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Jessica Abrams
Performance Reviews
Break Dance
Theatre Raymond Kabbaz
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

Lux Aeterna Program Defies Gravity As It Reaches For The Stars

by Jessica Abrams
November 10, 2014
Theatre Raymond Kabbaz
10361 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
It made its debut in mainstream America in the Eighties. Either live or on television, we began to recognize the familiar street scene, the group of motley gawkers clustered around a dancer (was he in fact a dancer? The jeans and sneakers seemed to indicate otherwise) allowing just enough space for him – because back then it was usually a him – to snake onto the ground, spin on a shoulder, pop back up and then ooze like turpentine mixed with colored water to a beat as dictated by a nearby boombox.

Breakdance has come a long way since then. To begin with, the word used to describe this dance style – the fluidity, the acrobatic feats – is now simply "breaking" (or "b-boying", "b-girling" or any one of the myriad moves and techniques that broke from the main technique – no pun intended). It has been seen in movies, on television shows and in video games, gained popularity in such unlikely countries as Russia and Cambodia and spawned classes found at the local gym.

But twenty-some-odd years and a name reassignment later, breaking is, at its root, a dance style – a dance style that, like many, was born on the street (tap and flamenco also come to mind) and yet one with enough heart, soul and technical skill to stand front and center on the concert stage.

No one knows this better than Jacob "Kujo" Lyons. Lyons is a veteran b-boy and the artistic director and choreographer of Lux Aeterna Dance Company, which premiered its new work "Eponym" at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz at Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles on October 30. Combining breaking with circus arts, the piece and the company proved that this street art can indeed be elevated to the level of "real" art, but even more than that, that maybe there's no distinction between them at all.

Lyons (whom, in true b-boy style, I will refer to as "Kujo" herineafter), a native of Burbank in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, became involved with breaking in high school as a way to steer clear of the gang life that surrounded him. While breaking was still linked to that world, it nonetheless provided Kujo with an outlet for his energies and a mode of study in which to focus. Since then, he has performed, taught and judged competitions in forty countries, and in 2006 formed Luz Aeterna (which means "eternal light" in Latin) with the goal of "pushing hip-hop's rough and rugged movement vocabulary into the realm of the sublime," he says.

The evening began with the piece "Catch Me If You Can't (a/k/a Human Floatation Devices)" a playful duet featuring Teresa "Toogie" Barcelo and Kujo, both clad in jeans in sneakers. The piece began with Toogie, standing with arms folded and head down as Kujo tried to get her attention. What transpired was a playful hip-hop push-me-pull-you with Kujo at times flinging himself horizontally across Toogie's lap (and staying there) and bouncing her off his stomach, with them both always coming back to their own private huddles. The two of them played off each other in such an intimate way – while allowing the audience in via their facial expressions and gestures – that they could be siblings or lovers. In the end it didn't matter;the relationship, in all its playful, frustrating incarnation, was all there.

In the second piece, "Cannot Get Away", guest dancer Ricardo "Boogie Frantick" Rodriguez performed a beautifully fluid, achingly haunting, solo. With white gloves to illuminate the flourishes his hands made as they cut through the air, he moved fluidly, at times moon-walking and covering his face in what seemed like shame or pain – while always remaining upright. The beauty of his movement was in its simplicity and control.

"Eponym" began with all five members, two couples and one odd man out; the couples are wearing colored street clothes, where he's dressed in black (he also happens to be black). Kujo and Toogie begin with a hip-hop adagio, part daredevil floor spinning, part melting together. Soon, Lamonte "Tales" Goode, our interloper, takes the floor in a dance that is ballet, yoga, breaking and contortionism all mixed together. Goode has a regal presence that, despite his long and lithe limbs, carries with it a weight and monumentality. In addition to his graceful adagio, he performs superhuman feats, like when he dons a hat and turns upside down, legs at a right angle and spins endlessly on his head or when he holds his entire horizontal body up with one bent arm.

In an interview, Kujo described the piece as exploring the different kinds of love as well as the alienation that comes from being denied the experience. Tales' solitary dance both defies and defines gravity in its spirit and tone.

Kujo also described how he wanted to incorporate circus arts into the piece and sure enough, a pole – known in circus lingo as a Chinese pole – soon descends from the ceiling. Kujo dances with it before climbing up, hooking his leg into it and slithering down. He dances on and with the pole as it spins, at times wowing the audience with a head-first free-fall. Later, a large ring replaces the pole and Toogie and Wendy "Wen Rock" Lam use it as a rope swing, playfully making shapes, taking turns supporting and being supported in a beautiful homage to childhood innocence and freedom that culminates in a hug after both have landed back on the ground.

Kujo deftly weaves the various circus accoutrements into the familiar street dance vernacular. In addition to the Chinese pole and the ring, he and Toogie dance on and with a column of shiny fabric. The moves themselves have his own unique stamp, while still retaining the familiar quality of breaking we know so well. In the end, between that and the addition of circus arts, it is clear he's lived up to his goal and elevated the work above street level and, yes, maybe even into the sublime.
Lux Aeterna Dance Company's Teresa Barcelo and Jacob Lyons.

Lux Aeterna Dance Company's Teresa Barcelo and Jacob Lyons.

Photo © & courtesy of Dan Krauss

Lux Aeterna Dance Company.

Lux Aeterna Dance Company.

Photo © & courtesy of Dan Krauss

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