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Joanne Zimbler
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
Plaza del Sol Performance Hall
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Northridge, CA

La Danserie — Rendezvous

by Joanne Zimbler
April 25, 2010
Plaza del Sol Performance Hall
18111 Nordhoff Street.
Northridge, CA 91330-8393
As I drove through the San Fernando Valley Sunday afternoon on my way to the Plaza del Sol Theatre at Cal State Northridge, I was struck by the heavy summer-like heat that was especially unwelcome considering it's only April. Once inside the theater, however, I was transported to an ethereal realm where LA-based ballet company La Danserie offered a salve with their cool sylph-like movements in their performance of "Rendezvous" to the captivated delight of the audience.

The seven piece performance began with "Momentos" featuring a lone dancer on stage quickly joined by a second, a third, and fourth ballerina who set the tone for the evening with strong performances elegantly choreographed to the classical music of Villa - Lobos.

"Listening" was unique in that it was one of the few dances to depart from ballet and use rather a modern vocabulary of movement. The sportswear clad dancers fixated on some odd props which they intermittently took turns caressing to create sound. The jagged silver stalagmite sticks reflected the equally jagged looking fence-like image on the screen in the background which at times reflected the dancers angular movements. However, a fluid balletic sensibility emanated from the choreography as the company remained mostly within its comfort zone. Scot Tuper was underused as the only male dancer who mostly provided the launching pad for lifts.

The nighties and unchignoned hair in "Sunken Ladder" anticipated the dreamlike atmosphere to come as three more dancers, the unconscious counterparts of the original three, would join the dreamers on stage in the second half of the choreography. As the music slowed and the orange background yielded to deep blued, the atmosphere became more viscous and the nocturnal tone of the dance established. The emotional music of contemporary classical composer Gorecki assisted the dancers in evoking a meditation on innocence and vulnerability.

In an excerpt from Jose Limon's homage to Doris Humphrey, "A Choreographic Offering," sixteen young dancers enthralled as they delightfully overwhelmed the stage in two toned earth colored body suits. Of her work, Humphrey had said that she wished to create dance that was "organic rather than synthetic" and that sentiment was strongly reflected in the aesthetics of Limon's tribute as angular limbs and flexed feet resembling branches emanated from frozen trunk like torsos. Leaps were low to the ground; groups of threes and fours moved on and off stage sequentially and in unison. The profusion of exuberant activity on stage evoked a sense that this was a celebration of nature's cycles and more specifically Humphrey's immortal part in it.

Somnolence was once again highlighted in "things fall apart" as six somnambulant dancers quietly moved to an extended adagio. In a ballet infused with the more than usual modern elements, the six danced first as separate triads and then finally together. Seduced by the soporific mood, at times the dancers jettisoned leaps and turns and instead submitted to slumber's allure as the sleepy yet indefatigable Tamara McCartney (who along with Mary Wilson appeared in four of the seven dances) gently awoke individual sleeping dancers for a dreamy duet.

The joy to be found viewing a sweet and silly clown in the lyrical "The Sunset" was not age prohibitive. Rei Aoo as an unexpectedly demure clown choreographed and performed in the piece that also featured Kathryn McCormick. Pure joy emanated from Aoo's clown as she observed the effervescent McCormick innocently yet jubilantly dancing to a banjo's twang. In agonizing and disappointing efforts, the clown attempted to also externalize her inner feelings through balletic movements but to no avail. Ultimately, however, she vanquished her lack of confidence to join her muse in an exultant testimonial to dance's transformative power.

With energetic grand jetes, seven dancers leapt across the stage to open "Decisive Movements," a classical piece that framed the performance and reminded us that La Danserie is essentially a ballet company. However it is a ballet company comprised of technically savvy and talented ballerinas whose fluency in dance's language enables them to cross ballet's thresholds into more lyrical and experimental territories. Sunday's performance was filled with mostly premieres which individually and collectively amounted to a beautiful achievement for the company and served as a perfect entry point for the uninitiated in the appreciation of this dynamic local company.
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