company running around the wooden table at the front of the carpet, closest to the audience, then gyrating atop it, a game of manic musical chairs. There is no explicit story, though they sometimes speak, but one superimposes a theme on the movement and music: a collection of souls locked in liminal space. At the dénouement, a dancer pulls back a black curtain, revealing an enormous painted mural of a mountain on the wall. At the end, they leave one by one, exiting into the space behind the stage.

Courtney Conovan, Shu Kinouchi and Daphne Fernberger

The movement in the show is best labeled as a form of contemporary dance descended from that of Ohad Naharin, the Israeli choreographer who revitalized Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company and defined an international movement language, “gaga” (no relation to Lady). Smith and Schraiber are Batsheva alums who left the company together. The mise-en-scène seems to be grafted from the popular NYC immersive production Sleep No More, its melodrama lifted from the production’s dark angst without its accompanying story elements. This author is biased; I trained with Smith and Schraiber at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance before it closed, and the two changed my life irrevocably with their brand of mysticism and athleticism. To watch the two of them dance, separately or together, is to be impossibly spellbound by their superhuman attention and skill. I could see the imprint of Bobbi in almost all of the female dancers’ steps, and Or’s in the muscular duet between two men. However, having seen the original, these dancers could succeed only as meager imitations, with the exception of Lorrin Brubaker, who leads the other dancers in raw physicality and intricate internality. The choreography doesn’t satisfy the requirements of originality, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable evening and an immersive experience that I would recommend having.

 Daphne Fernberger and Lorrin Brubaker


photos by Josh Rose

Courtney Conovan and Hope Spears (behind couch)

The Missing Mountain
L.A.D.P., 2245 E Washington Blvd. in DTLA
played September 14-30, 2023
performances resume November 16-18, 2023
for tickets ($25-$45) visit LADP

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