By Melina Paris, Culture Reporter
Its gaining toward the end of summer which means it’s time for three weeks of the New Original Works Festival at the Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater, or REDCAT. Count on seeing innovative multidisciplinary works at the NOW Fest which promote experimentation and discovery.
Art was in motion during the second week of the event, July 26 to 28. Three pieces all based in dance were widely different in approach. Each act paid homage to the individual body and its agency, as opposed to hegemonic representations of the body.
KyungHwa Lee’s Malleable Bodies: Flusser, Plasticity, and the Corset explored the body through forms and technology as different as idealized versions of the body throughout history. Lee used 3-D printing and virtual reality technology, juxtaposed with the human form. Lee’s work considers individual evolution, including themes of gender identity and embodiment through a context of technology.
Six dancers entered in a line, three of each sex dressed in nudes and connected only by their shadow forms and appearance. Classical string music turned somewhat foreboding. The dancer’s images reflected on a screen behind them. Their forms employed this space, intuitively expanding their presence through supple movement.
Starting the second act, dancers donned illuminated forms. They appeared in silhouette as a tutu or even butterfly wings. They lit up their respective muscle groups of torso, chest, buttocks, hips, back and thighs and were as beautiful as chandeliers. The Roman statues, David and Venus de Milo appeared on screen in repetition. Different images took shape, icicles, circles and lines all in black and white like an x-ray. Technological sounds of machines, like MRI’s, were audible. This repeated as the dancers moved in concentric circles while on screen, a machine either constructed or deconstructed the buttocks and lower extremities of a female mannequin. It’s black and white footage harkened back to mid-century Twilight Zone. Soon, a parade of digital body forms pictured with pending musculature enhancements to replace their original body forms appeared on screen.
The dancers returned with enhanced muscle groups, just as those visualized forms on their musculature, including ballooning breasts. There was but one dancer left with no enhancements. X-ray images appeared on screen depicting the David and Venus de Milo.
The lyrics to the once again, soothing music sang,
“I want to go somewhere with you, together.
Who are you? Where are you?”
Milka Djordjevich: CORPS
Choreographer, performer and teacher, Djordjevich, is based in Los Angeles. Her work questions preconceived notions of what dance should or should not be. In CORPS, the all-female dancers move as a unit with meditative power. Their dance begins in militaristic momentum. They wore a relaxed uniform of grey sweats, tee shirts and white socked feet. Opening in rhythmic strides back and forth across the stage, their movements soon expanded. Their hands came to shoulder then hip, the other hand to their buttocks or on those of the one next in line. One dancer trailed off then returned to the unit in formation, repeating motions, tossing in a subtle spin.
The CORPS captivated as rhythms and beats percussed them forward, escalating into jazz forms as the music built. Hands waved, shoulders swayed in pas de bourree’s and step ball change’s as two dancers broke off then returned again as one unit.
Facing the audience, they extended jazz hands then rhythmically patted their abdomens. The music got funkier and dancers became more free, breaking off on their own. Dancers delineated a line between measured form and into wilder expressions: gyrating and flowing until they resumed again as a unit, holding onto each other and yielding downward. Forced by gravity, they arched back supported by their elbows, on the floor, their knees and eventually whole body swayed. Finally stretched out on the ground, they rolled onto their bellies, arms stretched outwards as they appeared to try to rise, struggling and collapsing again and again.
CORPS was perpetual kinesis rendered from collective feminine power.
Sebastian Hernandez: Hypanthium
In the opening of Hypanthium, a voice says, “Welcome to the great game. How bad can it get?” The loaded question came alongside film footage of Hernandez, distraught, running in heels on an overpass in Downtown LA., accessorized with long white gloves and purple streamers cascading from their head. There was no telling where they ran to or why but the soundtrack coupled with machinery noises and racing cars told of turmoil.
Experimental in nature, Hypanthium’s movements struggle with notions of sisterhood, space, power and survival amidst memories of ancestral trauma. The piece, named for the part of a flower that holds the nectar, expresses continuous struggle between togetherness and separateness.
Hernandez, in red, Angel Acuna, in white and Autumn Randolph in black, dominated that struggle with sensuality and power. They joined tenderly and parted with strength, each state of being had the same intensity.
The music frequently switched between serene and frenzied, a statement on the varied states of where we reside at any given time and of finding our center. Movements were raw and on que the bass thumped. The dancers either elevated in leaps or entwined together against all else, basked in form, symmetry and athleticism. In a vignette with wooden chairs capable of rocking forward or sideways through their symmetrical construction, the dancers convened, encircled in what could have been a Pow Wow. It had the appearance of an acknowledgement of the past.
A voice speaking prose came through and the dancers wrapped themselves in streamers matching the color of their costumes, collapsing onto the floor. Using box tape, they wrapped their arms and legs. Sitting together and leaning on each other they helped one another cut and chew off their tape as the light dimmed, together.