holly [at] strangeandelegant [dot] com
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Diavolo Dance Theater
November 18, 2011
By Steven Woodruff
Reprising the format from LACDC's most recent production, The Nature of Things (May 2011), the company recently concluded its new repertory program at Diavolo Dance Theater with an evening of works by guest choreographers and LACDC Artistic Director, Kate Hutter, in a program titled SUBTEXT. Presenting works for the first time in conjunction with LACDC were Mike Esperanza, Artistic Director for BARE Dance Company and Holly Rothschild, who is a multidisciplinary choreographer and founding member of the music group, String Theory. While the title for the evening may have been more directly applicable to Rothschild's work, The Better To See You With, a freewheeling fantasy based on a darker backstory for Little Red Riding Hood, it also lent sense to Esperanza's, A SILVER LINING (based on Shel Silverstein's cartooning and poems) and Hutter's, BUTTON AND CUFFS, which realizes a version of dance based on heavy electronica and dance beats.
The red meat on the evening's program was THE BETTER TO SEE YOU WITH, which takes the Red Riding Hood narrative hard core in a suite of dirty, pretty things and never looks back. We are familiar with the psychological underpinnings of much of so called children's literature. Here, Rothschild has in a sense, taken Dumas (I'm thinking Nutcracker) and stuffed it back full of the original, gritty Hoffman to create a dance fable that is utterly darkened and often creepy. Why you might ask? Possibly because dystopic narratives are ultimately more intriguing--and easier to deploy-- but it leaves the theatrical doors wide open for invention and there is no shortage of it here. From the beginning, with the projected images of slavering wolves and the set, a hanging forest, the trip to Grandma's cottage is looking pretty daunting.
Here, there is a film sequence of our heroine making her way through the forest and in the process downing Grandmother's wine and stuffing the pastries in her own face. There, a seminar of Drag Grandma's answering the kids hail of questions until one of the four impersonators screams, shut up. A recurring movement of the women seated or standing with undulating pelvises lets you know that the amazing animal sex may be at hand. Did I mention that the women's knees are bloodied. You can imagine what they've been up to. And so it goes. Perhaps in the end, there is too much unremitting ghastliness but Rothschild gets her lengthy, highly inventive tale to hold to together.
There were some surprises too. In one long section the twelve member cast faces the audience; while standing nearly on top of the front row of seating they slowly shift facial expressions. Some cry, others burst out in laughter, some are expressionless. Set to Caribou by the Pixies, the moment becomes a minimalist feast. You realize that even a simple staging trick, mostly devoid of movement, can have a potent impact. Carrying much of the narrative was Drea Sobke, one of the heroines (there may have been others) who was a strong presence, whether on film or on stage. She acts and moves with authority and proved again that she can cover roles like this one securely. The quartet of men also was excellent. They were Michael Crotty, Justin Liu, Omar Olivas and Andrew Pearson. The score for THE BETER TO SEE YOU WITH used already available music with some counter intuitive choices like the music of Tuesday Weld, Dean Martin and the Romanian Gypsy band, Taraf de Haidouks. Luke Rothschild engineered a workmanlike sound score from the varied recorded sources. Holly Rothschild and Hutter collaborated on the costuming. The cinematography was by Eric Mason. The direction was by Rothschild and included choreographic collaboration with the LACDC dancers.
The series has played to full houses, indicating that LACDC is building a growing downtown presence. The program was in part supported by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. You can find out more about Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company and upcoming concert events through their website at lacontemporarydance.org
"one of the three graces, from hell!" - Victoria looseleaf, LA Times
" a gift for iconoclastic thinking"..performing arts journal