MUSIC and DANCE REVIEW : Two Groups at California Plaza
The California Plaza Spiral Court, now being pressed into service as an outdoor amphitheater for concerts sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, makes a delightful venue for alfresco summertime art-and-entertainment.
Saturday, a near-capacity crowd sprawled on the steps and lingered at nearby cafe tables to take in two locally based ensembles: Kinnara Taiko traditional Japanese drummers and Jazz Dancers Inc.
The casual setting provided intimacy for Kinnara Taiko’s performance. The Rev. Mas Kodani of Senshin Buddhist Temple led the group of seven performers and provided brief descriptions and welcome insights into the varied program.
If Kinnara Taiko fell short of other celebrated Japanese drumming ensembles in sheer theatricality, it outdistanced them in versatility. Inspired, neatly choreographed drumming rotations reflected repeating life cycles in “Samsara.” The simple, austere rhythms of “Ningen” suggested the structure and limitations of human reason and logic.
The rhythmic and sound range of “Prapanca” climaxed in an impressive two-drum riff by Qris Yamashita. “Shishi Mai,” the New Year’s lion dance, featured charming movement and mime by Bruce Arikawa and JoAnn Yamada.
Jazz Dancers Inc. presented one new work, “Last Train,” in which six females in pastel skimpies tried unsuccessfully to give higher meaning to such jazz dance staples as shoulder rolls, lunges and thrusting rib cages.
The otherwise familiar program featured company directors Dennon and Sayhber Rawles in a tender if somewhat overwrought “Tango Apasionado” and again in the fast, fiery and freewheeling “Whatcha Gonna Do,” in which Nela Fry completed the triangle with flair and wit.
Karen Sefton, Karla Cottis and Fry cut jazzy, sexy, funny figures in “Busted for Boppin,” but elsewhere the ensemble looked stiff, tentative and not yet ready for prime time. Taped music accompanied the dancing.
The series continues on Saturday nights through August.