DANCE REVIEW : Repertory Troupe Lacks Focus in El Camino College Performance

Blessed with strong dancers and a working relationship with the frisky Los Angeles African Drum Ensemble, Repertory Dance Theatre of Los Angeles ought to look a lot more riveting than it does. Thursday night in Marsee Auditorium at El Camino College, the problem was obvious: an overdose of would-be meaningful choreography that lacks structure and a point of view.

Company artistic director Jon Johnson’s new solo for himself, “Soul Misfortune,” started out with a tough and timely moment of confrontation between a street person and a kid out to give him a bad time. But then it segued into a lumbering duet for the homeless guy and a chair--a post-modern cliche that lacked any perceivable connection to the message of the accompanying Tracy Chapman song.

In two other pieces--"Anxieties,” credited to three choreographers, and the “Lunacy” section from Johnson’s “Graffiti"--madness was the topic of the hour. But the dancers’ whirls and jumps and semaphoric gesticulations failed to build into a cohesive movement pattern or illuminate a specific state of mind.

Softened by billowing smoke, muted with a scrim and punctuated by an atmospheric collage of sounds and music, guest artist John Pickett’s untitled piece was a more piquant concoction.


Pickett and Robert Gilliam were twins in loincloths, bemused by a woman in a long gown (Kim Jeske) who repeatedly glided in on a platform to bring refreshments or spill out a basket of small rolling objects (balls? fruit?). The men’s simple movements--performed either in trusting unison or cowering confusion--played well against Jeske’s rhythmic, goddess-like reappearances.

Due to an injury to Vonda Fisher, Athen Smith’s “Trilogy” was not performed.