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Luminario Ballet's The Last Supper Devilishly Good

by Joanne Zimbler
April 15, 2017
Fais Do Do
5257 W Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 931-4636

Featured Dance Company:

Luminario Ballet
Luminario Ballet (office)
PO Box 252122
Los Angeles, CA 90025
818-395-6506
www.luminarioballet.org

If you forgot to go to church this past Easter weekend, you might be forgiven if you’d attended Luminario Ballet’s performance of The Last Supper which was had all the energy and fervor of a religious tent revival. That, or you may be accused of heresy for attending a witches coven, as the fusion of dance, acrobatics, and aerial performances was so outrageously gorgeous and gravity defying that one might be inclined to believe that it actually was borne of some unholy black magic - if not a blessed miracle.

Luminario director Judith FLEX Helle’s idea for this performance seems to perhaps have been a product of desert wanderings, a holy vision introducing the Sinai desert to the Mojave by innovatively setting The Last Supper at The Coachella Music Festival. Helle has dared to ask the question (in the work's program book) - "What if Jesus, Judas, and Mary were just some kooky Jewish rock 'n' roll kids who went to Coachella?" As it turns out, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, as well as a moving meditation on many issues currently challenging our country including persecution, bullying, immigration and individuality, just to name a few.

With a riot of movement and a generous helping of irreverence, Jamal Story’s “Jesus” exploded onto the stage acrobatically leaping into the middle of a scene replete with dancers smoking and wearing "pussy hats" (the knit caps made famous by the Women’s March of 2017) that set a political tone, all to the catchy tune “I’m Too Sexy” by 90’s band Right Said Fred. This Christ and divine crew were indeed way too sexy posing, preening, and strutting their stuff as if trying to impress each other, then coupling up into four groups to perform synchronized pas de deux. They often moved together as a group, a coalition of bodies, signifying the apostles’ brief unity (before its ultimate destruction and birth of a religion). The fluency of movement endemic to Luminario was on full display in this piece with its melange of ballet, acrobatics, modern, and contemporary dance. Two of the female dancers working en pointe thematically reflected the marriage of classical and modern dance styles.

Just as the first piece began with a thunderbolt, the second piece jarred as well with it’s sudden departure from cutesy flirtation into flat out debauchery in “Sinners”. Clothes were suddenly shed as Hell was invoked with Nirvana’s cover of The Meat Puppets' “Lake of Fire”. Coquetry became burlesque; lingerie was revealed. As the dancers reveled in vanity and carnality, self-interest seemed to replace unity and community as they competed for attention, seductively showing off on a table, taking turns writhing and slithering across it while passing around a cigarette. Jesus’ influence away, the apostles did play - unbridled sexuality their predominant sin.

Garbage’s lyrics “I would die for you” showcased Helle’s perfectly curated musical selections to construct the narrative. “Jesus and Mary”, a piece designed to feature Sheila Burford’s and Story’s aerial prowess, was a moving production in which the two performed on fabric together. Ascending heights while transcending the earthly restrictions of physical movement these two appeared as mythical gods with seemingly superhuman strength, beauty, and flexibility on display.

Adrian Hoffman was a stand out as Judas, most notably in “Judas’ Regret”, a poignant rendering of the ascension of Mary to angelic status and Judas’ ignominious descent into infamy. The dance was performed to Radiohead’s “Creep.” Hoffman’s performance bordered on sacrilegious, as his self-flagellation through superior balletic technique and gorgeous lines rendered Judas a sympathetic anti-hero, especially as he was juxtaposed with Mary whose acrobatics, again on high, this time on a hoop, had by this time gained an angelic status- and had become “so fucking special” while Judas wondered “what the hell [he was] doing here”. Burford was again a marvel, spinning and hanging on sometimes merely with her feet, demonstrating her curious combination of grace, delicacy, and strength. Hoffman’s supplication to Mary for forgiveness was a detour from the lighter pleasure of the other pieces and provided the most emotionally resonant performance of the evening.

In addition to forgiving yourself for skipping church, you might also congratulate yourself for skipping the Coachella Festival this weekend and attending The Last Supper instead. You would have been spared the cost of the festival but in certain ways still have enjoyed many of the radical sights, kick-ass music, and sensory delights. More than just a bombastic thrill ride, The Last Supper also conveyed powerful social messages about love and acceptance.

To instruct and delight was the purpose of theater according to Aristotle. The Last Supper was a production of such importance and beauty that it is worthy of much more than one weekend of performances.

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Antico


Photo © & courtesy of Paul Antico


Photo © & courtesy of Paul Antico


Photo © & courtesy of Paul Antico


Photo © & courtesy of Paul Antico


Photo © & courtesy of Paul Antico

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